Baystone Development appeared before two Framingham boards, within three days, trying to get the final approval for its Danforth Green project to build 360 housing units in Saxonville on 35 acres, on a total owned 170-acre piece of land in Framingham on the Wayland line.
Thursday night, Roy MacDowell II and Baystone Development reviewed its landscaping plans with the Framingham Planning Board.
The developers also requested a waiver on setback rules and received it unanimously from the Planning Board before the public even had a chance to speak during the 2-hour public hearing. The chair later apologized for the vote.
Earlier in the week, MacDowell and Baystone appeared before the Framingham Zoning Board of Appeals seeking approval on three zoning variances, including marketing 240 of the units – 2/3rd of the planned 360 units – as rentals.
Framingham bylaws allow only 20 percent of a development's units to be rentals, without a variance.
The Framingham Planning Board submitted a letter to the Zoning Board, with its support of the variances. (A copy of that letter is attached to this report.)
"The town only has one PUD, which makes it a unique land devlopment situation," wrote Planning Board Chair Tom Mahoney to ZBA Chair Phil Ottaviani. "We have the opportunity to reclaim a former unsightly sand and gravel pit operation and receive nearly 100 acres of open space for the public benefit. The residential development and strategic location in MetroWest presents the opportunity to establish an attractive residential neighborhood that will prove to be of long term benefit to existing neighbors and the town in general versus what exist today."
"The rental market is very strong," said Framingham Planning Board Director Jay Grande. "Glad the neighborhood has come out and voiced an opinion on this matter but we have a reputable developer in front of use with a piece of property that is ugly and distressed. I hope we don;t reach a point where we can't reach a consensus."
Grande said the town should work to "not lose an opportunity here."
"We want you to know that what we’re doing is going to be good for the neighborhood, good for the community," MacDowell told the Planning Board Thursday night.
Audrey Hall, a Precinct 3 Town Meeting member, said it was her "job to look out for the best interest of my precinct and my neighborhood."
"This piece of property, even though it looks like a pit and may be a pit" sits across the street from a beach near the Sudbury River, said Hall, who added "I feel it is a privilege to have such an amazing piece of property to develop."
Hall questioned the request for variances. She said the project has to be a win for the Town as well as a win for the developers; as the project will change the whole complexion of the neighborhood for years and years.
Hall was not the only Saxonville resident to question the variances, specifically the request for additional rental units.
MacDowell during, and again after the public hearing, invited Framingham residents to contact him with questions and said he was willing to meet with the Saxonville residents as a group on individually.
"It is our intention to reach out to the community, in a very aggressive fashion, before it gets to the ZBA again," said MacDowell. "Go to our web site. Willing to meet one person or 100 people."
The devlopers are scheduled to go before the Framingham Zoning Board of Appeals again on March 12.
Planning Board member Susan Bernstein said she was not ready to vote on the plan, until after the ZBA vote. She asked the developers what the plan might look like, if the ZBA denies the variances. Developers said they didn't know the answer, at this time.
MacDowell purchased the former New England Sand & Gravel property for $500,000 with his brother Todd with the plan to build a large residential community along the Sudbury River on Old Connecticut Path in Framingham on the Wayland town line.
McDowell's Planned Unit Development (PUD) originally proposed constructing 525 condos and townhomes on the 170-acre property, but Baystone Development has reduced the amount to 360 units. A proposed commercial aspect of the project has also been scraped.
A good portion of the first hour of the hearing Thursday night was spent discussing trees, types of trees, where trees need to be planted, spacing of trees and other landscaping details with the developer.
The town's consultant submitted a 9-page report on changes the developers needs to and should consider for the planned development.
Recommendations discussed Thursday night by the consultant and Planning Board memebrs included:
* Planting more native trees
* Less oak trees near parking areas and walkways for the benefit of vehicles, walkers and squirrels, due to acorns.
* Eliminate proposed Honey Locust trees, as they easily blow over in the wind.
* Less plantings to attract deer, so they will be kept north of the aqueduct
* Plan lacked curbing to protect landscaping from parking areas and vehicles.
* Inadequate amount of scrubs
* Need for a landscape maintenance plan and irrigation plan to be submitted to the Board
Danforth Green is scheduled to appear before the the Planning Board again on Feb. 28 at 7:45 p.m. Planning Board has yet to discuss water, sewer, storm water management and traffic plans with the developers.