FOXBORO — Foxboro’s Planning Board put a temporary halt to the Kraft Group’s plans for land use on Rte. 1 last night – requesting that actual proposals drive zoning changes rather than vague preemptive measures that could, for instance, allow casino development before specifics are known.
After a third round of public commentary, Foxboro planners unanimously shot down two of three zoning changes submitted by the Kraft Group that would have permitted a casino or commuter rail.
About 300 Foxboro, Walpole and Norfolk residents packed the Ahern Middle School auditorium in Foxboro for a public hearing in response to Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s meeting last weekend with casino developer Steve Wynn. The two met to reportedly discuss a casino on 200-acres of Kraft-owned land in Foxboro’s economic development area overlay district across from Gillette Stadium.
The Kraft Group submitted three zoning changes for the district in late September. One called for the use of wind turbines and other renewable energy sources, another for bus and train facilities and a third for large-scale facilities for business and entertainment use.
The majority of the people at last night’s hearing feared the third amendment in particular since the measure could allow a casino on Rte. 1 at the Foxboro-South Walpole border.
The Foxboro Planning Board will continue public hearing on the amendment for wind turbines in February, but chairman Kevin Weinfeld said the Kraft Group needs to start over on the other two amendments.
“We hope, more likely, they’ll submit something that is project specific, something that will allow us to craft zoning that is appropriate for the use as opposed to being a broad stroke, a lot of things allowed in this basket that could wind up being too general,” he said.
Representatives from the Kraft Group were not at the meeting. The Kraft Group did submit a letter requesting an extension of the public hearing regarding the wind turbine article. Foxboro planning board members will continue that discussion in February.
Weinfeld said the board’s decision was not an anti-casino vote, but a vote against “too much generalization.” The Kraft Group could potentially resubmit zoning changes to the Planning Board before Foxboro’s Spring Town Meeting in May.
Several Walpole leaders spoke Thursday night, including Town Administrator Michael Boynton, who was wary that passage of the third amendment would lead to the construction of a casino.
“I found no mention of the word ‘casino’ (in the amendment), but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…” he said.
Boynton told the board that the zoning changes would impact Walpole as much or more than Foxboro.
“In this situation, Walpole urges you to take into consideration the human lives who live on the border of Foxboro but don’t necessarily cast a vote,” he said.
“I’ve only gotten negative reaction from constituents, so I ask that you be careful gatekeepers,” Selectman Chris Timson told the Foxboro board. “Whatever you build will be quite impactful on Walpole, so I ask you to make sure you have adequate buffers.”
Selectman Nancy Mackenzie told board members that a casino, or any other large-scale buildings, would alter the “quaint, picturesque” setting of Foxboro and Walpole.
“We all live in suburbs for a reason, and when you hear about a 30 story building, you think of that in an urban area in downtown Boston,” Mackenzie said in an interview, “and we all made choices, and it’s the same. Foxboro, Walpole, Norfolk – we all chose the suburbs, either to come out here or stay here, and that’s what we want to preserve.”
Queens Court resident Ann Marie Kannally told the board the town shouldn’t support zoning that benefits an individual and not the community.
“I’m against the zoning article that a private individual has written for his own land when it has appearances that it doesn’t necessarily benefit the town or neighboring residents,” Kannally said in an interview. “There has not been a single person who’s in favor of this and a grave concern for this from everybody.”
Walpole’s Planning Board submitted a letter to its Foxboro counterparts in October. Members wrote that they were worried about the proposed heights for the wind turbines (500 feet) and buildings (300 feet) as well as language that could have allowed the structures as close as 50 feet to Walpole residents.
The zoning changes could have also allowed certain businesses to building on the land in question without additional scrutiny by town planners by way of the special permitting process.
Weinfeld told the crowd that his board agreed with those points.
“There’s a lot they can do by right in (the economic development district) right now, but these were changes that allowed new things that weren’t there before,” Weinfeld said afterward. “We’ve made indications to them that some of these things would clearly be under special permit only and not by right.”
Last night’s meeting was the first since news of the Kraft-Wynn meeting. Many residents used the hearing as an opportunity to voice their worries about increased crime and traffic. Members of the newly-formed anti-casino group, No Foxboro Casino, were in attendance and have collected more than 1,000 signatures for an anti-casino petition.