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Photo credit: MetroWest Daily News

Article by Henry Schwan for the MetroWest Daily News (October 28, 2020)

NATICK — A proposed mixed-use development at the site of the former St. Patrick’s School is potentially closer to becoming reality after Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved two measures Tuesday night.

A 122-11 vote — with two abstentions — supported a zoning change, sponsored by the Select Board, that extends the downtown mixed-use district to include 45 East Central St., the site of the former St. Patrick’s School.

Developer Stonegate Group plans to tear down the former school and replace it with a building that includes commercial space on the ground floor and residential apartments on the upper floors. The property was zoned residential before Tuesday’s night’s vote.

The second vote, 129-5, approved a home rule petition — sponsored by the Select Board — that grants a liquor license to 45 East Central St. State lawmakers must ultimately sign off on the petition. Stonegate Group said it needed the license to entice a restaurant to lease space on the ground floor of its planned building.

The liquor license request was included in a development agreement the board signed with Stonegate Group back in February.

Julian Munnich, a Town Meeting member who sits on the Planning Board, criticized the article that called for the zoning change. Munnich referenced the development agreement the board signed with Stonegate Group, questioning whether there was sufficient public comment before it was reached.

Munnich favors an alternative zoning change for 45 East Central St. that is expected to be presented at Thursday’s virtual Town Meeting. It is sponsored by Munnich, and calls for the creation of the East Central Overlay District.
“We have ways of doing this more public, more open, to protect other people’s interest,” Munnich said.

Town officials and some neighbors said all discussions about a zoning change were held in public. Neighborhood meetings with town officials and the developer were also held.

“This has been a long and collaborative process with many stakeholders, including the abutters (that live near the proposed development),” said Select Board Chairman Jonathan Freedman.

The development includes a total of 54 residential units — 46 in the main building that replaces the St. Patrick’s School, plus eight in four two-family townhouses on properties behind the main building. There will also be an underground parking garage.

Twenty-five percent of the total units (14) will be classified as affordable housing — 11 for those who earn 80% of the area median income, which is the middle number of all incomes for a given area. Three are reserved for those that earn 30% to 50% of the AMI.

All 54 units would count toward the town’s affordable housing stock, because they are rentals.

Stonegate bought the former school, and three lots — 4 and 6 Lincoln St. and 5 Wilson St. — in 2015 for ​$3.4 million from the Archdiocese of Boston. All four parcels total 1.8 acres, and will encompass the project.