GRAFTON, Mass. - Town Meeting on Monday voted in favor of amending the zoning by-laws to encourage real estate development in South Grafton by approving a mixed use zoning plan.
Clearing this major hurdle, which was in the planning phase for almost five years, leaves Robert Heavey, owner of the Farnumsville Mill, with a clear path to invite developers to bid on his property.
“It’s funny,” Heavey said in a telephone interview, “in this economy, if you don’t have a permit, a bank won’t give you any financing.”
The new bylaw will allow a mixed use zoning of retail and residential units for the old mill complex without having to go through the slow bureaucratic process of applying for variances with the zoning board of appeals which, Heavey said, would take years and scare major developers away.
“This is a victory for the town,” said Stephen R. Bishop, Grafton’s town planner. “People of South Grafton have had the sense that they have been neglected. Over a long period of time, the area will be reinvigorated.”
Heavey said that the next step is to tie down a developer for his mill property. Weld Management Group of Boston has expressed interest in turning the site into 90 one and two bedroom condominiums but still maintain the integrity of the building’s exterior. Heavey would also like to see some street side retail or restaurant businesses go in. “There are a lot of people who live there,” he said. “But nowhere to shop.”
The article that was approved is an 11 page detailed proposal that focuses on building a community that is less dependent on automobiles and more pedestrian-friendly, especially designed for would be residents who would live and work on the same block.
In the new plan, retail space would be no larger than 15,000 square feet with no drive-up windows allowed.
Parking would be set behind and to the side of the lot as much as possible and trash storage would have to be hidden behind screening.
The article met virtually no resistance from the residents who attended Monday night’s meeting. One resident stood up and called the plan, “visionary that opens up opportunity that has never been there before.”