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GateHouse News Service
June 12, 2007
Lincoln - A proposed commercial development on the Lincoln/Waltham line could net the town an additional $750,000 per year in property tax revenue in exchange for an estimated 9 percent increase in traffic volume.
Presenting to the Board of Selectmen on June 6, William Gause, senior vice president and director of acquisitions for Leggat McCall Properties, outlined a proposal for a 200,000-square-foot office building on a 9.8-acre site at the intersection of Winter Street and Old County Road.
Gause said his company has an option to purchase the parcel at 160 Old County Road, 8.6 acres of which is in Lincoln, which is zoned as “R1” residential and is currently occupied by a single-family residence. In order to construct the office development, the parcel would have to be re-zoned as “R3” commercial, which would require the development to have a floor area ratio (FAR) density — the ratio of building floor area to lot size — of 0.4.
With the adjacent Bay Colony Corporate Centre just over the town line in Waltham, Gause said Lincoln is already suffering all of the detriments of an office park without reaping any of the benefits. According to Gause, during the evening peak hour, as much as 50 percent of traffic leaving the area does so via Winter Street, and of that traffic, 65 percent proceeds north on Old County Road to Trapelo Road and 35 percent continues on to Lincoln.
“As a result Lincoln gets cars at the end of the day, but does not get any tax revenue associated with those cars,” Gause said.
He said that the development would give Lincoln the opportunity to realize some financial benefit in the form of real estate taxes from an office building, albeit for a modest increase in traffic. The current residential property generates approximately $27,500 for the town in tax revenue, while the proposed office complex could generate about $750,000 in tax revenue, and with no impact to the school budget, Gause said.
According to a preliminary study by Rizzo Associates, the addition of the 200,000-square-foot office park would likely increase traffic by 9 percent in the evenings.
Gause stressed that the proposal did not alter Old County Road and cars would enter an egress on Winter Street, adding that the plan includes widening Winter Street to a two-way road up to the entry point for the project. The one-way stretch of Winter Street beyond the entry to the project would be retained.
Selectman Sara Mattes pointed out that historically Lincoln does not isolate homeowners when zoning is changed and asked about plans for the other parcel of land that has a single-family residence and is similar in acreage to the proposed development parcel. Gause said that his company has had discussion with the owner, but they have reached no conclusion or agreement.
Mattes also asked about the adjacent Kennedy property — an 8.9-acre parcel that was subject to extensive study during the town’s “At Risk Properties” analysis in 2005.
Gause said consolidating the parcels would have some benefits, but that the Mayo Group, which currently owns the property, had indicated it wished to pursue a multi-family development.
The “At Risk Properties” study indicated four single-family residences could be built on the Kennedy property. Alternative uses, such as multi-family dwelling or office space, would also require re-zoning.
The selectmen also raised concerns about water usage. Recognizing that water would be drawn from Lincoln and the town is under a Department of Environmental Protection Administrative Consent Order to reduce consumption, Gause said that the building would use gray water conservation techniques to limit water use. According to Gause, the standard design for a 200,000-square-foot office building would require 15,000 gallons per day, with an actual consumption estimated at 10,000 gallons per day. Using a gray water system, Gause said that water consumption would be reduced by 50 percent. Sewage would be dealt with by means of an on-site treatment plant.
Mattes called for a holistic approach to future planning, including consideration of making access to the site public transport friendly to reduce car journeys, which she indicated are due to increase by as much as 32,000 trips per day due to additional office space being built in Waltham.
Going forward, Gause said that Leggat McCall Properties were seeking an understanding of the feasibility of zoning change and if the proposal was likely to be acceptable to the town of Lincoln. He said that an answer sooner rather than later was in the best interest of all parties.
Selectman Gary Taylor said that if Leggat McCall wished to pursue the development, a steering committee would be formed, adding that a two-thirds majority vote would be required at Town Meeting to approve the zoning change.
Town Administrator Tim Higgins said although the steering committee could be set up and briefed during the summer months, it was unlikely to begin work in earnest until the fall. This would likely preclude bringing the matter to a vote until annual Town Meeting next spring, Higgins said.