Bi-town study sought

The Wilmington Planning Commission is proposing zoning changes to encourage developers to add senior housing.

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WILMINGTON — The Planning Commission is set to vote on sending a report to the Select Board that suggests zoning changes to incentivize developing senior housing by allowing more units in certain districts if they’re specifically designed for that purpose.

During a brief hearing on Aug. 30, the commission changed its original proposal to exclude the residential district because properties in the district don’t have easy access to downtown, a move not deemed significant enough to require a second hearing before sending the report forward. Naturally, the conservation district also is excluded.

Development Review Board Chairwoman Cheryl LaFlamme, the only attendee from the public at the hearing besides members of the media and a former commission member, initially said she doesn’t want to change density in town. Commission members assured her that plans would fall under “conditional use” therefore requiring approval from the DRB.

“I just want to be sure our town has that second level of look see,” LaFlamme said after more discussion of the proposal. “I’m not disagreeing. I know you’re coming from a warm-hearted place.”

The conditional use would cover housing units for those who are 62 and older. The proposal is aimed at helping the senior population but also freeing up housing for younger adults and families.

Eyeing the village district just outside downtown, Commission Chairwoman Meg Staloff said, “there’s a lot of properties that could potentially have infill added to a higher density without changing their character.” But if a property changes from senior housing to another use, stricter density caps would again apply.

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Projects to add senior housing units are envisioned for small cottages and bigger buildings. They could include as many as 20 units per acre and be sited in the village, commercial/residential and resort/residential districts.

An agenda item for the commission’s meeting at 4 p.m. Monday at the Town Hall Meeting Room calls for reviewing and possibly approving a revised report to the Select Board with the changes discussed at the hearing, where commission members were agreeable to the modifications.

Staloff said the commission will hopefully approve the report Monday then send the zoning amendments to the Select Board to consider at its Sept. 21 meeting. She believes the board has 90 days to warn a hearing once the documents are formally delivered to board members.

“They need to have a hearing then they would vote to enact the ordinance or not,” she told the Reformer.

At the hearing, LaFlamme said she tried to get the rest of the DRB to attend “but I guess I didn’t bang the drums loud enough.”

“Thank you so much for your efforts,” she said.