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Planning Board endorses project at Winning Farm

By GORDON VINCENTnews@woburnonline.com

Woburn - In a key first step toward the approval of the project, the Planning Board last night voted to endorse the 147-unit townhouse proposal for the portion of Winning Farm that lies in West Woburn. In issuing its favorable recommendation to the City Council, the board attached eight mostly construction-related conditions.


The council's Special Permits Committee is tentatively scheduled to discuss the Winning Farm project at a meeting on Monday. With the endorsement from the planners in tow, developers Robert Murray and Gary Ruping could shoot for a vote of the full City Council by the Dec. 20 deadline. Even with a special permit from the City Council for the townhouses, which is not a certainty, the petitioners still must gain approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the city's Conservation Commission.


To that end, there are two important meetings at City Hall on Thursday, with the city's Board of Health (3 p.m.) and the ConCom (7:30 p.m.) "We're a long way from putting a shovel in the ground," said local attorney John McElhiney, representing Murray and Ruping.


List of conditions

After a thorough examination of the plans during the 2-hour, 30-minute meeting, the Planning Board came up with the following eight conditions:

  1. A 10-year period to complete the project from the time the environmental issues at the farm are resolved;
  2. No road grade at the site in excess of 8 percent;
  3. No construction before 8 a.m. on Saturday (the local statute is 7 a.m.);
  4. The Planning Board will retain jurisdiction over the landscaping;
  5. Any changes from the plans require the petitioners to return to the City Council for approval;
  6. Dust, erosion and drainage controls must be in place during all phases of the project;
  7. Public access to the 30-acre parcel that will be granted to the city upon completion of the first phase of the townhouse development;
  8. The City Council should require formal recommendations from the Woburn fire and police departments regarding the existence of only one access road to the site.


Two other conditions were suggested but voted down. The expansion of a cul-de-sac diameter from 60 feet to 84 feet so fire trucks could turn around easier was defeated, 4-2, with only Paul Doherty and Michael Ventresca in support. A requirement for a fence around a detention basin that will be created by the development failed on a 3-3 tie, with James Garvey, Doherty and Ventresca opposed.



As he did last week to the City Council, attorney McElhiney urged the planners to separate the special permit from the conservation and environmental issues, the latter of which has been the biggest impediment to the developers. McElhiney said the DEP has still not yet issued a draft of its corrective design proposal for a landfill on the site. When that happens, there is a 30-day comment period, after which the final proposal will be announced. Some council members have indicated they want to wait until at least the DEP issues are resolved, which presents a problem for the petitioners, who will have to contend with a new council roster after Jan. 7.


"It's possible the (existing) council may feel comfortable enough to go forward on the zoning issue next month," said McElhiney. "We'd at least like to be in a position where the council at least has the input of the Planning Board." "If this draft doesn't come out by Dec. 1, this sort of renders the whole thing moot," replied Planning Board member James Feld. "In between now and then, we're hoping the Board of Health issues its comments and the city will come up with a list of conditions they'd like to see incorporated into the final approval," said McElhiney. "The zoning issue is completely separate. If they (council) don't vote, they don't. I don't have any control over that."



Murray said it is likely about 23,000 yards of fill consisting of construction debris - cobblestone, rebar and gas and oil residue - will have to be removed. There is no evidence of carcinogenic materials, Murray said, as has been alleged. "We spent two days up there digging and all we found is building materials," said Murray. The city's Board of Health would like to see all the construction debris removed, while the DEP supports "selective screening" in its draft approval. McElhiney noted the DEP is expected to seek unusually tight controls, including reduction of the testing areas from 500 cubic yard cells to 100 cubic yard cells, an indoor sifting facility to prevent dust and the release of potential materials, and the presence of an independent licensed site professional at the developers' cost.


Planning Board chairman Doherty noted the city's desire to proceed with caution in regard to the landfill removal, given the "indefensible position" the city was put in when medical waste was photographed at the North Woburn landfill, which is undergoing a capping operation not related to the Winning Farm project.


"We have to clean this to the point where the state will allow us to build on it," said Murray. "No one (overseeing the earth removal) is going to put their reputation on the line for the sake of one project."


Adequate turnaround

Doherty also raised his "standard cul-de-sac issue" when he noted plans called for a 60-foot turnaround, which the petitioners admitted would require the city's largest fire truck to back up at least once. "But the point is a fire truck can get right up close and tight to the building, if there's ever a fire," said McElhiney. "Will it have to back up once or twice when it leaves the site? Probably. But to put in an 80-foot (sic) paved circle is unsightly, really." Lacking a written recommendation from the Fire Chief on the cul-de-sac and the single access issues, however, Feld wondered if the Winning Farm project was being held to a different standard than others. "It baffles me that Archstone and Woburn Heights had this ... stumbling block and there's nothing here," said Feld. "What if a truck flips over and you can't get in or out? It doesn't make sense to me that the fire department is looking at this level-headedly. Maybe a blind eye is being cast at this." Both sides agreed the 30-acre parcel that will be deeded over to the city for conservation purposes should be made available after the earth removal operation takes place. There was some negotiating on the condition that requires the project to be completed within 10 years from the end of the first phase. With the project set for five phases (the final four are construction of the townhouses), board members didn't want to see a long lapse between phases, similar to the Kimball Court project, the third portion of which is under consideration after a 15-year gap. With a unclear time line for approval from all the various bodies and potential appeal time, McElhiney didn't want his clients boxed in to any specific date, however. Garvey pushed for the 8 a.m. starting time on Saturday, claiming that was for some the only morning when residents in the area could relax or sleep in. "To have trucks rolling at 7, for the two or three years this may take to build, is a little unreasonable," said Garvey. He and Feld also requested the "adverse effects" amendment - regarding dust, erosion and drainage controls - be implemented to protect the neighbors who live in the Canterbury Road area. "From day one, there ought to be hay bales and plastic, so we don't have people coming at us screaming water is flowing over into their yards," said Garvey.


