A local development team wants to construct 117 condominiums on a Tewksbury property that had previously been the site of a larger rental housing proposal.
Marc Ginsburg and Arnie Martel, both of Tewksbury, are seeking Planning Board approval of the site plan for their project, which calls for a mix of duplex and detached single-unit town houses on a vacant 25-acre site at 842 East St. The board opened a hearing into the proposal June 18 and will resume it July 16.
Another local developer, John Sullivan, had sought to construct about 280 apartments on the site under the state’s affordable housing law, Chapter 40B, but ended up dropping the plan and sold the property to Ginsburg and Martel in spring 2011, said Steven Sadwick, the town’s community development director.
Town Meeting rezoned the parcel last fall, at the request of Ginsburg and Martel, to accommodate their plan. Most of the property had been zoned heavy industrial, with a small area designated single-family. The change converted it all to multifamily.
Citing the proximity of the property to a residential neighborhood, Sadwick said that under the prior zone, “you were almost set for a conflict between a single-family residential zone and a heavy industrial zone. So by zoning to multifamily, the uses are more compatible.”
Ginsburg said that when he and Martel bought the land, they had no intention of proceeding with the Chapter 40B proposal.
“We looked at it that we will rezone it to multifamily zoning and scale the project back to a more palatable project for abutters and all concerned,” he said.
Sadwick said some neighbors voiced concern at the hearing that the project could cause flooding in the area and about whether there would be enough of a visual buffer from existing homes.
Developers were asked to provide more details of their drainage and buffer plans at upcoming hearings. The developers are also undertaking a traffic study.
Ginsburg said he is confident the project “will not create any flooding issues or add to any water issues that neighbors may or may not have.” He said the plan would provide for an adequate buffer through a mix of trees, fences, and stone walls.
Ginsburg and Martel, both active builders in town, have been partners on a number of projects over the past 20 years, including the building of a 176-unit condominium and a golf course on the site of the former Tew-Mac Airport, on Main Street. The golf course is now part of the Tewksbury Country Club, which Ginsburg owns.
Other projects by the duo include a 72-home single-family development on Mitchell Drive, and a 50-lot, single-family subdivision on Catamount Road.
They also sold land to another developer who built 364 apartments off Andover Street.
Ginsburg said the town house units, all two-bedroom, would occupy 15 to 16 acres of the site. About 5 acres would not be disturbed, because they are wetlands. The remainder of the acreage would be used as common space around the units.
Town rules require developers of multifamily projects to set aside 15 percent of units as affordable or pay into an affordable housing fund. Ginsburg said he and Martel are proposing to make the payment, which he estimated would be $2.4 million.
Ginsburg said he and Martel took an interest in the East Street site in part because of its location.
“It’s only about a half-mile from [Interstate] 93, so it has good highway access,” he said. “It ‘s also half a mile out of the center of town, with all the shopping. And the property abuts a lot of [state-owned] fields, so there is a lot of open space around it. East Street is a busy street, but it’s set back, so there is a lot of privacy back there.”
The project would generate new tax dollars for the town while imposing only minimal costs, Ginsburg said, noting that as a condominium, the complex would maintain all its roads and other infrastructure, including snow plowing.
He said experience shows that condominiums have relatively limited impacts on local school systems, adding that a 60-unit condominium recently built by Martel has less than a dozen school-aged children.
Sadwick said the prior developer, Sullivan, had originally proposed his project about 12 years ago, but the Zoning Board of Appeals denied his request for a comprehensive permit, citing uncertainty about whether he had clear title to part of the site.
Sullivan appealed to the state Housing Appeals Committee, but that panel postponed action while the state Land Court heard a case regarding the title issue, according to Sadwick.
He said that when that case ended several years ago, the Housing Appeals Committee remanded the matter to the Zoning Board, but Sullivan ended up not pursuing his plan.
Ginsburg said he and Martel avoided the land title issue by excluding that portion of the site from the property that they purchased.