21 Aug 2014
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Planning Board Recommends Approval for Woodland School Zoning Change

The board voted 4-0 Tuesday to recommend Town Meeting approve a zoning change that would allow the new school to exceed height restrictions.

Is a three-story elementary school too tall for the Woodland School area? Several residents whose homes adjoin the existing school said the proposed school will impose on its neighbors.

The height of the replacement school will reach 47 feet, exceeding by 12 feet the current zoning restrictions on building heights in a residential neighborhood.

The Planning Board listened to the criticism, but voted 4-0 to recommend town approval of a zoning article that will allow the school to exceed the height restrictions. Board member Patrick Kennelly pointed out that a school has been on the site since the late 1970s. "It's not like a new site, that has never borne anything."

The article on the Feb. 10 Town Meeting warrant will authorize the height for the Woodland project, and exempt all public schools in the future from height restrictions in residential zones, now capped at 35 feet.

Planning Board members, in approving the request of the Woodland Building Committee, said they felt the committee had tried to address the concerns of neighbors, in part by switching out a pitched roof for a flat roof, which lowered the planned height of the building from 70 feet, to 47.

Responding to neighbor complaints about the location of the buildings, the committee directed its architect to push the building footprint further away from Cypress Road, to a point within the required 100-foot setback.

Financially, it was not practical for the school to remain a single story, said board Chairman Marble "Babe" Mainini III. "That school, as a single story, the cost would be prohibitive," he said.

In the public hearing on the zoning article, several residents said the concessions weren't enough. "I'm going to have to look out my front door, and look at a 47-foot building," said Tony Hippolito, a resident of Cypress Road, whose home now faces an athletic field. 
The field will become part of the site for the new building. Once the original Woodland School is razed, a new athletic field will be placed on that portion of the site.

Hippolito said he thought the design should have been altered so the height would not exceed the current restrictions. "I don't think it needs to be as tall as it is now."
Jian Gao, who lives on Senate Road, was among three Milford residents who had filed appeals of the original Zoning Board of Appeals approval of the 70-foot tall building. Although the building is now shorter, and pushed back to within the required setback, Gao said he was not satisfied that the zoning article would exempt all future public schools from height restrictions.

"To change the law for this project is wrong," he said.

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