One of our neighbors sent the following memorandum to Mary Krumsiek and David Delaney, and carbon-copied members of the Millbury Board of Selectmen, the Millbury Board of Appeals, the members of the Millbury Planning Board, the members of the Millbury Conservation Commission, the Town Manager, the acting Town Planner, the acting DPW Director, the Police Chief, the Fire Chief to ensure our neighborhood’s and the broader Millbury community’s concerns are on record and addressed in any negotiations regarding the proposed Chapter 40B LIP project as submitted by developers, Steven F. Venincasa and James Venincasa, for 17 Rice Road in Millbury, Massachusetts.
Please feel free to either reiterate these concerns or express your own to:
|David M. Delaneyemail@example.com|
In reviewing all developments through assessor’s records in the town of Millbury, this is an unprecedented development for the Town of Millbury. None of the other developments have the number of dwelling units proposed.
I am not in favor of this proposed Chapter 40B project proposed at 17 Rice Road as presented, not because I am against affordable housing, but rather because this proposed project is sited in an inappropriate location for the magnitude of this proposed project and already has numerous public safety problems that will only be exacerbated by the massive development proposed. I am not in favor of widening Rice Road to attempt to shoehorn a bad design onto the wrong road and location with such an extreme density of dwelling units. I think all my neighbors would all agree with and support this stance. There are probably other sites in Millbury that would be better suited for this type and scale of project on a major street with a right-of-way of 60-feet in width and that does not have all the problems identified hereinafter.
The following is provided to assist you in understanding our neighborhood and broader community concerns. While the included list is not all-inclusive, it does include most, but not necessarily all the problems that I feel must be negotiated and resolved based upon the limited scope publicly presented proposed “conceptual” Chapter 40B LIP project plan for the property located at 17 Rice Road in Millbury, Massachusetts.
Many of these problems were disclosed in a series of public hearings before the Planning Board with respect to the now denied proposed 46-condominium project at the same location. The latest proposal only magnifies the problems by a factor of four times. New concerns are also included regarding the increased issues of the developer’s concept plan for 192-apartments, 48 being “affordable apartments.” While I recognize that there is a need for affordable housing, such developments must be appropriately sited as not to adversely impact existing properties and uses.
As a side note, this proposed project is not inevitable that approval will be granted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) as this proposed project could be (a) denied, (b) drastically scaled back, or (c) conditioned in such a manner that the developer may find it unpalatable to proceed to development, as was the case with Medfield Meadows and other Chapter 40B projects, so we do have an opportunity here to mitigate the very real problems and impacts.
This memorandum is organized according to the template outlined by Judy Barrett of Barrett Planning Group, LLC, in her May 10, 2022, Chapter 40B LIP presentation to the Board of Selectmen.
- A noise study should be conducted prior to any approval of plans and site clearing to determine pre-development baseline noise levels on the subject property and the surrounding properties for mitigation of railroad and truck traffic on Providence Street not to increase the baseline noise levels, even intermittently, on any surrounding properties, up to and including properties with 1,000± feet of the railroad right-of-way.
- Providence & Worcester Railroad crossing currently has the following issues including, but not limited to width, signal, approach, non-existent sight lines, lack of crossing gates, etc. The railroad needs to have a seat at the table before any negotiations begin. Providence & Worcester Railroad has stated that increasing traffic volume or making changes would require upgrading the approach and design of the crossing, the additional of crossing gates, and upgraded signaling for the Rice Road railroad crossing (on their property, as the Town does not own the land).
- Intersection of Rice Road with South Main Street (T-intersection), must be reconfigured, ensure that it is compliant with the fire truck template, ensure that large delivery trucks can navigate the road without anyone driving over 2 Rice Road’s property as frequently occurs now, the accidents on South Main Street near this intersection should be investigated and any mitigation measures implemented. Changes to this intersection will require the relocation of the monument, utility pole, and the fire hydrant, and adjustments to the height differences between Rice Road (higher) and South Main Street (lower), by reducing the height near the apex of Rice Road down by 3± feet.
- Intersection of Rice Road with Providence Street (Route 122A) has an impossible right turn southbound on Providence Street onto Rice Road. The grade (slope) is quite steep and vehicles slide down the road in winter/icy conditions. There is no vehicle stacking or no stopping (stacking) area at this intersection. A guardrail must be added to the northeast side of Rice Road on the slope near the railroad crossing for everyone’s safety. The developer had proposed closing the intersection of Rice Road and Providence Street (Route 122A) which is not acceptable due to public safety response access and the overall convenience of the residents. The developer also proposed no right turn onto Rice Road, this is also unacceptable. The developer proposed that our neighborhood, town, and/or railroad, but not him (or his company) pay for any railroad upgrades needed. Why should the neighborhood or town be downgraded so a developer can adversely impact a neighborhood and the town so the developer can generate more profits?
