Residents opposing a hamlet style apartment and commercial building development in western Glenmont flooded Bethlehem Town Hall Tuesday, March 16, to get the latest news on the Kendall Square project and tell the town’s Planning Board`in no uncertain terms`they don’t care for it.
The meeting did not include a public hearing, but several people took advantage of the public comment period to insist the proposal at the corner of Feura Bush Road and Elsmere Avenue is simply too big and too dense.
`We’d like the board to reject the current plan and rework it so it has greater adherence to the general hamlet atmosphere,` Walden Fields resident Dave Kissinger said. He also submitted to the board a petition against the project he said had 400 signatures.
The proposal calls for a total of 112 apartment units divided into 3- and 8-unit buildings. In addition, 20,000- to 40,000-square-feet of commercial space in four buildings would be built near the intersection of Feura Bush and Elsmere. 70 percent of the 17-acre lot would be preserved as green space, but that’s generally federal wetland areas.
Developer Lee Rosen said businesses have not been lined up at this early stage, but he painted a picture of a small, outdoor cafE or law offices being located there.
The Rosen family was behind many of the housing developments in this part of town.
`I think we have the opportunity to do something even more creative and innovative [here],` he said.
The Kendall Square proposal is unique in that it sits in a hamlet zone. A result of the town’s comprehensive plan, the hamlet zone is intended to encourage neighborhood-scale mixed-use developments. Building size and placement restrictions are among the requirements imposed.
The hamlet zone also encourages a variety of housing types and uses. Some pointed out Kendall Square includes only apartments and in only two proposed configurations.
Rosen said adding single family homes was considered but it would not be economically possible, and added he feels Kendall Square would provide a type of housing not available in the immediate area.
`In a sense, this is the last piece of a hamlet that’s being developed here,` he said. `We’re not creating a hamlet, per se, on our piece of propertywe’re fitting this last piece of a puzzle.`
The ideal occupant would be young professionals or the elderly, he said.
Residents also expressed concern about what impact the development would have on area traffic. The intersection is a well-used thoroughfare for those traveling between Delmar and Glenmont.
Francis Bossolini of Ingalls and Associates said the applicant’s traffic plan would avoid overloading the intersection by having three access points to the development along both Feura Bush and Elsmere.
`The actual impact on the intersection here is not as much as one might think,` he said. `The [traffic] patterns don’t go through the intersection, they go around it.`
The audience did not respond favorably to many of the applicant’s statements`especially those concerning traffic`and Planning Board Chairman George Leveille on one occasion had to halt the meeting to ask audience members to be quiet.
`I know how frustrating it is to have to sit there, but that is the process,` he said.
Rosen said he has spoken with concerned residents individually and in groups over the past months and would be open to further meetings. He was also clear Kendall Square is the project he wants to build.
`There are positive suggestions that they made that we incorporated, there are other suggestions that we cannot incorporate,` he said.
As the project is not a rezoning, as is common in projects of this type and scale, the town would not be compelled to hold a public hearing on the project.
Leveille said because the town has not handled many hamlet applications, it’s not likely Kendall Square will move through the approval process quickly.
`This is really the first hamlet of the magnitude in front of this board. We’re taking this for a test drive,` he said.