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Town Committee Says Mixed Use Good For Certain Parts Of Town

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Could Westford begin to see more buildings with mixed commercial and residential uses? It appears that may an option for developers within certain parts of Westford sometime in the future.

Dennis Galvin on June 27
Dennis Galvin on June 27

On Monday evening, the Master Plan Implementation Committee, or MPIC, discussed the issue of retiring the town’s largely unused flexible development bylaw. So far, it’s only been used in two developments, most notably the controversial proposed development off Graniteville Road also known as Juniper Hills.

Ultimately, the MPIC discussed ideas on finding a better mechanism to encourage developers to preserve open space and build affordable housing.

MPIC Chairman Dennis Galvin recommended putting some parts of the flexible development bylaw into a new bylaw relating to open space, but spent most of the meeting asking for feedback on a new bylaw that would outline allow mixed use development in certain parts of town.

While details still have a long way to go before being finalized, members of the committee looked toward Andover’s mixed use approach as something that could help encourage development in areas that might otherwise be overlooked.

The committee agreed that mixed use should be limited at first to the Route 110 corridor, Forge Village, Graniteville and small portions of Route 40. Nabnasset could potentially be included in the future, but it was determined that neighborhood feedback would be needed first, as well as seeing if the idea worked elsewhere in town.

Neighborhood feedback sessions are also likely for Graniteville and Forge Village, although Galvin noted that retail and office uses have traditionally been a part of those two neighborhoods, and the 12 North Main Task Force has already recommended mixed use following renovations of the former Westford Anodizing plant.

The committee also agreed that special permits would be better than site plan reviews to allow the Planning Board more oversight over what goes into each potential mixed use site.

Work still remains on which specific parts of Forge Village and Graniteville the mixed use bylaw would apply toward, as well as various other criteria such as minimum setbacks, parking requirements and square footage regulations.

The board also proposed in concept that the bylaw’s preamble include that it’s being proposed to increase the amount of affordable housing in town.

Galvin believes that allow higher density units will allow people looking to downsize but stay in the community.

“I don’t like the trend that Westford has where everyone cashes out every 25 years, where one group leaves and a whole other group comes in,” said Galvin. “It disrupts the idea of a community and a neighborhood.”

Members of the committee agreed, also stating that allowing different density in different areas could allow people to live in Westford where they might have not been able to before, although they noted that mixed use isn’t perfect for every part of Westford either.

The advisory decisions made by the MPIC on this and other topics relating to implementation of the town’s Master Plan eventually go to the Planning Board for further discussion. Their next meeting is on July 25.