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IPSWICH – Despite encountering some skepticism from a member of the finance committee (Fincom), the group finally decided to unanimously recommend a development proposal for the October 25 town meeting.
Presenting Article 8 at Fincom’s warrant hearing, planning director Ethan Parsons said it had three parts. One would restrict the activities in the water supply protection area. The second eliminates a “onerous” requirement for businesses moving into existing spaces. And the third would limit where drive-through windows could be built.
The full warrant is embedded below.
Open Space Preservation Zoning (OSPZ) gives developers a density bonus when grouping apartments and segregating land as protected open space.
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However, when the Linebrook Road development was proposed, planners realized they could “clean up a few things and improve future projects,” Parsons said.
While Linebrook Road is within the Rural Residence Zoning District, which mandates a minimum of two acres for residential lots, it is also located under an overlaid water supply protection district.
The planning committee’s proposal would remove the density bonus for all homes in the water conservancy.
The proposal would also limit septic systems in open spaces and ban any exposure to open spaces.
Fincom member Jamie Fay said there was “tremendous amounts of protected land” around wells and water and that one-acre lots were still low-density development. He asked Parsons what the city hoped to gain.
“This runs counter to our goal of providing more living space,” said Fay.
Parsons said some of the open space at Linebrook Road is farmland and the planners must establish a nitrogen loading easement on the farmland.
Planning committee member Carolyn Britt said the water department is testing for contamination. If it finds elevated nitrogen levels, it would look to the farm instead of finding out what 55 homeowners are doing, she said.
Parsons said OSPZ has many positive aspects. “Despite all the shortcomings of this project, it protects 70% of the 100 acres as a permanent open space. That would have cost the city a lot of money,” he said.
The city has lost potential investment due to a “onerous” requirement for businesses moving into existing premises, Parsons said.
According to Zoning, businesses using more than 1,000 square feet of space must apply for a special permit, which can be a lengthy process, even if they’re relocating to spaces that used to house the same type of business.
He called the requirement “very onerous and actually slows and hampers economic development.”
“A lot of companies are just going to disappear, and we’ve seen that,” Parsons said.
The zoning change would legally allow retail, personal and consumer services in the commercial area at Route 1 just north of Linebrook Road.
The third part of Article 8 deals with transit. These are not now defined in zoning, so a definition is added.
Drive-throughs will also be banned in the central business district, which is located downtown. The warrant article summary states that they are incompatible with areas of high foot traffic.
Drive-throughs would be permitted with a special permit in the proposed industrial park on Route 1 and in the highway business district north of the high school on High Street and in the Aubuchon area on County Road.