Abutter Laments Clearing of Groton Road Parcel for Affordable Housing Development

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Mary Yao. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

When Mary Yao and her husband Stephen moved to Cobblestone Way some 15 years ago, the abutting wooded property in front buffered their home from the busy Groton Road traffic.

But this month, everything changed. The pine, oak and maple trees that had grown beyond roof tops were toppled. Their trunks piled on the ground as though waiting to be buried. Dozens of stumps awaited their chipping destiny. The rich soil that Yao cherishes  was churned and turned into chunks of dirt, mixed with snow and leaves.

By Feb. 15,  the 1.77 acres had been transformed from a pristine parcel to a mangled mess. Yao watched and grew increasingly more frustrated.

“As part of the development they found it easiest to clear cut,” she said. “That is large trees, larger than I can hug, all trees removed with a large machine that grapples the tree, cuts it and throws it into a pile.”

The downed trunks lie like defeated giants. The vacant house at 354 Groton Road, will be demolished to make room for 8 residential units. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

She mourned the rich composition of the soil now gone, the wildlife that, until recently, lived there, and the potential damage to the 33-acre Flushing Pond, a body of water that kisses her backyard and has no public access.

Alder Point, at 354 Groton Road, is an affordable housing development, approved by the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals before the town reached its 10 percent threshold for providing residential units to lower wage earners.

The vacant house at 354 Groton Road, will be demolished to make room for 8 residential units. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Developer Brian Lussier is planning to built four duplex, two-story homes on the land. Two units will be sold to qualified buyers at a rate below market value.

Lussier could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Melissa Robbins, emailed a statement.

“My client is beginning site work for the development known as ‘Alder Point’ in conformance with the comprehensive permit and the orders of conditions,” she stated.

An temporary orange fence delineates Yao’s property from the 1.77 acres known as Alder Point. The vacant house at 354 Groton Road, will be demolished to make room for 8 residential units. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

State law Chapter 40B, otherwise known as the affordable housing law, empowers developers to build more densely than a community’s bylaws would permit, as long as a percentage of the units are sold at below market price. The law was enacted in 1969 to address the state’s shortage of affordable housing. It requires communities to designate at least 10 percent of its total inventory stock as affordable. If the community’s inventory is below 10 percent, the law gives great latitude to developers who are willing to sell some units at a lower price.

An order of conditions is a permit issued by the Conservation Commission allowing a developer to skirt some of the requirements of the Wetlands Act of 1972.

In the midst of a growth spurt, the town has surpassed the 10 percent inventory requirement by 3 percent, according to Town Manager Jodi Ross, who stated the percentage in a public meeting. Approximately 700 residential units are under construction along Route 110, the town’s business corridor. By meeting the threshold requirement, town officials can now deny additional developments — affordable or not.

A frozen Flushing Pond. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

Yao lists the animals she’s spotted there through the years: deer, moles, coyotes, rabbits, fishers, weasels and the endangered blue spotted salamanders.

“What happens when we keep killing the woods?” Yao said.

Conservation/Resource Planner Carol Gumbart said she has kept a close eye on the Alder Point project and saw nothing that triggered concern.

“Most of the work was outside of the 50-foot buffer zone,” she said. The Wetlands Act requires a 50 foot buffer between construction work and wetlands or water bodies.

But Yao is concerned over how the development will impact Flushing Pond, a pristine body of water. Alder Point has approximately 114 feet of frontage, according to a report prepared for the Zoning Board.

“It’s the last untouched pond,” she said, referring to other bodies of water in town. “It’s not stocked…It’s pretty much retained its natural state.”

Twigs and branches from the clearing work conducted on the property during the week of Feb. 11. The vacant house at 354 Groton Road, will be demolished to make room for eight residential units. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

 

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