Zuker Gets Zoning Recommendation

            The Marion Planning Board moved on from two major matters during its October 4 Zoom meeting, voting unanimously to recommend a zoning reclassification that will make possible a 48-unit, multi-family housing complex on Route 6 and finding peaceful closure to what had been a contentious exchange with Wings Cove-area abutters to the controversial pier construction that the board approved at 122 Register Road back in March.

            Even if voters decide at the October 19 Special Town Meeting to approve the board’s recommendation that the land at 78 Wareham Road be reclassified as Residence E for multi-family housing, Matthew Zuker’s proposed development will still come back before the Planning Board for scrutiny and major site plan review before a special permit is granted.

            Zuker, the property owner and developer of the 30 acres of land located along the Weweantic River, presented a few different options, including 36 detached, single-family homes and 12 townhouse-style homes.

            While Monday’s meeting was not held to vet the project itself, many project-related questions arose due to the ramifications of Residence E zoning.

            Referencing Dr. Ed Hoffer’s report in February 2020 that surveyed residents regarding housing choices, Zuker told the Planning Board, “We didn’t want to make ‘McMansions.’” He talked about the town’s character, Marion’s Master Plan, village-style development, clustered neighborhoods, and the needs of residents age 55 and over.

            “We think we accomplished that here by our design,” he said, alluding to the fiscal benefit that the town would realize with 48 new sewer users.

            “Mr. Zuker has been front and center working with us over the last six months,” said Town Administrator Jay McGrail, calling the plan “a good, smart-growth development project for the town.”

            To validate his intentions not to exploit the rezoning but use it to give Marion a market-rate development geared toward senior citizens looking to downsize, Zuker has signed a deed restriction limiting the number of units to 48, according to his attorney, Patricia McArdle, who had previously advocated for a zoning change when Henry DeJesus owned the property.

            Zuker said he would like to start the units at $600,000, acknowledging member Chris Collings’ anticipation that the waterfront units would be priced around $800,000. “The ones on the water would subsidize the others,” said Zuker, characterizing Collings’ suggestion as “fair.”

            Collings informed Zuker that one of the region’s more popular fishing spots for striped bass is right in front of the property.

            Abutter Lori Kahler, 28 Wareham Road, is concerned with trespassers to her property who go there to fish and admitted being unnerved one morning by the presence of a stranger in her back yard.

            Kahler told the board she had purchased her property based on the current zoning and asked how a solar array was not approved but a 48-unit residential development is “going to be better.”

            Board member Norm Hills told Kahler that, while Marion has a bylaw for solar arrays that prohibits gross cutting of trees, the town does not have the same type of controls over any other zoning area.

            Hearing Kahler’s concerns, Zuker suggested they continue a dialogue offline. She was amenable.

            Zuker’s proposed development is adjacent to a much larger 40B affordable-housing development planned by Ken Steen. Board member Alanna Nelson suggested it would be preferable if residents of one development are able to visit with residents of the other without necessarily using Route 6. Member Chris Collings voiced approval of Nelson’s idea and suggested more than one egress when the applicant returns to present the project itself to the board.

            “I’m quite impressed with the plan and the presentation. It fits exactly with the survey Dr. Hoffer performed and also the Master Plan,” said Planning Board member Eileen Marum, whose question about some sort of community activity center was satisfied by McArdle’s suggestion of pickleball courts.

            Planning Board Chair Will Saltonstall asked Zuker about screening, especially as it applies to Steen’s neighboring development. He also asked Zuker’s plan to either open to or screen Route 6. Zuker said his inclination is to shield the view but added potential Route 6 improvements could convince him otherwise.

            Saltonstall recused himself for professional reasons from the planned discussion with abutters to the controversial pier project at 122 Register Road, so Marum ran the rest of the meeting in his absence.

            Given time to organize messages, questions, and responses on both sides, Monday’s meeting was substantially more cordial and more organized than the last time the stakeholders collided.

            Monday night’s meeting was assured more control after the Planning Board deployed Administrative Assistant Donna Hemphill to manage the signaling of requests to speak, but what set a tone of order was Town Counsel Jon Witten’s explanation of the limits of the Planning Board’s power.

            After Witten explained that state law essentially prohibits the Planning Board from reopening a decided case after the 20-day appeal period, he answered several questions, including one from abutter Suzanne Murphy that suggested information provided by the applicant, and found to be inconsistent, should negate the board’s decision.

            “The statutory period in Massachusetts is firm. The only exceptions to this would be fraud or some undue inducement or criminal activity,” said Witten, noting that the 20-day period allows parties to move on. “I know that’s cold comfort. The remedy thus becomes unavailable.”

            Acting as the spokesperson for the Friends of Wings Cove, Chris Madden requested that the special permit for a 192-foot pier with a 10-foot by 2-foot float be open for amendment.

            The fact that the length has been voluntarily shortened to 162 feet does not authorize the Planning Board to reopen the case. “If the applicant wants to reduce that length without coming to us, he can do that,” said board member Norm Hills.

            Abutter Ryan Burke said that Harbormaster Isaac Perry “did some really good work,” adding, “The initial 30-foot reduction was a step in the right direction.”

            Madden said that another rock has been discovered that is not on Perry’s survey of Wings Cove and indicated that collaborative work in ongoing as boaters seek a solution for safe passage.

            Marum concluded the discussion by encouraging abutters to reach out to the state Department of Environmental Protection “because the applicant has not received his Chapter 91 permit or license to work in the water right now. Contact the Mass. DEP.”

            In other business, the Planning Board voted to approve an ANR application filed by the Marion Lands Trust, LLC, 369 Wareham Street, represented by Dave Davignon of Schneider, Davignon, & Leone, Inc.

            The town received notice that developer Sherman Briggs and partner Hamblin Homes, Inc. requested a continuance to the board’s next meeting on Monday, October 18, and also asked to extend the application to November 5. Briggs is proposing a 28-unit, townhouse-style residential development at Spring and Mill Streets.

            Of the three cases in which the Zoning Board of Appeals sought comment from the Planning Board, only the application of Jay Flanagan for a covered entry to allow an extension of a non-conforming garage at 26 West Avenue was addressed. “If they’re going to put a second floor on the garage, it should be non-habitable,” said Hills.

            The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, October 18, at 7:00 pm.

Marion Planning Board

By Mick Colageo

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