Wellesley Planning Board to hear update on 489 Worcester St. condo plan Monday night

The Wellesley Planning Board and the public on Monday will hear about the latest proposal for a three-story condo development at the intersection of Rte. 9 west and Cliff Road. The online meeting starts at 6:30pm, and the update on the 489 Worcester St., project is #4 on the agenda (see presentation and addendums embedded below).

The developer has launched a new 489 Worcester Street website with project updates and a timeline, as well as a frequently asked questions section and an option to sign up for updates on the multifamily residential plan. The project has been promoted as one that might appeal to both empty nesters and young families, both of which are challenged to find housing in Wellesley.

The proposed project on several adjacent properties purchased by the developers has been morphing since public discussion began in the spring, with it initially envisioned as having 69 units and marketed as 8 Cliff. The developers from the start have stressed the proximity of the project to Rte. 9 as well as to the Wellesley Hills commuter rail station, and the early thinking pointed toward building this project under the residential incentive overlay (RIO) district zoning bylaw.

But the latest presentation indicates a shift by the project team toward a smaller development with 48 units, including a handful deemed affordable according to a state formula. Also, the developers are now looking at using 40R zoning, a smart growth approach that is more streamlined than RIO and can reward the town with attractive chunks of change from the state. Developer Victor Sheen also told us during a recent phone interview that 40R involves state approvals that might help to smooth the project approval process. “Given that there’s a lot of emotion around the site selection, we feel like having [the state] make a determination outside of local politics might be helpful,” he said.

The project has met with resistance from some neighbors who cite traffic, safety, and environmental concerns. A group called Neighbors for Better Planning has emerged to urge the town to develop a more strategic development plan, and Town Meeting members have been hit up recently with a survey related to the proposed 489 Worcester St. development.

The developers have attempted to address concerns raised, including environmental ones. Its latest plan points to no blasting within the buffer zone, and a new conservation easement.

The updated presentation by the 498 Worcester St., team includes a transportation impact assessment, municipal systems impact analysis, wetlands report, and trash management plan. As we’ve seen with traffic impact assessments from Vanasse on past projects in town (Terrazza, Fieldstone Way, for example), it finds the 489 Worcester St. project isn’t expected to increase traffic delays or queuing. Its recommendations include traffic signaling changes that could actually improve traffic flow at Cliff/Seaward/Rte. 16.

It’s unclear from our reading of the study whether the traffic projections are based strictly on the additional vehicles from those who will live at the facility, or also takes into account visitors, employees, and delivery vehicles (we reached out to Vanasse to clarify). Vanasse indicates in its study that it has taken a conservative approach in its assumptions about what modes of transportation will be used in trips generated by the project—it assumes 86% will use automobiles (this would seem to make sense given the dangerousness of cycling in the area and the likelihood that commuter rail usage will be limited regardless of its proximity due to the poor performance of the public transportation system and its deficient schedule).

The 489 Worcester St. team has met with numerous parties within Wellesley’s town government, including the Housing Development Corporation and Select Board. It is now in the midst of a series of Planning Board meetings that began in July.

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