So what’s the fuss?

Well, here’s the fuss.

Preliminary Bolton Crossing, LLC plan to develop Smith property. Click to enlarge.

On July 8, a real estate developer appeared before the Board of Selectmen and discussed a “very, very preliminary” plan (right, click to enlarge) to purchase and commercially develop the 8+ acre Smith property in the center of Bolton. The developer was Bolton Crossing, LLC, represented by Roger Sherman of Chelsea and David Drugge of Bolton. The plans showed five buildings totaling nearly 80,000 square feet of mostly retail space. The retail space consisted of a 30,000 s.f. market, an 11,800 s.f. drug store, a 6,700 s.f. restaurant, and 16,000 s.f. of additional smaller retail spaces. In the middle of the site, looking a little like a traffic circle, was a ¼ acre “Town Green” (small park with probably a gazebo). Parking was shown interspersed throughout, and totaled 347 spaces according to the legend. Let me say that again. There were 347 parking spaces indicated.

Although the plans were represented as preliminary, the property is under agreement, environmental testing and engineering assessments are underway, discussions with potential retail lessees are occurring, and the developers have begun information discussions with a number of town boards. According to the developer the property is considered a brownfield site, the assessment of which represents a contingency in the sale agreement. The developer is hoping to close on the property by the end of July.

Though not well publicized, the meeting drew about 20 people during a week when many were on vacation. Reactions were initially in the form of questions. Comments ranged from qualified support to “this is completely inappropriate!”  The fact that all existing structures would be razed (the garage and two houses, one of them historically significant) was voiced as a concern, as were traffic issues, environmental issues, economic issues, historic street-scape issues, and quality-of-life issues for nearby residents. More on this, including my reactions, in a post to follow.

Also shown on the drawings was a pass-through to properties abutting to the rear, and this drew several questions. There are two large, privately owned, land-locked properties to the rear. “It is a mistake in the drawings,” according to the developer.

The plan also hinges on a change to zoning in the town center. The property has reverted to residential status. An overlay to the residentially zoned district that defines allowable retail and commercial use is required for the project to move into permitting. To make that change requires a two-thirds vote at town meeting. And this, my friends, will be fuel for an interesting, soul-searching debate for the town.

—Roland

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This entry was posted in Board of Selectmen, Bolton Crossing, commercial development, Smith property and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to So what’s the fuss?

  1. Stephen Bing says:

    A major concern with this proposal is the lack of transparency concerning the developers. A local resident has to date served as the spokesman for the project but the formal developer is Bolton Crossing LLC. Papers on file with the Secretary of State list Roger N. Sherman of 285 Coomandant Way of Chelsea, MA as the resident agent. Nothing is revealed about who else is involved and nothing is revealed about the financing of not only the purchase of the Smith property but also the financing of the proposed overall development.
    So far the developer has asked residents to have confidence in the fact that a local resident is involved who, we are assured, has the best interests of the town at heart. We need to know who in fact is involved with this proposed development in order to assess a number of issues.
    Have the developers done similar projects? Where are they? What do they look like?
    Do the developers have in mind an effort to get this project started and then expand it either by additional land acquisition or change in plans once, and if zoning changes are secured?
    Do the developers in fact have sufficient financial resources to do this or will the project begin and then further amendments sought because of financial hardship?
    If transparency is insisted upon by the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, the Economic Development Committee and private citizens of Bolton, additional and crucial questions will no doubt arise if transparency is secured. If the developers refuse to reveal who they are and their sources of financing, it would seem fair to draw negative inferences. Mere oral representations that the best interests of Bolton are at the forefront are not adequate.
    Steve Bing

  2. Pingback: Let’s recap | Bolton Center Historic Neighborhood Blog

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