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Zoning ordinance, sewer bond bring much discussion at deliberative session

Planning board member Tony J. Illacqua, spoke in opposition to the proposed rezoning from rural to industrial use of a 115 acre parcel of land owned by the Littleton Industrial Development Corporation at the Feb. 8 town deliberative session. (Photo by Jenny Monahan) (click for larger version)
February 15, 2017
LITTLETON—Town officials and community members reviewed 33 warrant articles over five hours at the town deliberative session on Feb. 8, approving them all to appear on the warrant to be presented to voters in March.

Article 2, an amendment to the zoning ordinance that asks voters to rezone a 115-acre parcel of land owned by the Littleton Industrial Development Corporation (LIDC) from rural to industrial use was a topic of lengthy discussion.

Greg Eastman, president of the LIDC, spoke to the LIDC's position on the parcel being crucial to their expansion.

"We're at capacity. We have very little room to grow in terms of land the LIDC owns," Eastman said.

Eastman said the 16 businesses currently situated at the park pay $600,000 a year in property taxes to Littleton's tax base and generate $1.7 million dollars in total revenues annually.

"This piece of land that we are looking to study more and develop is for the next twenty to thirty years of development," said Eastman, referencing the LIDC's mission for continued growth and future job creation.

Several community members spoke in opposition to the expansion.

Tom Clardy, a property owner that abuts the LIDC's parcel, said that industrial development of the land will impact abutters property assessments significantly, as much as 5 to 25 percent according to an appraisal report, and permanently alter the character of the area.

"Economic development is good, but it has to be in balance—it's just not right from what we claim we are as a town," said Clardy, referencing the town's master plan statement to protect property values, natural environment and community character, while encouraging economic growth.

Tony Illacqua, a planning board member that voted against recommending the article when it came before them back in November, expressed his concerns about allowing the change of zoning to industrial use.

"The concern should be, if we vote yes, we will lose our green space," said Illacqua.

Illacqua mentioned another concern that he also brought to the table at the November planning board hearing — that industrial zoning is also approved for landfilling.

"We have an opportunity to make sure we don't make a mistake our neighbors have made—drive Route 302, take a look. You can see the hill. You see the trucks on top of that hill, dumping trash," he said, referring to the landfill that has become a source of controversy for the town of Bethlehem in recent months.

Kim Delutis, a close abutter of the parcel, who bought her property in 1997 with her husband John Scott, pointed out that the proposed building area is at the top of a ridge, making it highly visible.

"Do we need an industrial park on the top of a mountain?" Delutis asked.

The article will require a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Article 3, the Sewer Storm Water Roadway Project Bond, asking voters to approve two million dollars of spending to repair and replace sewer lines in the wastewater system was presented with the unanimous support of both the select board and budget committee.

The area sited for the upgrades is sub-area 5, encompassing Union, Pine and Cross streets and Chiswick Avenue.

Sub-area 5 was determined as the area of greatest need in a 2012 study of the wastewater collection system. Public works director, Joe Depalma, said the pipes there are so bad that his crew is afraid to clean them due to the degradation of the infrastructure.

As explained by Andrea Day, an engineer with Dufresne Group Consulting Engineers, the cracked and leaky pipes in the project area are allowing clean water from rain and snow melt to enter the wastewater collection system.

The additional flow all ends up at the wastewater treatment plant, costing the town money to treat it the same as water from the sewer system.

The project would also pay for street repairs in the area, which town manager Andrew Dorsett describes as an added benefit to the project.

Select board chairman Milt Bratz recommended the article, saying "This is a really big deal—we're in deep trouble if we don't do this."

In spite of the $2 million price tag stated on the article, town taxpayers are only expected to bear about twenty percent of that amount after state and federal grant funds and money from the towns existing sewer fund is applied.

The town's operating budget of $8.73 million, article 4, saw no public comment and was passed without amendment.

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