A Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) and a set of associated zoning waivers for the proposed Princeton Properties 40B housing development were approved by Westford Zoning Board of Adjustments on Tuesday night.
The MoA and 23-page set of requested zoning waivers saw some minor amendments, including the denial of two waivers the Zoning Board felt were too open ended and the approval of two water department zoning waivers that had been a matter of debate in the recent past.
That debate, as well as discussion over waivers of system development charges (SDC) related to the proposed extension of the water system into the development during the process to date, led to some voiced frustration from members of the Zoning Board. The board believed the focus had been taken away from the development and placed in an inappropriately political context by other boards in town, such as the Water Commissioners.
Zoning Board member Chris Romeo called the issue "local gridlock" and compared it to Washington where "if you don’t like what one side says, see what everybody else says to see who else can help you out,” said
“So we go from one board to another because no one can accept a board’s authority over a particular issue. This board is charged by the state to have authority over the project and undermining this board’s authority by going to the chairman of the Board of Selectmen or repeated complaints under the guise that this board is somehow sticking it to the water takers is far from what we’re doing," he said.
A compromise offered by Romeo to have the SDC waiver at 50 percent of the affordable housing units was unanimously approved by the board.
This changed the total amount of permitting fees to be paid by Princeton Properties in the MoA down to $502,200.
The reduction that was originally intended to come from fees earmarked for sidewalk construction and traffic mitigation near the project along Route 110. However, the board felt that the reductions would instead be taken out of 53A payments that were intended, but not specifically earmarked, for the improvements due to concerns over recent pedestrian incidents in the area.
The MoA now goes to the Board of Selectmen for final approval. At their previous meeting, the Selectmen recommended to the Zoning Board approval of the MoA, without any associated SDC waivers.