Planning Board continued a working session with representatives from Penn National Gaming Monday, completing a review of the special Town Meeting article pertaining to the zoning changes necessary to accommodate a slots parlor at 300 Ames Pond Drive.
Last week, Selectmen voted to place the article on the warrant for the Aug. 20 special Town Meeting pending review by Planning Board and Town Counsel.
After concluding their review, Planning Board voted 5-0 Monday in favor of recommending to Selectmen the article with the changes they asked of Penn National Gaming be placed on the warrant.
Special Town Meeting will be held Tuesday, Aug. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Tewksbury Memorial High School gym, and the article will require a two-thirds majority to pass.
After a public hearing before the Aug. 20 special Town Meeting, Planning Board will make a separate recommendation to Selectmen as to whether they approve or disapprove of the article.
The article establishes the Ames Pond overlay district, to be superimposed on properties adjacent to Ames Pond in the existing Office Research District.
The Ames Pond overlay district, as defined in the article, is located in the Office Research District north and east of Ames Pond and south of interstate 495.
In the overlay district, category 2 gaming establishments (slots parlors) will be allowed as presently defined by Massachusetts General Law upon the issuance of a special permit from Planning Board.
Members of Planning Board asked that language be added to the article to permit a category 2 gaming facility as presently defined so if state law is changed to accommodate more than the 1,250 slot machines currently permitted, Penn National would have to come back in front of the Planning Board to seek an additional permit.
Under the agreement, the underlying zoning for the Office Research District is not repealed or amended, and property owners in the new overlay district are subject to requirements of the underlying zone.
If a property owner in the overlay district wanted to develop the property as defined under the overlay district, they would have to file an application for such use and would be subject to the regulations of the overlay district.
Where the regulations of the overlay district do not make provisions, the requirements of the underlying zoning apply.
The article also establishes several dimensional regulations for the overlay district as requested by the Planning Board:
- The parcel or set of contiguous parcels in the overlay district for which a special permit is requested will be a minimum of 25 acres and will be located only in Tewksbury.
- The total lot coverage by structures and surfaces can not exceed 30 percent of the total area of the parcel.
- Minimum frontage of 70 feet for the parcel or set of contiguous parcels.
- No structure can be located within 50 feet of any boundary of the overlay district, and no structure can be located within 100 feet of abutting residential districts.
- The maximum building height will be 60 feet or five stories, including HVAC equipment or other machinery located on the roof of the building.
You can view the entire Tewksbury Zoning Bylaw here.
Planning Board member Stephen Johnson said amending the Zoning Bylaw to accommodate a slots parlor with an overlay district was the option Planning Board preferred of the three discussed last week.
"We were pretty clear this was the better approach," Johnson said. "For my purposes, in the event this does go through, this leaves control in the hands of the Planning Board. If it gets passed it would have to come back to Planning Board like any other business."
Johnson said Penn National could have proposed changes to the Zoning Bylaw without input from Planning Board, but by doing so it helps ensure the issue would come back before Planning Board for a special permit hearing should it pass at special Town Meeting and a special election.
"They could have simply come in and proposed a zoning change," Johnson said. "The reason we come in here and have these discussions is so if it gets passed the Planning Board still has control."
Residents from the Ames Pond area, including from Cardigan Road, Overlook Drive and Catamount Road turned out at the meeting to pose questions to the Planning Board and representatives from Penn National Gaming about the proposed project.
Questions posed included concerns about traffic, building height and frontage.
Planning Board Chairman Vincent Spada said the site plan review process as well as public hearing on the proposed amendment to the Zoning Bylaw would provide residents an opportunity to ask more specific questions about the proposed slots parlor.
"With the site plan review we'll see what they're proposing for layout, landscaping, traffic and environmental impacts as well as infrastructure such as water and sewer," Spada said.
A Planning Board public hearing on the proposed amendment to Zoning Bylaw is scheduled for Aug. 12 at 8:30 p.m at Town Hall.
If the article passes at special Town Meeting, a special election for a referendum vote on whether to bring a slots parlor to Tewksbury will be held on Saturday, Sept. 21.