Manchester’s Planning Board agreed to several changes to the zoning bylaws for Limited Commercial District (LCD) at Monday night’s meeting.
Those changes will be presented at a public hearing, scheduled for February 28. After the public has had its chance to weigh in, the Planning Board will submit the finalized changes to the warrant by March 8 for the Spring Town Meeting, planned for April 4.
Most of the discussion at Monday’s meeting revolved around only three or four changes to the zoning bylaws. The LCD covers most of the land in town north of Route 128.
Section 4.4 of the zoning bylaws sets out what can be built in the LCD, including business offices, recreational clubs, and Solar Photovoltaic Installations. Section 4.4.6 adds “laboratories and establishments devoted to scientific research and development” to the list of possible uses. The addition was prompted by a request by Cell Signaling Technology, the Beverly-based life sciences company, which two weeks ago put 40 acres of land in the LCD under agreement with plans to build a corporate campus there.
The board debated if adding laboratories to the possible uses should mean any developer would be able to build a scientific facility by right.
Planning Board member Christopher Olney said labs should not be allowed by right, but only by a special permit approved by the Planning Board.
Planning Board vice chairman Sarah Creighton also suggested that labs be limited to the sections of the LCD east of School Street and west of Pine Street.
The board also debated the maximum height of any building in the LCD. The board originally tried to rewrite the zoning bylaw to include both residential and commercial buildings. But after agreeing that that only added confusion, it was decide best to separate the two, keeping residential buildings to a height of 2½ stories or 35 feet and allowing commercial buildings to 55 feet.
Also added was “HVAC equipment, solar panels and mechanical appurtenances” to the list of chimneys, spires and towers that would be allowed on roof above the 55-foot height limit.
The minimum lot size for a business in the LCD was also debated. Currently, zoning bylaw requires five acres, which Planning Board member Gary Gilbert called “gigantic.” He said that by comparison Beverly only requires 10,000 square feet, or about one-quarter of an acre.
Members suggested reducing the minimum size to one or two acres, but there was no consensus. Members suggested looking at more data before determining a minimum lot size.
Finally, the board debated maintaining the requirement that any project in the LCD include a 200-foot woodland corridor as a buffer from Route 128. While the bylaw talks about keeping the parking hidden from the highway, members pointed out that the buildings are more likely to be seen than the parked cars.
The board voted unanimously to move the adjusted bylaws forward to the public hearing on February 28.