WELLESLEY PLANNING BOARD
MONDAY, AUGUST 13, 2007, 7:30 p.m.
GREAT HALL - TOWN HALL
Present: Mr. Frisardi, Ms. Donahue, Mr. McCauley, Ms. Lehmann, … Mrs. Jop, Mr. Brown.
Doris Fern, Irwin Fern, Bob Connor, Jeremy Roy, Herb Gliick, Dick Carls, Charles C. Crevo, Charles A. Crevo, Jason Whittet, Kenneth R. Rossano, Cynthia A Rossano, Cynthia Allen, Vincent J. Trubiani, Barton B. Prives, Helen Robertson, Paul Bentley, Joe DiSipio, Sanjeev Singh, R. A Sohani, Jonathan Thomas, Edward Thomas, David Filo, James MacDonald, Michael Connelly, Chris D'Antonio, Joe Grignaffini, Luisa Cestari, Mike Grignaffini, Deborah Bernat, Margaret Kunz, Toni Soponari, Len LeGrand, C. Joseph Grignaffini, Peter Holland, Russell Dennis, John Dye, M. D. Connell, Ric Ripley, Judy Barclay, Leila Sampson, Dave Zaltas, Matt Murmes, Liz Dugan, Owen Dugan, Sephanie McIntyre, Gary Lockberg, Dick Pirizolo, Bob Cunniff, Sig Swanson, Bayard Reed.
1. Unaccepted Street Review - Fenmere Avenue
#7 Fenmere Avenue
The Board met with Mr. Swanson and Mr. Reed concerning their project to build a new house at #7 Fenmere Avenue on an unaccepted street. The Board reviewed a memorandum, plan and cost estimate from the Engineering Division, dated August 7, 2007 identifying work needing to be done totaling $16,165 including a 15% contingency. The Board asked the applicants if they agreed with this cost estimate. They responded in the affirmative.
Subsequently the Board moved seconded and voted unanimously to approve this portion of Fenmere Avenue as adequate way subject to the identified work being done and subject to surety being submitted in the amount of $16,165.
2. Housing Development Corporation
The Board met with Mr. Schnorr, Ms. O'Leary, Mr. Goldkamp, and Ms. Kemp to discuss the advantages of the Town undertaking a market demand study of affordable housing needs in Wellesley. It was noted that the Planning Board requested and the 2007 Annual Town Meeting approved funds for a housing study. The members of the Corporation explained that it is essential that the needs and demand for housing be identified with specificity. This will help the Town to determine how to focus its housing efforts and avoid construction of units for which there is a limited or no market. Mr. Goldkamp explained that the Town needs better information and an objective and professionally done baseline market study to identify numbers and socio-economic characteristics of qualifying households.
The disadvantages of not having such information available was discussed.
Mr. Frisardi asked if this data might already be available from the state. The response was that it is not.
There was some discussion of the cost of such a study. The response was in the range of $10,000. The Board indicated a keen interest in pursuing this project. The Corporation will develop a scope of work and provide a list of recognized area consultants doing this sort of work.
3. Citizen Speak
Mr. Frisardi introduced the "Citizen Speak" portion of the meeting. He noted that the latest version of the Planning Board sponsored articles for the fall Town Meeting are on the Town web site and he appreciates the level of interest being generated.
Comments received during "Citizen Speak" exclusively concerned the proposed Section XVID. "Large House Review" proposed Article.
Mr. Grignaffini (C. Joseph) commented that even though items are on the web site there is a lack of knowledge about what the Planning Board is proposing. He said that he did not know that the "Bulk Factor" was no longer being considered.
Mr. Frisardi described the latest version of the article and said that the "sliding scale" suggested by Mr. Grignaffini for adjusting the threshold trigger based on lot size will be incorporated. He discussed the January 1, 2008 effective date suggestion and mentioned that he has had some input that there be no delay in implementation.
Mr. McCauley explained the details of the "Applicability" section noting that all above ground living space is included but that basement space in not.
