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Housing Limited to Half of Lowell Street Stretch of Busa Land

Selectmen delineate half the length of Busa Land streetscape for four units of affordable housing; details about housing design and community farm still TBD.

New housing will occupy no more than half of the stretch of the town-owned and that had been under consideration for as many as eight new units.

In a 3-to-2 vote on Monday, July 30, the Board of Selectmen decided the property would hold four units of housing on a strip of land not exceed half of the frontage along Lowell and only as deep as the least practical need. 

The nay votes belonged to selectmen Hank Manz and Peter Kelley. Manz would have preserved more of the Lowell Street frontage to allow more flexibility on the housing plan, while Kelley hoped to limit footprint to one-third of the land along Lowell Street.

In later discussion, the selectmen and Town Manager Carl Valente took up a series of questions on details for a request for proposals for a future community farm vendor for the property, which the town purchased three years ago.

In the their responses, the selectmen said they would like for the RFP to allow a for the community farm to include a farm stand and CSA and that the respondents could be nonprofit or for-profit entities. Based on that feedback, a draft RFP will be drawn up, which will come back before the board at a later date.  

Prior to the housing delineation vote, LexHAB presented its plan for eight units in four duplexes spaced with parking in between the buildings, and Carl Oldenburg, a local architect, presented a conceptual plan to house four units in a large building that would mimic a sizeable single-family home.

Designating half of the Lowell Street frontage would allow for four, two-bedroom units of housing under either plan or some kind of hybrid of the two.

A motivation for limiting the amount of redevelopment along Lowell Street was to preserve a viewscape lauded by many and described by some as the best place in town to view a sunset.

Both Lexington and Arlington residents spoke about that viewscape during the public comment.

Gary Geissler, a Lowell Street resident who lives across from the Busa Land, said he hoped the town’s plans could preserve the viewscape that had been “preserved by previous generations. I think it would be wonderful if we could hold onto that,” he said.

A few commenters, however, stressed the importance of maintaining flexibility for housing plans in this decision, which was to designate an area, a required under the Community Preservation Act, and was not meant to lock the town into a particular plan.

One of those residents was Wendy Manz, a member of the Community Preservation Committee and Planning Board, who said she was speaking for herself. The other was Chris Kluchman, who lives on Mass Ave, across town from the Busa Land.

Hank Manz August 03, 2012 at 02:56 PM
The vote was more complicated than that. Mr. Kelley introduced a motion for using no more than 1/3 of the frontage. That was amended by Mr. Burnell to use no more than 1/2 of the frontage. I voted for that amendment, even though I did not wish to limit the land that might be needed, because Mr. Kelley and Ms. Mauger voted against that amendment. Had I voted against the amendment, presumably the original motion to use no more than a third would have passed and that was clearly not enough land. Then the number of units was voted on, something that I was not aware was going to come before the board at that time. Previously it had been stressed that only the amount of land was to be discussed. That vote was Cohen, Mauger, and Burnell in favor with Kelley and Manz opposed. Wanting more units was not quite the issue for me. Wanting to have adequate area to build even a reduced number was the real issue. I have some reservations about there being enough land for the now proposed four units. By the way--the construction "least practical need" needs some thought to understand. It is "least" plus "practical need" rather than "least practical" plus "need."
Patrick Ball (Editor) August 03, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Indeed it was a complicated vote. To add a little more context, Hank actually changed his vote to vote in favor of the amendment after originally voting against. What appeared to change his mind was that the chair -- whose vote I'll admit that I did not hear -- announced that the board was 3-2 against expanding from one-third of the frontage to half. Hank then said he would vote iin favor of Burnell's amendment to "preserve" at least half of the frontage.

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