- According to the Planning Board (and our regulations), Rice Road is an inadequate public way with multiple portions of only 16-feet width of pavement and 40-feet or less (27-foot) right-of-way, when the proposed traffic volume increase would require 32-feet of pavement and a 60-foot right-of-way, meaning at least three (3) homes would lose access to their garages (under) for 5, 6, and 7 Rice Road due to the already steep grade differences. If the volume of traffic is to be increased, then the right-of-way should be a consistent 60-feet wide with 32-feet of pavement width, a 3-foot grass strip, and an ADA-compliant 5-foot-wide sidewalk the entire length of Rice Road from South Main Street to Providence Street, which would necessitate land takings. A sidewalk would need to connect to the one on Providence Street that currently dead ends at National Grid’s entrance. To reiterate my prior statement, I am not in favor of widening Rice Road simply to fit a square peg into a round hole project for a developer to generate profits while decreasing the desirability and functionality of our neighborhood.
- Millbury has a 30-foot building height restriction for fire safety. The concept plan is three (3) four-story buildings which are estimated to be more than 40-feet in height. There appears to be no access on two sides of each building, which is a concern. This concern should be confirmed with the fire department.
- The Planning Board has repeatedly stated a single entrance/exit is not acceptable for developments which were significantly smaller than this proposed development. Additionally, Millbury’s regulations require two entrances/exits. 192 dwelling units x 2.5 vehicles (conservative estimate) is a minimum of 480+ more vehicles per day on Rice Road, plus all delivery services (Amazon, UPS, FedEx, etc.) which is not reasonable for Rice Road. The Planning Board instructed the developer to gain primary or secondary access from South Main Street, Jackie Drive, or over the railroad tracks to Providence Street, which the developer opted not to present as options. The current proposal only has one entry/exit point, which was one of the reasons for denial, due to the public safety aspects and traffic increases.
- A safety fence along the length of the railroad from Rice Road to Curve Street. A break in the fence may be required around the NationalGrid easement, but should be confirmed, if NationalGrid would allow the power lines to be closed off or gated.
- I would request stop signs be installed on Thomas Hill Road at Rice Road, on Aldrich Avenue at Rice Road, and on Aldrich Avenue at Thomas Hill Road. A neighbor suggested a group of stop signs on Rice Road at Thomas Hill Road to slow traffic and promote reduced speeds (a three-way or four-way stop intersection), which is a good suggestion to promote public safety.
- There should be a stop sign within the Rice Road right-of-way for exiting vehicles of the proposed project site, so it is enforceable by the Millbury Police Department. Stop signs on private property are unenforceable by the police.
- Install painted and signed crosswalks crossing Rice Road at Aldrich Avenue, crossing Rice Road at Thomas Hill Road, and crossing Rice Road along South Main Street (south to north).
- Bicycle lanes/marking along Rice Road end to end and along South Main Street from the Sutton town line to Elm Street.
- The public-school bus stop needs to be relocated from South Main Street at Rice Road to the odd numbered (north) side of Rice Road in front of 17 Rice Road, between Aldrich Avenue and Thomas Hill Road for all grade levels due to the safety of school children on a busy street currently with no visible place to stand or parents to wait in vehicles during inclement weather conditions. While this may be a bus company decision, the town can exercise influence over these decisions.
- The pond and wetlands should be protected and no buildings or structures including decks, patios, parking, etc. should encroach into the 100-foot wetlands buffer zone, even though Millbury has no such regulation on record, but should.
- This area is currently home to wildlife which includes, but is not limited to deer, coyotes, birds, frogs, turtles, turkeys, herons, snakes, beavers, foxes, etc.
- Three (3) four-story buildings is completely out of character, massing, and scale with surrounding structures and neighborhoods. Most of the houses in the immediate neighborhood are single-story, with fewer splits-entries and two-story houses. Their conceptual design does not appear to comply with Chapter 40B design criteria as outlined in the Chapter 40B Handbook and therefore would likely have to change to a similar design language to match the surrounding neighborhoods, by reducing the height, massing, character, design, and the number of possible dwelling units to be compliant.
