Riverside Road – Former Liberty Mutual Site Up for Vote at Town Meeting
As promised in yesterday’s Know the Issues post about Town Meeting, the Owl is taking a closer look at the proposed changes included in articles 30-33 of the Warrant Book. These articles address the usage of the former Liberty Mutual site, called Riverside Road by its developer, Greatland. Yesterday a fancy postcard arrived with more information on a website you can find here. In addition, the Owl visited the site at a public Planning Board site visit, along with local area residents and the developer on a rainy Tuesday, May 4.
The Select Board has voted to pass over articles 30 and 32, but Article 31 will be up for discussion. Article 31 would allow for the creation of a Science Life Center at Riverside Road, modifying zoning to allow a life sciences or lab use of the property. Heights on buildings will be slightly raised–on the tour, the developer had attempted to put helium balloons up to show the new heights, but sadly the rain had other plans and those were some droopy balloons. The increased height is not in building stories, but rather roof air handlers. In total, there will be an expansion of 50,000 square feet and a new parking garage.
As part of the development agreement, Weston will also execute a land swap. The town owns the land abutting Park Road and in the southeast corner at the back of the property. A piece of the frontage and the back parcel will be consolidated into 1.7 acres at the back of the lot. Most of the trees and natural area fronting Park Road will remain as it is. In the future, the town could consider building a multi-family building on the east side of the parcel, close to the railroad tracks and the freeways. This is not up for approval at this Town Meeting.
The benefits to the town from Article 31 and the development agreement are significant incremental tax revenue estimated at $1.25 million, without additional demand on services. a land swap for potential housing, as well as $5.1 million for mitigation and potential housing, open space or conservation land. In a separate agreement, Greatland has committed to providing $1 million for traffic mitigation on the Park Road-Riverside intersection with the purchase.
Some residents are concerned about noise issues, air quality and traffic. The Zoning will place limitations on sound (5 dbs above ambient) and must adhere to EPA air quality standards. In spite of expansion of 50,000 square feet, a peer-reviewed traffic study showed similar traffic to current use (or slightly before current use as the buildings are currently empty).
Voters will decide in Saturday’s Town Meeting if the benefits outweigh the costs. More information about the plans are forthcoming from the Town.