On Thursday, January 17, the Planning Board will decide whether to follow the Town’s Bylaws which require them to reopen the hearing for a special permit for an Open Space Residential Development for Muller Glen LLC. In this case the Bylaw is crystal clear and unambiguous: “any change in overall density, street layout, or open space layout will require further hearings.” The new plans which have been submitted have changed all three of these aspects of the plan, along with many other changes, and certainly not all the changes have been for the better.
The changed open space layout does not support the goal in the Bylaw of being “superior to a conventional plan in preserving open space”. What open space is left under the plan has become little more than wetland ditches left in between houses, wetlands that they couldn’t legally fill in or build on anyway. This new plan does not represent a fair bargain for the opportunity to build nearly twice as many houses as would be legal by right without this rarely sought special permit.
While arguably the reduction of the density of the plan by one unit might be considered an improvement relative to the previous plan, and perhaps the reduction in width of all of the roads by 4 feet could also be argued as an environmental benefit and a cost savings, the significant changes in the open space layout and the movement of buildings closer to that gerrymandered minimal open space, reduces the value of that open space significantly.
It is the cumulative costs and benefits of all these tradeoffs that are rightly weighed in the context of the purpose of the Open Space Residential bylaw through a public hearing and not simply declared as a benign “minor engineering change” in order to avoid further scrutiny and a proper review.
In the Town’s history two other open space residential developments have been built, “Cranberry Estates” and “Beacon Woods”, and this proposal stands in stark contrast to the relatively good results of the other two. “Beacon Woods” resulted in a town house condominium project of 26 units on 12 acres, but with multi-unit townhouse condominiums grouped to one side of the parcel. While “Cranberry Estates” resulted in a cluster of 25 single-family dwellings on 16 acres. Versus “Muller Glen” which is currently planned as a 32 single-family development sprawled out over 14.7 acres.
The applicant is correct to be concerned that their plan will no longer have the support of the two-thirds majority (5 of 7 votes) of the Planning Board required for the special permit, but that is no reason for the Planning Board itself not to follow the Bylaws and reopen the public hearing for this project. Who knows, maybe we will then finally get a plan worth supporting.
Friends of Mary Cummings Park Inc.