518 South Avenue (the Whopper) Continued Hearing This Week
On Wednesday, October 13 at 7 pm, the Weston Zoning Board of Appeals will again take up discussion of the so-called Weston Whopper at 518 South Avenue. The agenda mentions that a vote may be taken. Please note that the agenda posted on the town site here may be out of date, as the number of units has recently been dropped from 200 to 180.
In addition, please note that Public Comment has been allotted zero minutes. You have 59 seconds. Interested residents (and that should include basically the whole town) can send emails to the ZBA.
In case you have been living under a rock, or have taken the summer off from Weston “stuff”, or you just moved here, you may have missed this highly controversial 40B project that is being led by a Weston resident developer. The town of Weston has a robust website with updates, letters, project documents and explanations (note: at least one link is not working) as well as a fiscal analysis update which was recently submitted. The entire process has been going on for (summarizing) forever, which roughly translated is August 2019. Here’s how it’s summarized on the town website:
The Comprehensive Permit public hearing process with the Zoning Board of Appeals opened on August 19, 2019; however, based on updated land area calculations from the Town Planner and working with Town Counsel, the Board invoked Safe Harbor. On March 15, 2021, the Housing Appeals Court denied the Town’s claim and ordered the comprehensive permit hearing process to reopen. The Town has 180 days to complete the hearing process. The hearings reopened on April 7, 2021.
Now, if you have your handy-dandy calculator, of if you are more mathy than the Owl, you will note that 180 days from April 7, 2021 (when the hearings re-opened after Safe Harbor was denied) is October 4, 2021. There was again a delay, which was developer-requested, with the “must-finish” deadline now at November 30, 2021. I did not make that up nor use a calculator–it is listed on the town website. Happy Thanksgiving, Weston, have a huge ugly building.
As mentioned earlier, a recent communication (dated September 29) received by the town talks about reduced size (200 units to 180 units) and parking spaces (353 to 293) which seems to be an attempt to assuage traffic concerns. On an anecdotal note, as the parent of two high school owlets who routinely battles the crossing of Route 30 to take Winter to Brown Streets, any additional cars on the road there makes me unhappy. No one cares, I know. It is what it is.
The Fiscal Impact Analysis posted online from September 2021 is weirdly titled MAMMOTH ROAD ELDERLY HOUSING PROJECT when I open it on my computer. Is that an issue of the developer or has the town renamed the Whopper the Mammoth? No idea. As Owl readers know, numbers and reversing of cars are not the Owl’s forte, however, some of these numbers are quite interesting and the report is worth the read. Note that this report has been updated from the previous June and July reports, due to the reduction in number of units from 200 to 180. Maybe that’s what moved it from Whopper size to Mammoth size. Note the breakdown in size of units below:
The Fiscal Analysis goes on to talk about how much the town will receive in property taxes from the Whopper, versus the three properties that exist there today. The current properties pay $21,182 in taxes so you can see why the developer wants to emphasize that the town gets $720,000 more in taxes, not to mention almost $100,000 (according to their math) of excise taxes on vehicles, plus CPA surcharges, which nets out to $822K plus change for the town. Neat-o.
Higher costs to the Town are noted for police and fire services, but where I think the costs may be a little ummm, fuzzy are on zero sum for Department of Public Works and for the unpredictability of school enrollment. I am not quibbling with fire and police mostly because one Chief is about a foot taller than me, and the other carries a firearm. Oh, just kidding, folks, lighten up. No, I am questioning DPW and school numbers as provided by the report–the first because the analysis shows no costs to DPW because the developer maintains the property. Ummmm…more cars on roads. More wear and tear, no? Maybe it’s negligible?
I see the school enrollment numbers to be out of date to what has happened in the schools this year– predicted enrollment was understated, and anecdotally again, I will tell you the classes at the high school are chock-a-block. If anyone squishes one more student into an Owlet 9th grade classroom, there will be mayhem. You can see 2021-22 enrollment here in the Owl.
Summarizing from the Fiscal Analysis Report (pages 13 to 16), an expected 59 children will join Weston public schools, with the breakdown between schools according to this chart:
Regardless of where this report comes out, the fact is that enrollment is highly unpredictable. The best hope we have for a smooth entry of new students is that there is ample lead-time to adjust teaching professionals. That hope is tempered by the fact that 35 new families joined the high school this year, after a cut of nine teaching staff over the last two years. There will always be a mismatch.
In the end, the Fiscal Analysis report says that, net-net, the Town of Weston has a positive annual fiscal impact of $100,000+ using the costs and revenues researched by the developer-commissioned Fougere Planning & Development, Inc. Is there an independent report? Hmm. Maybe this is normal? I’m out of research funds, sorry.
At this point, the Owl is a bit tired of the numbers, and hasn’t even gotten to the environmental concerns. She will only state that she worries a lot for Bogle Brook which runs through the high school and middle school campuses after leaving the vicinity of the Whopper…and through the Blaney Aquifer and down to Rivers School and the Nonesuch Pond. No one claims it will not be affected. What we don’t know is how much it will be affected.
For those interested, tune into Zoning Board of Appeals this Wednesday at 7 pm.