September 27, 2022

After 4 Months Planning Commission Still Fails to Resolve Foxboro Point Development

Essex Planning Commission Chairman Tom Danyliw in charge of the proceedings

Even though there have been extensive public hearings in March, April, May and now June, the Essex Planning Commission under  Chairman Tom Danyliw still remains undecided as how to deal with the development plan for an eleven acre site at Foxboro Point in Essex.

The developer’s attorney, Terrance Lomme, said plaintively at one point during the June 14 hearing, “We have tried to do what you wanted us to do.” However, his plaintiveness fell on deaf ears. Instead of forthrightly rejecting  the developer’s latest proposal outright, if it did not like it, the Danyliw lead commission decided to continue to do what it has been doing for the last fourth months, namely nothing.

Developer’s attorney Terrance Lomme at the Essex Planning Commission hearing

The latest plan presented by Attorney Lomme to the Commission eliminated the previously offered, public access “pocket park” on Foxboro Road that was offered at the May meeting. Instead, a new plan for June simply leaves in place the previously proposed easement along the waterfront, and connects it with a visual access corridor, running down from Foxboro Road to the easement along the water.

A few baby steps by the Planning Commission

However, it must be granted that the Essex Planning Commission took a few baby steps in making up its mind as how it should deal with the developer’s latest proposal. After Danyliw carefully canvassed each member of the commission, a clear consensus emerged that commission members were unanimous in wanting an “open space” corridor running from Foxboro Road down to the shoreline easement.

Furthermore, the width of this newly desired “open space” corridor would be so wide that it would preclude the building of a presently planned sixth new house on the property. This would leave the developer with six rather than seven development properties at the site. (In this count the present Croft estate is included as a development property.)

However, even though there was this consensus, Danyliw and his commissioners were still undecided as how to proceed from there. Should the Commission, (1) reject the developer’s proposal out right, allowing him to file a new application without prejudice, or  (2) should it approve the application with a modification that would require the scrapping of the land of house number six?  By meeting’s end these questions remained open.

The developer could simply walk

Of course, under either of these scenarios, the developer could simply decide to walk away from the entire project, having learned the hard lesson of what it’s like to get a project approved by the presently constituted Essex Planning Commission.

Unfortunately, Attorney Lomme was unavailable for comment after the meeting as to the developer’s future plans. However, at the hearing Lomme stated repeatedly to the commission that this was the developer’s final proposal. It is now up to the commission to see if this is really the case.

However, how the Planning Commission intends to proceed remained fussy at meeting’s end.

To the Rescue, the Essex Land Trust

In contrast to the Commission’s lack of decisiveness, the Essex Land Trust presented a firm proposal as to how the Commission should proceed in its work. The proposal was offered in a letter to the Commission, signed by the Land Trust’s President Bob Nussbaum and its Land Acquisition Chairman Paul Greenberg.

Specifically, the Essex Land Trust proposes that there should be at least two acres of open space at the subdivision property, noting that “All recent subdivisions in Essex have had open space set asides, and Foxboro should be no exception.”

Furthermore, the Land Trust’s letter said, “The Planning Commission has the authority to ask for up to 20% of the land to be dedicated as open space.”

It continued, “The Essex Land Trust recommends that the Planning Commission eliminated the view and conservation easements, and in its place require the developer to set aside Lot # 6 as open space. Eliminating one house would greatly improve the view for neighbors as well as walkers and preserve the beautiful parcel of land at Foxboro to be enjoyed by the people of Essex.”

Also, the Land Trust wrote, “We do not support a fee in lieu of open space.”  This meant that the Land Trust would not accept monies in place of requiring the full amount of open space allowed at the Foxboro site.

Finally, the Land Trust wrote, “If an appropriate solution on open space cannot be achieved, then we recommend the Planning Commission deny the application.”

With this letter of the Land Trust before it, this was the way the closed hearing of the commission ended.

Letting members of the public be heard

However, left remaining was the time for commission members to hear the comments of the general public about an application that is before the Commission. Usually the comments from the public are wide ranging.  However, Planning Commission Chairman Danyliw put a different spin on what is usually the case, when members of the public are invited to express their views.   By way of introduction to the public comment period, Chairman Danyliw said emphatically that he only wanted to hear ideas that had not been discussed before about the Foxboro development project. Furthermore, he said if a member of the public strayed from this directive, he would ask them to sit down.

True to his word when one member of the public stood up to express his general views on the proposed development, Chairman Danyliw firmly told the speaker to stop speaking and to sit down. Further, the Chairman said that if he audience member refused to do so, he would call in law enforcement.  The speaker quickly took his seat.

Generally speaking, chairpersons of public bodies are reluctant to limit public comments, as long as they generally relate to the issue that is before the regulatory body. However, Chairman Danyliw was clearly adopting a new more stringent standard as to what the general public can discuss before the commission.

Finally, it might be noted that for all Danyliw’s decisiveness in shutting down a speaker at the public portion of the last hearing, this attitude was in completely contrary to the leisurely pace of his discussions with his fellow commissioners  over the past four hearings.