Chelmsford Plans for Transit-Oriented Development Amid Concerns

The Chelmsford Planning Board tackled a range of issues in their recent meeting, with focus on the proposed MBTA Community Multifamily Overlay District Zoning and its implications for local development. Amidst a broader debate on zoning and community impact, residents and board members discussed the potential rezoning of properties near transit hubs, the state’s authority over local zoning decisions, and the challenges of compliance with new state laws.

One of notable topics was the proposed zoning change to allow multifamily housing units near the MBTA station. This change sparked concerns among board members and residents about the state’s approval process and the potential impacts on the community. A key aspect of the discussion was the clarification that the amendment should permit dwellings of three or more units, correcting a text error in the draft amendment. Moreover, the board addressed public fears that rezoning could lead to eminent domain, assuring that MBTA and eminent domain issues are separate and that property values are unlikely to decrease as a result of the proposed changes.

The Planning Board engaged in a dialouge regarding the potential impact of state legislation on the town’s autonomy in zoning matters. With the state exercising authority over local zoning, some residents voiced their opposition to what they perceive as an infringement on local control and the adverse financial implications. The board also debated whether the town should join other communities to challenge the state’s zoning regulations imposition.

The discussion extended to the potential development in transit-accessible areas, with one resident supporting the idea for its benefits of public transportation and walkability, especially in North Chelmsford. However, the prospect of rezoning also raised concerns about potential impacts on existing zoning regulations, such as age restrictions in multifamily zones.

In addition to zoning concerns, the board addressed the community’s questions about the impact of a lawsuit against Milton on Chelmsford’s zoning plans. The board laid out the possible outcomes if the proposed plan fails to pass at the town meeting, stressing the challenges of formulating an alternate strategy.

Traffic and safety were also high on the agenda, with the board scrutinizing a traffic operations analysis on Hildre Street. The debate centered on the street’s substandard width and the feasibility of widening it to comply with design standards. The potential of making the street one-way was considered, balancing the benefits of reduced conflict points against drawbacks like increased traffic on adjacent streets.

The board also delved into the concerns surrounding a proposed subdivision, questioning the adequacy of off-site roadways to handle additional development. The members discussed the application of Chapter 41 Section 81m, which governs the width, grade, and construction of roadways, and contemplated the board’s authority to demand roadway upgrades from developers.

The meeting further included discussions about the expansion of the 495 highway, the potential for property takings, and the responsibility of roadway upgrades, with particular attention to the costs and complexities involved. Residents voiced their frustrations about infrastructure inadequacies, such as the lack of sidewalks and proper lighting, and their effects on neighborhood safety.

Additionally, the Planning Board reviewed an administrative request for a minor modification on Park Street Road, where the modification sought to relocate a ramp system and door exit due to excessive property grades. The board granted the request with an added safety stipulation.

The potential for a new discount grocery store in Chelmsford was briefly touched upon, with recommendations to discuss this with the relevant town official.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Town Manager:
Paul Cohen
Planning Board Officials:

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