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Nelson Heights Residents Against Proposed Zoning Change

This Google Maps image shows the area around the Milford Regional Medical Center where the Office Residential district would be created.

Two residents of Nelson Heights – a small, dead-end road that runs off Main St. (Route 16) opposite the Milford Regional Medical Center campus– spoke out at Planning Board public hearing earlier this month against a proposal to rezone 75 parcels of land surrounding the hospital to the office/residential "OR" zone. The Planning Board voted unanimously to send a favorable recommendation on the proposal to the October 20 Special Town Meeting.

If enacted, the effect of the rezoning would be "drastically changing the neighborhood as it currently is," Bradley Ackland told Planning Board member on September 16. "I'm just worried that Nelson Heights, a little residential cul-de-sac, will be destroyed," he added. "It's a dead-end street." The south side of Main St. "is pretty much all residential," Ackland said. "As long as we're in [a] residential [zone] now, I don't know why we can't stay that way until something comes in," added Harry Webber.

As presented by Town Planner Larry Dunkin to the board at the September 16, the rezoned area would stretch to the existing Route 140 (Prospect St.) commercial zone to the north, the existing Route 16 (Main St.) commercial uses to the east, the existing residential uses along Route 16 (Main St.) and Nelson Heights and along part of Route 140 (Cape Road) to the south, and to the Hopedale town line on the east. After looking at various ways to rezone the area, "this was the first configuration that seemed to make sense," Dunkin explained.

The continued growth of the hospital is creating interest among developers who want to build offices to house health care-related businesses near it, he continued. "There is more and more interest in the area," Dunkin said. But, developers are stymied by the area's current residential zoning, he explained. The combination office/residential zoning would allow existing residences to remain, but give the Planning Board control of proposed offices via the special permit process, he added. "It does seem to create a logical zoning district," Dunkin said.

When Webber suggested leaving the area residential until something is proposed – "We'll see what comes up in the future," he said – board member Joseph Calagione noted, "right along Main St., there may be residences there, but it beckons commercial." A developer could request extending the Main St. commercial district closer to the hospital, but the town would have far less control of what could be built than it will with the "OR" zoning, Calagione said. "I think this is an attempt to control it." He said the proposal "allows for a change of use that we see happening anyway in a way that we can control."

"You can't just do one side of the street and ignore the other," board member Patrick Kennelly said. He echoed Calagione's comments about controlling development, saying, "This is via special permit." Offices typically draw traffic only during weekdays and would have less impact than other commercial uses. "We're look at this for the long-term," Kennelly said. "We don't know what's going to happen."

In addition to deciding to make a favorable recommendation on that rezoning, the board also voted unanimously to give favorable recommendations on three other proposed changes to the town's Zoning By-laws:

• Extending the "CB" Neighborhood Commercial District currently covering part of 31 parcels located along Main St. between Water St. and Orrin St. to the entire lots – so that they would no longer be part commercial/part residential;

• Changing the requirements for "shared parking" in shopping plazas from a table based on various uses to a formula based on the number of stores in a plaza; and,

• Changing the current use regulation schedule to allow hospitals, secondary food services, helistops and solar energy systems in an "OR" district, as well as regulating the height of buildings in an "OR" district.


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