Last Wednesday the Planning Board approved the site plan and granted the town’s DPW project seven special permits. Let’s be clear about what special permits do: they override provisions written into the town bylaws to protect the environment, the interests of adjoining landowners, public safety, and the community as a whole.
Board members approved special permits to allow the following: a salt shed in an aquifer, a vehicle wash bay in an aquifer, an impervious area exceeding 15 percent of the area in an aquifer, motor vehicle repair in an aquifer, reduction of the required number of parking spaces, reduction in the landscape requirements along Tracy and Alpha roads, and for accessory buildings with a footprint greater than 900-square feet and in excess of 20 feet in height.
In February, the Zoning Board of Appeals awarded the project a special project to operate as a municipal garage. The ZBA also approved a variance to allow the salt shed to be less than 100 feet from the property line. The conservation commission’s meeting is still pending; I’m on the edge of my seat; the suspense is killing me!
Chelmsford Bylaws Section 195-103 specifically states: "Special permits shall be granted by the special permit granting authority, unless otherwise specified herein, only upon its written determination that the adverse effects of the proposed use will not outweigh its beneficial impacts to the Town or the neighborhood, in view of the particular characteristics of the site and of the proposal in relation to that site. In addition to any specific factors that may be set forth in this chapter, the determination shall include consideration of each of the following:
Keeping in mind that the voters approved the purchase of this SEVENTEEN ACRE parcel for the specific use as a DPW garage facility, why exactly is it that the proposed salt shed must be placed within an existing aquifer and abutting residential homes so as to require SEVEN SPECIAL PERMITS? Could the 1600 square foot building be placed anywhere else on the enormous existing parcel? How does placing the salt shed in an aquifer zone support ANY of the above cited reasons for granting a special permit? The answer is obvious; it doesn’t, but the Planning Board rubber stamped it anyway because that is where town manager Paul Cohen wants it!
The abutting neighbors have, and rightfully so, already appealed the decision by the Planning Board. How many tens of thousands our taxpayer dollars will be wasted in legal fees for the frivolous defense of such foolish actions by the town boards? How many years before the case even comes to trial? How does that action serve any of the criteria listed above for the granting of a special permit? And how is it that the Planning Board officials and BOS aren’t concerned about these legal costs when they are so concerned that the town might incur some legal costs by bringing the "9 North Road" Preservation Restriction into Land Court for interpretation and enforcement?
If this site is so "ideal," why does the town need to circumvent so many of its own rules to protect the environment – especially aquifers – and protect the interests of abutting property owners? The Planning Board has taken a "before you ask, the answer is yes" approach to favored parties for too long. We need new members who are not beholden to the Town Manager or relatives and cronies who are developers. Vote for challengers on Tuesday, including Dick McClure for Planning Board.
Yours with best wishes and hope for the future of our town,
Roland Van Liew