September 27, 2018

Boxborough to meet with development site owner in mediation

Photo/Grant Welker
A proposal for a 100-unit residential development in the center of Boxborough has been met with pushback from vocal residents. The proposal is now in Massachusetts Land Court.

Boxborough town officials are scheduled to meet Friday with owners of a development site who sued the town when their proposed 100-unit senior living project was denied.

The project, called Enclave, would be the latest relatively large residential project to come on line in Boxborough, a small town just off I-495 that has seen more growth as a percent of its population than any in Massachusetts since 2012.

But the Boxborough Planning Board denied the project in May, with town officials saying the project was out of character compared to other units in the area, Town Planner Adam Duchesneau said. The board had concerns with the project's potential effect on the water table and nearby wells and effect on two nearby streets to be extended as emergency access points to Enclave.

The property owners, Michael Jeanson and James Fenton, under Boxborough Town Center LLC, sued later in May to challenge the ruling.

They argued that the Planning Board exceeded its authority in denying the project because it showed discretion normally used with a project that requires a special permit. A taller hurdle needed for special permit approval wouldn't have been needed in this case, they argued, because the project was previously approved for a zoning subdivision that allows the project to be built as-of-right, a lower bar to pass.

A nonbinding mediation session is scheduled for Massachusetts Land Court in Boston on Friday.

Enclave would be built by Toll Brothers, a Pennsylvania developer with a purchase-and-sale agreement to buy the wooded 60-acre site just off Massachusetts Avenue (Route 111) if or when it's fully permitted. Toll Brothers said through a spokeswoman it doesn't comment on planned communities.

This month, seven residents of an adjacent street Priest Lane, a short cul-de-sac to be extended to a through-street to provide an entrance to Enclave, petitioned the Massachusetts Land Court to add themselves as defendants to the case. They looked to join the existing defendants, the Boxborough Planning Board as an entity and its five members individually, in order to make sure their specific concerns were addressed, they said.

Judge Michael Vhay rejected that request on Tuesday.

If the Enclave project were to be built, it would add to a recent wave that's transformed the small town, which despite its easy highway access has remained a virtually entirely residential community. Boxborough, with about 5,300 residents, approved 513 new housing permits from 2012 to 2016, making it the highest proportion of new growth compared to its existing population of any community in the state, according to the Massachusetts Housing Partnership.

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