- Storm water management would need to be addressed along Rice Road, as water pools on the edge of the road and the existing catch basins are drywells with no outlets.
- A 6-foot-high privacy fence should be installed along the perimeter property lines of the abutting properties along Rice Road and Jackie Drive (the rear and sides of the abutting properties).
- There should be a school-bus shelter installed on the north side of Rice Road between Aldrich Avenue and Thomas Hill Road. This bus shelter should be designed in such a manner that it fits in with the character of the neighborhood, not a standard bus shelter, rather like the one at Stratford Village.
- Utility poles should not be permitted to be installed in any sidewalk, or the sidewalk routed around the utility poles as was previously proposed by this developer’s engineer. We need root-cause solutions not band-aide fixes. Utility poles and guidelines should be located outside the sidewalks as not to impede use by pedestrians and child cyclists.
- Based upon my questions to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) seemed quite concerned about the public safety problems that I (and we) brought to their attention.
- Based upon my questions to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) seemed quite concerned about any proposal to take private land from abutters to benefit a private developer and were unaware of any other project where this was even considered.
- Open useable space should be preserved for people to enjoy while minimizing any impact of the wildlife that currently occupies or uses the property for food sources and shelter.
- No natural elements should be disturbed within a minimum of 100-feet of the pond and wetlands, including, but not limited to buildings, road, driveways, decks, patios, etc.
- To obtain the 60-foot right-of-way and the 32-feet of pavement width, plus the reconfigurations of Rice Road, South Main Street and Providence Street (Route 122A) eminent domain land takings from private landowners would need to occur. I am not advocating land takings from any of our neighbors. However, Rice Road must be compliant with current road design standards in Millbury or the proposed project drastically scaled-back or denied. It is unlikely that any of the Rice Road landowners will willingly give up 10-feet or more of their front yards or that NationalGrid would give up 100± feet (in depth) of their frontage on Providence Street (Route 122A) without a fight. The current landowners in our neighborhood do not desire to live on a major street like Howe Avenue/Millbury Avenue, thus why we chose our neighborhood instead.
- It is essential that peer review engineers and consultants paid for by the developer review and validate all concerns contained herein, some of which include, but are not limited to traffic, noise, water capacity and pressure, sewer capacity, environmental, etc.
Other Local Concerns
- Their plans show different right-of-way boundaries than the official Rice Road Layout Plan in the Town’s records, as provide by the Town Clerk with a 27± foot right-of-way width near the apex of the hill near South Main Street. This matter should be resolved prior to proceeding with construction plans.
- While Aquarion Water Company keeps on insisting that Millbury has enough water, we do not. We purchased over 57 million gallons of water from Worcester to sustain our current usage and have a constant water ban imposed by DEP. We need to make responsible and informed decisions. While I respect the folks at Aquarion Water Company, they are in the business of making money off us like any other businesses or vendors. What happens when Worcester cannot sell us the water our town requires because their demand has increased or due to climate change? Millbury needs to be self-sustainable with its own reliable water sources. We need to have a town engineer or consultant make an independent determination with such services paid for by the developer.
- Is there sufficient water pressure and capacity to extinguish a major fire emergency should a catastrophic event occur? We need to have a town engineer or consultant determine the answer with such services paid for by the developer.
- Can the Millbury sewer system, including current pump stations, handle the major uptick in usage or does Millbury need to upgrade its systems and pump stations to handle the proposed volume? Any burden for upgrades should be paid for by the developer, not the taxpayers. We need to have a town engineer or consultant make an independent determination with such services paid for by the developer.
I am not opposed to the development of this or any other properties. I only want appropriate, harmonious, and responsible development, as do my neighbors and a broader group of residents throughout Millbury. As presented, this proposed Chapter 40B LIP project is not that. This proposed project needs to be drastically scaled-back, all problems provided herein resolved with root-cause and not band-aide fixes, or we as a town should fight to preserve our small and growing community, so it grows in a responsible and sustainable manner. If this proposed project were to be approved, which I know is not the Board of Selectmen’s decision, it could have far-reaching implications for taxpayers and residents’ quality of life.
As more is disclosed about this proposed project, additional comments may be submitted.
I have a background in civil and environmental engineering, even though I no longer work in that area of expertise, I will make myself available to you as a resource to either clarify and/or consult on any matters related to this proposed project. We have one chance to get this right and I am offering to assist my neighborhood and community.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of all this detailed information provided herein.