Reading, MA — The March 29 Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting was dominated by a presentation from the Eaton Street/Lakeview Avenue neighborhood regarding the proposal by Eaton/Lakeview, LLC for a 120-unit 40B development at the corner of the two streets. Boriana Milenova and Mike Flynn made the presentation, representing the over 150 residents in the neighborhood. The presentation, similar to the presentation made at the February 27 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, had a few added remarks in response to the presentation by the developer at the March 7 meeting of the ZBA.
Milenova began with an overview of the project stating that it is the goal of the neighborhood “to achieve a mutually acceptable solution.” Milenova and Flynn then focused on three areas of concern: traffic safety, design, and environmental issues. Flynn stated that he believes that the traffic study presented by the developer is insufficient, as it only focused on two intersections, where the proposed project would have a broader impact. While the traffic study proclaimed “no safety concerns and no impact,” Flynn suggested that the “broken” nature of the Walker’s Brook Drive intersection would cause residents of the new development to seek alternate routes. “You can’t break what is already broken.” Flynn declared. He then suggested that it was irresponsible to not consider future development on Walker’s Brook Drive when developing this project.
Milenova showed pictures of the design ideas of the project along with pictures from Johnson Woods and Reading Commons. “There is no distinctiveness.” Milenova proclaimed. She also pointed out that the proposed project would place four and five-story buildings next to two and a half story apartments on one side and small single-family homes on the other. She stated that the buildings were large, generic buildings with little site specificity and large impermeable surfaces and no green infrastructure elements.
She suggested that inspired designs with townhouses which look like houses for a transition to the existing neighborhood would be more appropriate. She also suggested that there should be more details on the design with retaining walls and 3D imaging to show actually scale of the project.
The final area considered by the presentation was regarding environmental concerns. While floodplain and stormwater management were addressed by the developer, wetland protection, river and wildlife conservation, water quality, wastewater treatment, and hazardous waste safety have not. Milenova expressed concern regarding the “Phase II” environmental assessment posted on the town website. She stated that it was lacking signatures, missing pages, and had limited due diligence, with an unclear impact of groundwater infiltration and incomplete soil analysis. She also queried where the “Phase I’ study was located. Flynn suggested that the developer’s proposed stormwater management will increase groundwater which could compromise the nearby landfill containment.
Suggestions by Milenova and Flynn to the developer were to consider low-impact development with “green” infrastructure which would lower operating costs, enhance property values, and would protect their investment during peak weather events.
The attorney for the developer Ted Regnante suggested that the neighborhood representatives and the developer hold a workshop before the next ZBA meeting to begin to discuss some of the issues. He also suggested that the ZBA begin the process of peer review of the impact studies. ZBA member Damase Caouette stated that he was “concerned about the size of the project with traffic as a major concern as well.” The ZBA directed Assistant Town Manager Jean Delios to begin the process of seeking peer review consultants for the project. The public hearing was continued to May 2 at 7:00 pm. The ZBA adjourned at 9:07 pm.