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Plans for Westborough apartment complex to move forward

Posted by John Swinconeck  May 7, 2013 03:14 PM

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Plans for a multi-building housing development in Westborough will move ahead after a decision by the town's zoning board of appeals Monday, despite concerns over the complex's access points and what that might mean for some school buses.

Westborough Woods would be located at 346 Turnpike Road, close to a Target store. According to documents filed with the state, the project consists of 250 units in four three-story buildings, and is estimated to be completed by April 2015.

Sixty-three units are reportedly designated as affordable housing, and the project falls under the category of Chapter 40B planning.

According to the Massachusetts' Office of Housing and Economic Development, 40B is a statute that enables zoning boards of appeal to approve affordable housing developments under flexible rules, if at least 20 to 25 percent of the units have long-term affordability restrictions.

Westborough Building Commissioner Tin Htway said the developer, 346 Turnpike Road LLC, received enough concessions on Monday from the Zoning Board of Appeals to move ahead with the project.

Htway said the development ought to have a secondary access point to the development. However, the only access point planned is a right-hand turn onto Route 9 Eastbound. Htway said emergency responders, including ambulances, could only access the development from one direction, and then would have to find a way to turn around to head westbound in order to reach UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.

"The Westborough Fire Chief said it was safe for only one access point, but I disagreed," Htway said.

Westborough School Committee Chair Ilyse Levine-Kanji said both school administrators and committee members had raised concerns throughout the planning process. Levine-Kanji said the district is worried about buses transporting public school students that will have to speed onto Route 9 from the development and into swift-moving Route 9 traffic.

She said she was concerned that students taking the bus home from school would have to travel into Northborough and use the Route 20 cloverleaf in order to get onto the eastbound side.

"We make every attempt to avoid Route 9 with our buses," she said. "This would send kids every day onto Route 9 and into another town."

Westborough Woods' status as a 40B project, however, makes it difficult for planners to turn down. About 9.3 percent of Westborough housing is designated as affordable housing, according to Htway. He said that state statute dictates that all communities try to achieve a 10 percent affordable housing stock.

"Once [Westborough] achieves that goal, they can start denying 40B projects. Right now, they cannot deny the project," he said.

Contact John Swinconeck at johnswinc@gmail.com.

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