Whether it's deserved or not, most people in town do not feel the Planning Board represents their interests. They see all the units being approved and everyone says it's according to the plans.
Many of those plans were done under guidance of the Planning Board whose role is to develop the town. The Board may ask for minor modifications but the developers go into these meetings knowing the Planning Board will ultimately recommend favorable action.
The Planning Board approved: Princeton Properties (192 units), Knights of Columbus (136), East Mill (51 additional), Avalon (170), many of these had vocal opposition. It's now been made abundantly clear to everyone in town that the goal is to encourage and approve all growth, whether its multi-family, commercial or single family housing with little consideration if it is affordable, market rate or even luxury.
The Town has not examined the effects this influx of residents would have on administration costs. No one determined at what point we will need to hire additional help in the accounting office to help with excise and property taxes, or when we will need someone else at the DPW because of the increase in water bills, or when we will need to add more staff to handle all this permitting? Our town staff is already over stressed with workloads; there is a breakpoint for everything. Isn't that why the schools are in this situation now? If we don't know what our growth will be for the future, won't we be back in the same position again?
We know traffic is getting worse but where are those plans? They try to mitigate the impact but abutters and people who live on the main roads and the side streets are the ones impacted the most. Traffic is so bad that people worry about getting from school to school to make drop-offs.
The Select Board and Planning Board have even admitted all of those properties being developed were done without knowing when the town will exceed its draw allowance from Lake Cochichewick. How much will Amazon and the expected increase in commercial businesses use? How does increased demand affect algae blooms? How much water storage do we have? When do we need to increase operations and staffing at the plant? How about sewerage, how does it impact the frequency and amount of raw sewage being released into the Merrimack River? Many more questions like these are important and haven’t been considered.
All of the new developments in process and Amazon money will give us plenty of new income to make it two years. Then again, we may be right and someone will build affordable housing.
If we hit pause, we can come up with a plan that the vast majority will support. It happened with Osgood and it happened with The Stevens Estate. None were perfect but after there was a much higher consensus. Isn't that what we want as a community?