Mr. Grignaffini said that it would be unfair not to have a delayed implementation. Mr. Frisardi said that he understands that the Building Inspector will not recognize the delay date anyway. Mr. Grignaffini said that he was in the Inspector's office when Mr. Robinson discussed the matter with Mr. Grant and felt that it was not so clear that a delay will not work. He said that Mr. Robinson simply cautioned that the delay language must be precisely worded.
Mr. (Jack) Thomas asked about the time frame and cost of review. After some discussion it was felt that 60 days would be appropriate. Mr. Thomas noted that at the last meeting the number $30,000 was used. The Board indicated that it will need to obtain a better assessment of the cost of review. Mr. Thomas offered that he felt 90% of the residential projects would fall under review and that he is worried about a backlog being created.
Mr. Sechrest said that he agrees with Mr. Grignaffini's lack of knowledge about the provision. He said that the effective date should be the day of the Town Meeting vote. He felt that the currently proposed definition of the threshold trigger could be improved. He felt it should be "heated floor space." He does not agree with excluding basements.
Ms. Kunk questioned the proposed criteria for design review of houses. Mr. McCauley explained the criteria currently contained in the Zoning Bylaw.
Mr. Frisardi said that the Board will be more prompt about getting minutes and other materials on the web site.
Mr. McCauley noted that the Planning Board will assume the decision-making responsibility and that the Design Review Board will prepare its report for the Planning Board.
Ms. Kunk asked if adoption requires a 2/3 vote. The response was "yes." She asked why there was a departure from cubic footage measure. The problematic nature of that measurement was explained. She gave an example of a house with eight foot ceilings as compared to 10 foot ceilings as being part of the bulk problem.
Mr. Frisardi said the current "TLA" Total Living Area approach is similar, more direct and tracks the existing standardized methodology of assessing property. He noted that the proposal does not represent a cut off but rather a threshold for review and perhaps a disincentive toward larger homes.
Ms. Donahue emphasized the importance of fitting a new regulation into the context of the Zoning Bylaw and facilitating administration. She said a difficulty is setting the right threshold number.
Ms. Lehmann supported that comment noting that some of the provisions that have been considered are overly complex.
Ms. Kunk asked if the Board had seen the Lake Forest, Illinois bulk provisions. Ms. Donahue stated that she studied them prior to the Annual Town Meeting.
Mr. Pirizolo said that the higher ceilings are a trend. He felt the Board should make the comparisons to other houses in the same neighborhood.
Mr. Cunniff felt that traditional Floor Area Ratio limits should be used. There are some houses that are just too large for their lots. Mr. Frisardi said that there are state limitations on zoning authority that would likely prohibit applying Floor Area Ratio to single family homes although some cities have been able to use FAR because zoning amendments in cities do not require State Attorney General approval.
Mr. Rossano said that he has great concerns about tear downs. Mr. McCauley said that this regulation does not focus on tear downs. Mr. Frisardi added that the Board had previously considered a moratorium on tear downs that was found by Town Counsel to be an action not authorized by Town government. Ms. Donahue mentioned that the program adopted must respect property rights. Mr. Rossano felt that the tear downs are changing the character of the neighborhoods. The Board agreed that there should be consideration of the house removed.
Mr. Zaltas said that he appreciates the Board's efforts but is concerned that in two weeks there will be a freeze and the Board seems not to have identified the specifics of the article. He felt that the "Citizen Speak" format does not allow for the kind of dialog needed. He said the Board should tap into engineering and technical expertise. He felt that pushing ahead would be counterproductive. Mr. Frisardi felt that the planning staff is capable of developing the details. Mr. Zaltas asked about the composition of the Design Review Board. Mr. McCauley said that it is appointed by the Planning Board and there are credential requirements.
