The elephant in the kitchen proved too big not to talk about when the Marion Planning Board met via Zoom on April 5.
In a public hearing opened to entertain applicant Matt Zuker’s request for a zoning reclassification of 30 acres of land on Bournhurst Road and Wareham Street (Route 6) from single-family housing to multi-family (Residence Zone E), the board intended to limit its discussion to the merits of the zoning request and avoid the housing development itself.
“They’re intertwined,” countered attorney Patricia McArdle, addressing the board on behalf of Zuker.
McArdle introduced a deed restriction that would limit any development on the four lots (30 acres) to 48 units, still falling far below the zoning change that will go to Town Meeting floor on May 10 seeking to reduce Zone E multi-family housing from a maximum of 12 units per acre to six. This development, McArdle pointed out, is less than two units per acre.
“The zoning (request) is not about density, it’s about flexibility,” said Zuker. “We want to work with the town.”
Planning Board Vice Chairman Andrew Daniel, acting as meeting chair in the absence of Chairman Will Saltonstall, asked McArdle and Zuker, “Does it have to be an E? …Would [D] suit the town better in that area? Still a greater density than a B.”
Town Planner Gil Hilario was more concerned that the board consider the ramifications of a third major housing development in Marion, while two comparably sized developments are in the vetting process.
Between Steen Realty’s Heron Cove development on Route 6 and Sherman Briggs’ project off Spring Street and Mill Street, said Hilario, Marion will soon go from adding four new residential units per year to 138. “That’s over 1,000 percent,” he said. “We’re getting to the point where we really need to discuss how the zoning change is going to impact Marion and its future.”
Hilario mentioned sewer capacity, school system, utilities, and taxes as entities all about to be severely impacted just by the two residential developments in the works.
“The number of units we’re getting is incredibly high over the year, and now we’re talking about a third development,” he said. “I think the discussion needs to be on the zoning change.”
Planning Board member Chris Collings asked where Marion stands on its build-out of available lots. Member Norm Hills said, “We are running out of buildable lots, between wetlands, flood zones, and what’s already been built out.”
Hills suggested an analysis be done, especially now that the Steen, Briggs, and now Zuker developments are being sought.
McArdle said that Zuker is seeking a low-density development and openly wished she could satisfy the questions asked with a financial report put together by the development team that was not ready for distribution.
Meantime, the Planning Board is waiting on the Board of Assessors for a requested comparative analysis that would presumably yield a reliable sense of expectation of financial impacts on the town with and without the requested zoning change.
Daniel concluded that there is not yet enough information available to adequately inform the board, and McArdle requested a continuance. The board voted unanimously to continue the public hearing to Tuesday, April 20.
A major site plan review of Briggs’ project, which seeks in partnership with Hamblin Homes Inc. to construct and 28 townhouses on Spring Street at Mill Street, was also on the schedule of continued public hearings but was continued to Tuesday, April 20.
A public hearing was opened to discuss proposed bylaw codification for Town Meeting articles and continued to Tuesday, April 20.
Along with the aforementioned, zoning bylaw change for multi-family housing developments, Marion residents will be asked to vote to adopt the state’s latest flood hazard district bylaw, retiring its own language. Daniel told the meeting that the public can visit marionma.gov and view the maps and see the changes.
In a continued public hearing that was closed, the Planning Board voted to grant Kristina Nelson, 3 Wells Road, two special permits for her nutrition club – one permit for what is categorized as a fast-food restaurant and the other as a general retail establishment. The special permit Nelson had sought for a reduction in the parking requirement was deemed unnecessary.
In response to a request from the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board discussed the Papas Real Estate, LLC project, an application for a special permit to run a propane business on Luce Avenue and Highland Avenue.
Member Eileen Marum told the board she walked through the project area and noticed that “both roads are narrow.” She is concerned about traffic flow and safety, including parking and loading.
According to Hilario, the propane business will need a special permit because it would be located in a water supply protection district.
The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for Tuesday, April 20, at 7:00 pm.
Marion Planning Board
By Mick Colageo