At the Monday, January 10, 2022, Millbury Planning Board public hearing, developer, Steven F. Venicasa, proposed four options that he wanted the Millbury Planning Board to vote on, so he could determine a direction to head in with the proposed Rice Pond Village project. At this point, it is like developer, Steven F. Venicasa, is throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Most of these options were not well thought through and it is the general opinion of the neighborhood that Option 3 was a “threat” to force the neighborhood and Millbury Planning Board into conceding and allowing Option 4 to proceed without addressing all of the outstanding issues from being resolved or addressed.
Option 1 — Close Rice Road Between Aldrich Avenue and Providence Street (Route 122A)
The developer, Steven F. Venicasa, proposed constructing a cul-de-sac on Rice Road between Aldrich Avenue and the existing Providence & Worcester Railroad crossing and close Rice Road at the intersection of Providence Street (Route 122A) to all traffic, except police, fire, and emergency medical services through a locked gate system.
Option 2 — Neighborhood And Town Fund Railroad Crossing Improvements
The developer, Steven F. Venicasa, floated the idea that the existing homeowners in the neighborhood and town should fund all of the Providence & Worcester Railroad crossing improvements at their expense, not his.
Option 3 — Change The Proposed Project To A High-Density Chapter 40B Project
The developer, Steven F. Venicasa, proposed withdrawing the current proposed project and submitting a high-density Chapter 40B project with less than 225 apartments in four buildings, a percentage of which would be classified as affordable housing units.
Option 4 — Go Back To 52 Units From 46 Units Condominiums
The developer, Steven F. Venicasa, proposed changing the 46 condominium units back to the original 52 condominium units, and use the $2,400,000 to pay for the less than $300,000 of estimated railroad crossing upgrades, the changes to the intersection of Rice Road and South Main Street, installation of a sidewalk on Rice Road from South Main Street to a point perpendicular to the east side of Aldrich Avenue, and widen Rice Road to a consistent width of 22-feet. It should be noted that the proposed density requires by the Town of Millbury regulations: a 26-foot wide traveled way (pavement width), 3-foot wide grass strip, and a 5-foot wide sidewalk.
The developer, Steven F. Venicasa, wanted each Millbury Planning Board member to vote on each of the four options he proposed. Richard F. Gosselin, Jr., the Millbury Planning Board chairman, rejected that proposal and said he would like to hear from the neighborhood their thoughts with a vote for one of the four options, plus a fifth option that he offered up (see below).
The developer, Steven F. Venicasa, stated that he had spoken to several neighbors who supported one or more of the four options provided, however, only one neighbor had said that he spoken to the developer at 4:15 PM on Monday, January 10, 2022 [talk about last minute ditch effort]. The neighborhood certainly seems to feel that the developer, Steven F. Venicasa, has a major credibility issue in many things he states as facts and thinks he says things to manipulate options and support.
Option 5 — Reject All Of The Developers Proposals
Richard F. Gosselin, Jr., the Millbury Planning Board chairman, instructed the neighborhood that they could choose one of the four options proposed by developer, Steven F. Venicasa, or rejected all of his proposed option as Option 5, and then polled those who wished to speak on the matter.
Consensus Of The Neighborhood
The whole neighborhood voted for Option 5 — Reject All Of The Developers Proposals. Most of the neighborhood stated that they did not like developer, Steven F. Venicasa’s “threat” of Option 3 and would continue to fight against any proposal that was not be in keeping with the harmony of the neighborhood or created more safety issues. Some neighbors asked the developer, to develop the property as not more than fifteen single-family houses without the need for any special permits or waivers, therefore being fully compliant with the Millbury Zoning Bylaws and Subdivision Control Law.
Providence & Worcester Railroad
The Providence & Worcester Railroad representative interjected that if the Town of Millbury made a written request to the railroad to assist in a potential cost-sharing arrangement for the improvements to the Rice Road railroad crossing that he would obligated to bring that to senior management to see if they would offer any financial support, but could not guaranty positive outcome from the request. With this, the developer, Steven F. Venicasa, asked for a continuance of the public hearing until the Monday, January 24, 2022, Millbury Planning Board meeting.
In order for the proposed Rice Pond Village project to proceed, it would require a super-majority vote by the Millbury Planning Board, so four out of the five members, to vote in the affirmative. It seems that the developer, Steven F. Venincasa, is feeling uncertain that he has enough support to gain approval for this proposed project and therefore is testing out his other potential options to attempt to proceed.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40B — Chapter 40B is a state statute, which enables local Zoning Boards of Appeals to approve affordable housing developments under flexible rules if at least 20-25% of the units have long-term affordability restrictions.