Ms. Cestari felt that there will be a reduction of property values. She said that neighbors of those houses that have already expanded their property will/might not likewise be able to. This diminishes value. They might not be able to do what their neighbors have done according to the rules in effect at that time. She commented that NCD will affect property values in a negative way as well. Mr. Frisardi disagreed noting that Weston and Lincoln have similar provisions and there has been no diminishment. In fact values steadily increase. Ms. Donahue commented that there are limits to the development of any property.
Mr. (Ted) Thomas said he owns a ranch house that he has planned to tear down and rebuild. He is very concerned that the rules are being changed.
Ms. Maddix said that neighborhoods are being changed. She lamented the trees being cut down and replaced by oversized and ugly houses.
Mr. Fern said the large homes are a "profanity." He said the character of the Town is changing. He said that he is an engineer but that the aesthetic element is not engineering. He said proposed new homes should require a computer model which would be evaluated for its attractiveness. He said he has no problem with any house that "looks good."
Mr. Murmes questioned how many people in Town are upset by large homes. Ms. Donahue said the Comprehensive Plan contains a citizen survey showing that 79% of respondents specifically identified the desire to have controls tightened on the size of homes. Mr. Murmes felt the number would not be so high if it was understood that the cost of the review might be $30,000.
Mr. Dennis felt that there is a small vocal group favoring the regulations. He felt that there are sufficient restrictions already. He worried that a dormer for example may not be approved by the neighbors. He felt that neighborhoods change and this proposal looks to block change.
The Planning Board asked Mr. Dugan, Chair of Selectmen, for information on scheduling for the Town Meeting. Mr. Dugan said that the Town Meeting would be held on Tuesday, November 13, 2007. A second evening, if needed, would be Wednesday, November 14, 2007 and Monday, November 19, 2007 if a third is needed. He said the Selectmen will vote the schedule at their meeting of August 27, 2007.
Mr. Frisardi closed the Citizen Speak portion of the meeting.
4. Zoning Program
The Board discussed the Large House draft article. It was agreed that the Planning Board should decide on applications with input from the Design Review Board.
There was discussion of time frame. Ms. Donahue mentioned site drainage as being a concern because it can be complex for some projects. The Board initially felt that four to six weeks should be workable. After discussion it was felt that 60 days would be appropriate with an automatic approval if there is no decision within that time.
The Board discussed the details of the "sliding scale." It was decided that Area Regulation Districts should be used.
The Board discussed the threshold triggers. It was agreed that the data will be important to examine prior to setting the limits. For the time being those suggested by Mr. Grignaffini will be retained.
It was felt that the Board must meet in a week to continue the discussion of the proper threshold triggers. This meeting was subsequently scheduled for Tuesday, August 21, 2007.
Mr. Brown distributed a draft of an article to establish minimum open space for single residence as an additional or substitute article. The Board felt that this was worthy of further study but it would not be considered for the fall.
There was some discussion of whether undersized lots should be exempted based on the belief that most construction on requires Zoning Board of Appeals approval. The Board felt that there should not be an exemption except for those projects on undersized lots that require a Section 6 (Chapter 40A) finding.
The Board decided after a brief discussion to delete driveway safety as an approval criteria but suggested that the data on driveway location should be part of the submission requirements.
a 65 Washington Street at Hillside Road - Michael Connolly - "Friendly" 40B proposal
The Board examined plans of this project calling for five units of housing on the site (a two family house and a three unit town house with one affordable unit). It was noted that there are three units that have four car garages. The number of driveways onto Washington Street has been increased to three.
b. 27 Washington Street
It was reported that the Selectmen wish to have a Town Development Review Team (TDRT) Meeting on August 23rd. Mr. Frisardi, Ms. Lehmann and Mrs. Jop will attend.
c. WLWV Meeting
Ms. Donahue reported on a meeting where representatives of the Wellesley League of Women Voters wish to assist the Planning Board with its efforts towards adopting the Large House review through "getting the word out." Discussed were guest columns, and a cable TV program, an informational meeting, precinct meetings and similar educational efforts.
Next Meeting: Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Meeting Adjourned: 11:15 p.m.
Richard H. Brown, Planning Director