NATICK — After hammering out some final details this week, the Zoning Board of Appeals is closing in on a vote regarding a mixed-use affordable housing development at the former St. Patrick’s School.
Plans for the 45 East Central St. (Route 135) site include a mixed-use building with restaurants and retail space on the ground floor, with 46 rental units above. There will also be four duplex townhouses off Lincoln and Wilson streets.
Of the 54 total units, 14 will be affordable, some geared toward households earning 80% of the area’s median income and others toward those making 30% to 50% of the median income.
A rendering of 45 East Central St. in Natick, the site of a proposed mixed-use development helmed by Stonegate Group.
The ZBA has until June 30 to decide on a comprehensive permit for the 40B development, which is now seven years in the making. The board meets again next Thursday.
‘This is the 11th hour’
Representatives of the developers, Natick-based Stonegate Group, held an informal meeting with the Planning Board on May 11. On Tuesday, the ZBA tackled some of the comments that the Planning Board had raised.
Responding to a comment that the rooftop design could signal that additional floors may be constructed in the future, Finegold Alexander Architects Principal Rebecca Berry said the mixed-use building is not designed to be taller and could not be much taller than designed under building code provisions.
“There is, of course, a terminus of the top of the building, but there is not a cornice, which is a term that many in the Planning Board used during the discussion,” Berry said. “And the reason for that is quite simple: It’s not appropriate for the architectural style of this building.”
Comments also touched on trash storage, with Berry explaining that trash will be in an enclosed area, screened from view and surrounded by a fence and landscaping.
Planning Board member Peter Nottonson, speaking as a resident and as an architect, pushed back on the need for a cornice and questioned whether the trash enclosure would be enough to protect against vermin, a point that two other members of the public raised during the meeting.
Nottonson’s comments resulted in a tense back-and-forth between him and ZBA Chair David Jackowitz, who pointed out that the ZBA hadn’t received the Planning Board’s May 11 comments until last Friday, when the ZBA was set to convene just after Memorial Day weekend.
“This is the 11th hour; it is the 59th minute, OK?” Jackowitz said.
He also noted that developers have had several meetings with town officials over recent months, tinkering with designs and addressing concerns.
“These folks have listened. They have redesigned. They have re-engineered. They have listened to the comments. They have worked very closely with the town,” Jackowitz said. “The decision has been drafted; it’s in draft form. The plans are as darn close to final as they can be.”
Several ZBA members expressed satisfaction with Berry’s response to the Planning Board’s concerns.
Future-proofing the parking
The meeting also featured some discussion over electric vehicle charging stations. Developers initially proposed one — with the possibility of adding more, based on tenant demand — and the town’s traffic consultant recommended three for the underground parking and three in the surface lot.
ZBA members were amenable when Berry came back with a plan for three in the underground parking and three in the surface lot, with the possibility of more charging stations in the future.
“I really think we’re going to be in a future-proofing issue with this sooner than we think,” said ZBA member Geoff Lewis. “I think one or two people in this building will probably have EVs upon its opening, but 10 years from now, I think a lot of people are going to have EVs in this building.”
The board voted to continue the meeting to next Thursday.
While the proposal’s language will be updated and fine-tuned over coming days to reflect Tuesday’s discussion, don’t expect substantial changes ahead of next Thursday, according to Jackowitz.
“It’s more dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s than anything else,” he said during the meeting.