A Wellesley family’s plan to replace its home near the Brook Path with a bigger one to accommodate its three-generation household has been working its way through the town’s approval process for months. But the attorney for the applicant told the Wellesley Planning Board on Tuesday, June 21 (see Wellesley Media recording about 12 minutes in), that his client has withdrawn its request for the Large House Review.
“It is regrettable in the extreme that concerted demonization and distortion by some, the process became untenable for them to the point that while they believe that they could and would prevail in the Large House Review process they concluded they no longer wished to remain in the neighborhood where they had lived for 44 years due to the negative feelings that were expressed by some of their neighbors…” said Attorney David Himmelberger. He went on to say, in reading a statement, that the “orchestrated effort to oppose an LHR” was unprecedented, and that what began as a collaborative process turned negative. The family, which went to considerable expense developing its plans, intends to send the Planning Board a letter with feedback on the Large House Review process.
The proposed home on Tappan Road would have been more than twice the size of the existing one, drawing criticism from neighbors who felt it was out of scale with other nearby homes and would loom over the Brook Path. Neighbors during earlier meetings expressed fondness for the family and credited the homeowner for keeping them in the loop throughout the process. The applicants made their case that the home would be designed to stay within the character of the neighborhood, and would allow a longtime resident to live out her life with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. Alternations to the original plan were made along the way to address concerns from various parties, including town boards and neighbors.
While the applicant, through the statement read by the attorney, indicated frustration with efforts by neighbors to enlist Brook Path users in the process, Planning Board member Kathleen Woodward said she appreciated all of these people coming forward. “I encourage that continued participation by people of the town even if they aren’t immediate neighbors when a natural resource is being impacted,” she said.
As we’ve seen in recent years regarding a variety of matters in town, from school policies to changes of use on public land, Wellesley residents know how to rally behind a cause.
Other members of the board shared regret that the process ended this way.
“To me this was a project that embodied the spirit of the ADU bylaw,” said Planning Board member Marc Charney, noting that it wasn’t technically the sort of accessory dwelling unit approved by Town Meeting earlier this year. He said the town has work to do in figuring out how to address ADUs “in practice, not in theory.”
Board member Patricia Mallett said it was disappointing that a way to satisfy neighbors and the applicant couldn’t be worked out, but that the house plan was challenging given the scale and mass of the proposed home in that location.
Chair Jim Roberti said this application proved tougher than some Large House Reviews in the past that generated negative feedback from the public in that the applicant was a family looking to stay here, not developers that might be used to dealing with such a response. “The comments were harder to receive sometimes, I think. That’s just human nature,” he said.
Roberti didn’t discount the idea that another proposal to build a house on that property could make its way back to the Planning Board, such as if the current house were sold to a developer. “What we’ve always tried to do is encourage people to age in place, and this was a tough one. Change is new to that side of town, and especially on the Brook Path,” he said.