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North Suburban News

State Ignores Woburn's Concerns; Gives Housing Project Green Light

Feb 10, 2019 04:33PM ● By Dan Marra

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WOBURN – It wasn’t until Nicole Pejic saw the colossal excavator rolling next to her property did it start to become a reality. The construction that she was told could take more than three years to complete was about to get under way. The two-story high machine dug into the ground next to Nicole’s property, shaking her house and scaring her daughter, as it dug up the earth. It worked to create a new road up the steep hill to the site of a recently-approved affordable housing development.

For Nicole and the rest of the neighbors along North Main Street in Woburn, near Briarwood and Driftwood, down the street from St. Anthony’s and the Altavesta Elementary School, the construction of a 168-unit affordable housing unit in their neighborhood is just beginning.

Residents of the area, along with the city of Woburn, fought the development of this project for years, taking to court the state’s Housing Appeals Committee, which granted approval for this project after Woburn’s ZBA declined the application. After an appeals court sided with the developer and the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the project is now able to move forward.

Residents will be hosting a neighborhood meeting to discuss their concerns Monday, Feb. 11 at 6 p.m. at St. Anthony’s Club.

According to court documents, the Zoning Board declined the permit because “the Project will create a loud cacophony of noise that would rise to the level of ‘noise pollution’ under both Woburn’s ordinance and Massachusetts law.”

Additionally, there were concerns about the scale of the project. Since the property is mostly ledge, it requires nearly 12 months of blasting and removal of 420,000 cubic yards of rocks and other debris, which could see upwards of 60 trucks a day make the trek up to the construction site, according to the developer – Woburn 38.

When completed, the project would house 168 units in four buildings, with a clubhouse. Twenty-five percent of those units would be affordable.

According to court documents, the ZBA said this project, “would interfere with the abutters’ quiet enjoyment of their property, cause unacceptable noise pollution, and adversely affect the public health, welfare, and safety of the direct abutters, as well as the surrounding residential neighborhood.”

The board went on to say that “the disruptions to abutters and the surrounding residential neighborhood are not mere inconveniences, but create local concerns which outweigh the need for such affordable housing.”

For Alderman Eddie Tedesco, the decision by the courts to override local zoning concerns, while disappointing, was not a surprise.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a decision in land court where the interest of the city is more important than the regional need for affordable housing,” Tedesco said.

As with many of the neighbors, in the area, none of them are opposed to affordable housing, but are concerned what the scope of this construction – from the blasting to the traffic – will have on their quality of life.

“We’re not against subsidized housing,” resident and former alderman Mike Raymond said. “We’re against the blasting.”

At the state level, there is even less that can be done.

State Senator Cindy Friedman said that while she has not been involved with this project, housing and specifically affordable housing is one of the biggest issues her constituents face. But little can be done to change the existing law.

“It’s very hard to get any movement on 40B in the State House,” Friedman said. “People are afraid if they make small changes it could lead to bigger changes in the bill. I do feel for the people in Woburn, If I lived next to a site that could have blasting for 2 ½ years, I’d be crazy.”

However, while the appeals court granted the permit for the development to move forward, the Housing Appeals Committee did say, according to documents that “local officials may -- and certainly should -- take any [enforcement] action that they would normally take to enforce the Woburn noise ordinance. This construction project will be loud and unusually lengthy, and the impact that it will inevitably have on abutters must be minimized.”

But for Nicole, the impact on her and her children’s life won’t easily be minimized.

“I want to know how my kids are supposed to enjoy their summer with trucks going up right next to the property,” she said. I’m already stressed about the noise, the dust, the trucks and construction hasn’t even really started yet.”

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