June 15, 2018

Southborough developer eyes Marlborough Airport senior housing

Photo | Google
The Marlborough Airport could be the site of a 114-unit senior living project.
Photo/Courtesy
A presentation to Marlborough city councilors by Capital Group Properties shows how 114 duplex units would be built at Marlborough Airport. Farm Road runs from the top to bottom at the left of the image.

Southborough developer Capital Group Properties has proposed a 114-unit senior-living complex at Marlborough Airport, which has been for sale for more than a year.

First though, Capital Group needs a zoning change because today's industrial zoning on the site won't allow for residential use, and Marlborough city councilors have given a lukewarm reception to the proposal for the small one-runway airport on Farm Road east of downtown.

"Something will have to be done with it," Councilor Joseph Delano, who chairs the City Council's urban affairs committee, said at the committee's May 29 meeting. "Well, it doesn't have to be. It can sit there for years and years and years."

City officials may be eager to see new development at the airport, but they're not ready yet to approve a zoning change to allow for the site to be filled with new duplex housing units. Capital Group has requested the city approved a new retirement community overlay district, which would allow residential use under certain guidelines. Capital Group Properties, founded in 1987 by Bill Depietri, has several development around Massachusetts, including Maynard Crossing and Northborough Crossing.

The Marlborough Planning Board voted May 21 to recommend that city councilors approve the zoning change, saying the project would be beneficial to the city for its tax revenue. The board also recommended new zoning limit housing units to no more than two bedrooms each.

Councilor David Doucette, whose ward includes the airport, said he understood concerns cited by adjacent businesses that residents wouldn't want to live next to commercial or industrial uses, suggesting new conditions may have to be placed on businesses' operating hours.

"It may have to be, 'OK, you can't start your business at 5 a.m., it might be better to start at 6:30,' or something like that," Doucette said.

Councilor Peter Juaire expressed similar concerns, saying he didn't want to see longtime businesses hurt by neighbors complaining about nuisances like early-morning deliveries.

"We need to look at what we're doing," he said of the potential rezoning.

On the other hand, Councilor Michael Ossing was among those pitching housing as the best use at the airport, saying similar housing units in the city have provided needed tax revenue but don't require many city services.

"Retirement communities we've had now have been wonderful. You can't dispute that," Ossing said. "I don't want to see limited industrial stuff go up there."

Yet another option has been floated by Councilor Donald Landers, who suggested the city buy the 20-acre parcel. The airport is open to the public but owned by Sandy Stetson, who purchased the facility with her late husband in 1999.

"We have so little land in Marlborough. Here's an opportunity," Landers said.

Mayor Arthur Vigeant said, however, he doesn't intend to commit money to buying the property, citing more pressing needs such as a new public safety facility.

"Not that this wouldn't be a good parcel for the city to buy," he said.

Stetson, the airport owner, has spoken in favor of the housing proposal. She told city officials at a previous hearing that she was initially reluctant to sell the airport but that it hasn't been profitable for years and that she was looking forward to retirement. She said she hoped the council would support the rezoning proposal.

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