SMOC could divide parcel Friday, October 28, 2005
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- While SMOC waits to see if the Zoning Board of Appeals will allow the regional social service agency to move its Sage House program to 517 Winter St., worries are rising more buildings could be added later.

As part of its $2 million purchase agreement with Nicholas Thisse, SMOC left open the possibility of dividing the 2-acre parcel into "no less than five lots," including one for the program it would move from Clinton Street.

Jim Cuddy, executive director of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, said yesterday the organization has not decided what if anything would join the home for up to 15 families of recovering drug and alcohol addicts.

"The property lends itself to subdivision, but we have no plans to do anything at the moment," said Cuddy.  "We probably will have plans someday, but I have no idea what those plans might be."

A professional land surveyor filed a report on 517 Winter St. with SMOC in August, said Judy Leerer, a Winter Street resident for 10 years and a member of Stop Tax Exempt Private Property Sprawl.  She would not give the surveyor's name, but said he is a close friend and she is "100 percent sure" it's done.

The survey has not been turned in yet, said Leerer, but she wonders why such an undertaking is needed if no plans are afoot.

"None of us believe anything (SMOC officials) say," said Leerer.  "It would be nice to know what they're doing.  We need to know what their plans are there."

SMOC would have to submit a building permit application showing it has at least 65 feet of frontage and 8,000 square feet for each lot it planned to build on, said Building Commissioner Joe Mikielian.

The lot, which is surrounded by Winter Street, Ardmore Road and Bexley Road is 90,866 square feet.  Its assessed value is $733,000, according to town records.

Mikielian doesn't worry about the potential for more buildings there.  "I can't be concerned until they bring (plans) to me," he said.

Planning Board Administrator Jay Grande said he will hold off on any comment until he sees a plan showing the parcel sliced.

"It hasn't come to us for review," he said.  "There can be lots of reasons to divide land."

Zoning Board administrator Gene Kennedy said the lot has frontage on three streets, and he gave some thought that the land could be subdivided when he walked along it during a visit.

Thisse nearly sold the property to a developer who would have knocked down the nursing home SMOC plans to use for Sage House and built 10 homes on the parcel, Cuddy said.

SMOC included the language about expansion in the agreement to cover itself, he said.

"We did what any property owner would do," he said.  "We wanted to know what our option was.  We wanted to know what we were getting.  We have the right to build on the land."

Should SMOC choose to add additional buildings to its property, the purchase agreement said it would happen through the "approval not required" process, which would limit the Planning Board's review to frontage and access.

SMOC is before the zoning board because Mikielian ruled it did not qualify for a change of use building permit without going to the Planning Board for site plan review under a new bylaw passed in August.

SMOC officials argue the Dover Amendment precludes such scrutiny and says the bylaw passed by Town Meeting in August is illegal.  The matter was sent to Attorney General Thomas Reilly, who is expected to rule by Nov. 17.

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