Planners set special meeting for Nov. 2 for Cummings plan

WOBURN - With only limited discussion, the Planning Board this week continued a hearing from Cummings Properties on its request for a pair of seven-story office buildings at the Trade Center Park site off Sylvan Road in North Woburn.

According to attorney John McElhiney, an independent review of Cummings' traffic report associated with the 550,000-square-foot project has yet to be completed, leading to the request for the continuance.

However, the matter is expected to be back before the board shortly as a special meeting has been set for Thursday, Nov. 2, for the Planning Board to continue debate on the matter.

As the plans are being submitted under 1999 zoning codes (the date the plan was approved subdividing the lot), the Planning Board has final say on the request.

During brief discussion at this week's meeting of the Planning Board, member John Cashell made a motion that information be provided to the board on its exact role as to how far it could go in terms of off site mitigation, especially in terms of traffic improvements.

The matter is further complicated, Planning Board Director Edmund Tarallo noted, in that mitigation will have to be determined by the 1999 standards, not what is in place today.

The project is expected to generate some 6,000 additional trips a day, though Cummings has already provided some traffic relief cooperating with Stop & Shop during its renovation effort improving the intersection of Main and Elm streets.

Cashell said the board needs to know both how far it can go and what the minimum requirements are in terms of mitigation.

"I want to make sure the Planning Board knows what it is dealing with," he said.

In addition to McElhiney, Cummings Properties was represented by its general counsel, Susan Brand.

A half-dozen people were in attendance at this week's meeting, but no one spoke as the matter as quickly continued.

It was announced earlier this week that Cummings officials were withdrawing a petition before the city's Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) that sought relief from building height restrictions.

According to Brand, Cummings officials on Monday asked the ZBA to cancel this Tuesday's scheduled site visit of Sylvan Road's Trade Center Park.

During a ZBA hearing last week, board members had arranged to walk the site to assist them in their deliberations over whether to grant an eight-foot height exemption for a 400,000-square-foot office park development in North Woburn that would be erected under the Cummings Properties' expansion plan.

"I think the sense we got from the board was that we didn't have the votes to approve this," the attorney explained on Monday. "We've proposed to go forward with the building within the constraints of the zoning ordinance."

The overall planned 550,000-square foot development, which would have been housed within two buildings standing 87-and-88 feet tall, needed the zoning relief for the higher structure.

Cummings Properties officials, arguing that one of those two buildings was exempt from city bylaws — the smaller one would temporarily house the Middlesex Superior courthouse (as the one in Cambridge is renovated) — had hoped that by receiving the variance, both structures could be built level with one another, making the construction of a 300,000-square-foot parking garage between both buildings easier.

"They will be slightly off now," said Brand on Monday, referring to the fact that one building will now stand either 80-feet or less in height, while the neighboring structure is proposed to be 87-feet tall.

© 2000 Woburn Daily Times Inc.