LexHAB Presents Housing Plans for Busa Land

After LexHAB delivered on a request for plans for four to eight units of affordable housing with frontage on the Busa Land, the Board of Selectmen are preparing to take the next step toward making a real decision about the now town-owned farmland.


Featuring four duplexes that would occupy less than an acre, the presentation from was everything the Board of Selectmen had asked for, but still it wasn’t enough to garner any kind of real answer about the Busa Land.

On Monday, Jan. 30, representatives from the Lexington Housing Assistance Board delivered plans for eight slightly different units of housing along Lowell Street, including utilities available, solutions to possible problems, a mix of units, square footage and a proposed layout, among other criteria.

According to Carter Scott, a high-efficiency housing developer working with LexHAB, the designs include six two-bedroom units, a three-bedroom unit and one accessible unit. With the current plans, the homes would come in under the Stretch Code “for fairly cheap money,” Scott said.

As well, parking plans would be such that each unit would have two spaces and residents would have enough room to turn around rather than back out onto Lowell Street. Taking up three-quarters of an acre, the LexHAB housing plan would leave seven acres for other uses.

Responses to the plans were varied, from Selectman George Burnell saying he’d like to put one unit where the farmstand is presently to one resident opining that the homes would make the land a more pleasant gateway into Lexington.

“I thought it would be more intrusive,” said Dirk Armstrong, a Haskell Street resident. “It kind of fries me a bit when people act like this is some kind of bucolic view. It isn’t. It’s a working field and I think it will actually be more attractive with the houses.”

While the presentation didn’t convince the selectmen to commit to anything in terms of uses for the Busa Land, which the town purchased in 2009, the selectmen agreed it’s about that time.

And to those who don’t support LexHAB’s plan for housing along the “Arlington side” of the Busa Land with frontage on Lowell Street, selectman Chairman Hank Manz said something must be done with the land, so criticisms are best served with alternatives ideas.

“Sooner or later, we’ll have to do something and not leave it hanging,” he said. “. What are we going to do with that?”

Speaking for LexFarm, which supports a community farming option on the Busa Land, Derek Moody said he was hopeful about engaging in opportunities for collaboration among various concerns. The group has engaged an architect to look at some possibilities, he said.

Another resident questioned when there would be the kind of pubic hearings at which neighbors, abutters and the public at large might be able to contribute to the conversation.

In its report, the seven-member Busa Land Use Proposal Committee was unanimous in its support of the "continued use of farming on some or all of the Busa Land," while the majority of members also support some affordable housing. (To read the full report, click here.)

Manz said he believes the selectmen, the ultimate decision makers about the Busa Land, are reaching the point where they will have to reach a decision on the uses, which would then open up the process to collaboration.

To that end, Manz committed to blocking off at least an hour of the selectmen’s next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 13, for the purpose of at least starting to really make a decision about how to use this land.

Deb February 01, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. Pave Paradise, put up some high density housing.
Beth February 01, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Patrick, you got too close to our affordable housing promoting chairman family. Your article makes it look like there was a support for housing at the meeting. At least 6 were speaking against the housing and you did not quote anyone. Peter Kelley expressed his concern that the plans presented would effectively destroy the "gateway effect" of Lexington and selectmen Burnell felt it was too much but you did not write a single line about it.
Beth February 01, 2012 at 11:22 PM
The plan is posted here. Do you like it ? https://www.facebook.com/pages/Busa-Farm-Petition-1000-signatures-and-counting/155057141248914#!/photo.php?fbid=218870851534209&set=a.218870848200876.56293.155057141248914&type=1&theater
Patrick Ball (Editor) February 02, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Hi Beth, thanks for reading and commenting. My initial reaction after sitting through the meeting and I think the main point of this story is that, "Wow the board is planning to block off an hour at its next meeting. That could get interesting." Between now and then, I hope to talk with LexFarm about engaging an architect and their ideas. You are correct about Burnell and Kelley. They did feel it was too much. Burnell said he'd like to see the location of the current farmstand used. If four units could go there, then that would be it; if two could go there, then Burnell would like to see something like the first duplex of this plan used, he said. And Kelley did say he believes this frontage would be more valuable if covered with turnips or soccer balls.
Beth February 04, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Patrick Ball (Editor) February 04, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Thanks for sharing the link, Beth. Other than maybe an introduction page, I believe those are the same plans posted above as a PDF. The PDF is located just beneath the photos, but because it's white on white the page can be easy to miss.
Beth February 04, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Good luck to BOS to get LIP approved. They would need a Letter of Support from Municipality - Attach a letter containing a short narrative on the basics of the project, the history of the project, the ways in which the community is providing support, and how the development team has addressed any concerns the community has. The letter must be signed by the chief elected official of the community. 1000 people signed a petition against dense development ( max 2 units) http://www.mass.gov/hed/community/40b-plan/local-initiative-program-lip.html


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