Board, residents question NOVO developers 

By Betsy Levinson
November 9, 2023

Members of the Zoning Board of Appeals requested more detail in the Comprehensive Permit application by NOVO Riverside Commons at its public hearing in late October. 

Board Chairman Theo Kindermans said the presentation lacked sufficient information about landscaping, utilities and exterior materials and colors, among other specifics. 

“I want to see the utilities plan, a safety plan and a landscaping plan,” said Kindermans. “The traffic plan only applies to the driveway. It could be beefed up. We need better solutions for neighborhood traffic.” 

Kindermans said the board has 180 days to make its recommendation on the 40B project. The next public hearing is Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at Harvey Wheeler. 

Board member Elizabeth Akehurst-Moore said the town is just shy of 10% affordable housing, so developers can apply for a permit at a higher density than the zoning bylaws allow. 

“Falling under 10 percent is how we got here,” she said.  

For residents who spoke up at the hearing, traffic was the main concern along with the density of the two five-story buildings proposed on 10 acres as part of the Concord Meadows development. 

Tom Swaim, an alternate ZBA member, lamented the “tight site,” and looked at the plan for outdoor amenities such as seating and tables for residents to enjoy.  

Dan Holmes, a Concord attorney and part of the project management team, said there are two “takeaways” to be considered: the 51 affordable apartments included in the 200-plus buildings, and the “cutting edge technology” that makes the project sustainable.  

“Concord is short of rental units and short of affordable housing,” said Holmes “This project meets both those goals.” 

John Towle, sustainability consultant for the development, said the apartments will be heated and cooled via “100 percent geothermal energy” with a solar energy offset. It will have other eco-friendly elements such as a portion of the parking spaces in the underground garages equipped with EV charging capability.  

Jill Colpak, a Concord Greene resident, said the plan was “overly optimistic about traffic.” 

“The buildings are stuffed on the lot,” said Colpak. 

Michael Mahoney, also a Concord Greene resident, noted that the buildings proposed look to be 50 percent higher than other buildings in Concord. 

“It’s way too big,” said Mahoney. 

The plan calls for underground garages that will provide parking for about 161 cars with 143 surface spaces. 

“It’s optimistic to say 300 cars at the site,” said Nicholas Kondon, a dentist whose building is about 10 feet from the driveway. “It’s more like 400 cars.” 

Traffic consultant Randy Hart said traffic studies showed no impact on Baker Avenue from the addition of 200 apartments. His study measured traffic from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. covering the morning and evening rush hours. He said NOVO residents may walk to work or appointments in West Concord offices or to the train, and not drive on local streets. 

But Joan Dansberger said Baker Avenue was “a clear and present danger” to motorists and pedestrians. She urged NOVO to “scale down the project.” 

Developer Kevin Hurley said the Concord Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, the Select Board and the Concord Housing Foundation wrote to MassHousing supporting the site suitability for a 40B project. 

Income limits for the 51 affordable units are $88,000 to qualify for a one-bedroom apartment; $106,000 for a two-bedroom, and $123,000 for a three-bedroom home. Tenants will be selected by lottery with a percentage dedicated to Concord applicants.