Sierra Suites bond reduced to $5,000

By GORDON VINCENTnews@woburnonline.com

WOBURN - With only minor issues remaining, the City Council this week voted to reduce the remainder of the Sierra Suites bond to $5,000. "It's been a long time," said Dennis Michaelham, a partner in the Sierra Suites hotel chain. "I'd like to close the books on this project and move on." With the council's vote at its most recent meeting, another $17,425 was trimmed off the original $150,000 bond that was approved as part of a special permit that was issued in 1998 for a hotel on Main Street in North Woburn.


The only remaining issues, Michaelham said, were finishing the veneer around the adjacent 1790 House and a two-year survey by the Woburn Conservation Commission of the wetlands behind the hotel, which is scheduled to finish on Dec. 2. "(DPW Superintendent) Fred Russell would like us to hold $5,000 to make sure everything is wrapped up," said Ward 7 Alderman Stephen Braese. Library appointments - The council confirmed the re-appointments to the Board of Trustees of the Woburn Public Library of Dr. Lawrence R. Byron, Kathryn A. Martin and Judith A. Kelley. Byron and Martin were appointed to terms lasting through Jan. 31, 2004, and Kelley was appointed to a life term.


Citizens Participation - Main Street resident Carol Nagle was granted citizens participation time at an upcoming meeting of the council's Liaison Committee "to discuss the possibility of waiving the ban on smoking" at the Monday evening Bingo game sponsored by Woburn Youth Hockey. In a letter to the council, Nagle cited "a loss in revenue." Murray Towing - The council voted to send a letter to Building Commissioner Steven Paris claiming it is in agreement with a proposal for an "upgrade" requested by Murray Towing proprietor Fran Murray. Murray wants to install a solid-block wall along the back of his Winn Street property, to replace an existing cinder block wall.


Paris had forwarded the matter to the council because he was "uncomfortable with solid block when the special permit said cinder block," according to City Clerk William Campbell. Meetings - The council's meeting on Dec. 18 will be changed to 6:30 p.m., in order for the members to participate in their annual Christmas festivities. Also, the Jan. 1 meeting will be rescheduled to Jan. 8, after the new City Council is inaugurated. The meeting will start at 7:30 p.m.


Former Woburn man contestant on 'Price is Right'

By PAMELA MIETHnews@woburnonline.com

WOBURN - A bright spot every day during Joanne Gazzaro's long battle with multiple sclerosis, was the hour she shared every morning with her father, Henri Galipeau, watching "The Price is Right." Henri, a retired purchasing manager, would visit his daughter every morning and the pair would have fun bidding and second-guessing the contestants, first when Gazzaro's MS kept her at home, and then in the hospital. About two years ago, Gazzaro sent away for tickets to the show so her parents, former Woburn residents now living in Billerica, could go to a taping. Yvette Galipeau said there was no way they could be away so long with Joanne so ill, so they didn't go.


Sadly, Joanne died last year, leaving a husband and 13-year-old son, Peter. Recently, the Galipeaus were planning a trip to California and Mrs. Galipeau sent away for tickets to the show. She thought about requesting three tickets, one for her, Mr. Galipeau and one extra for Joanne, who she knew would be there in spirit, but looking back at her letter, she saw she requested only two. Three arrived, however, which worked out well since the couple was meeting up with their son Jerry, who lives in Chicago but was going to be in California on business. Before they left on vacation, another three tickets arrived by mistake. Mrs. Galipeau took them with her, giving away two to a couple on their honeymoon, still leaving one for Joanne. Mrs. Galipeau said she just had a sense that her husband would get called to be a contestant, and sure enough they heard the words, "Henri Galipeau, come on down!" "We're so glad that we went," Mrs. Galipeau said. "It brought us so close to Joanne, it was unbelievable. I just knew she was there." Behind the scenes The day was "unbelievable. It was a lot of fun," said Mrs. Galipeau, with Mr. Galipeau adding, "It was a good, good time."


The couple and their son got to the CBS Television City studio in North Hollywood early, around 6 a.m. Though they didn't have to be there until 7:30 a.m., there was already a line, Mrs. Galipeau noted. "Security was very tight because it was the beginning of October," she said, but "the people there treated the contestants very well." It's a long day, but both Galipeaus said it went by fairly fast. After registering, the show staff gives everyone a number and makes up name tags. They also talk to everyone going in, asking questions about where they are from, what they do, etc. Anyone who has been a contestant on another game show within the past five years or ever been a contestant on "The Price is Right" is not eligible, Mr. Galipeau said. Mrs. Galipeau said they tried to pick out who the show's staff would select as contestants, but didn't guess one right.


Throughout the morning there is a lot of waiting in line, but the audience can visit a cafeteria and a gift shop, she said, until the taping is scheduled to begin. On television, it looks like a big audience, she noted, but it's really very small, only about 11 rows of people. During the taping, itself, she said, it's "very, very confusing," with a lot of cameras moving around and the show staff telling the audience to make a lot of noise. "But you don't care cause it's a lot of fun," she said. "Barker's Beauties," the women on the show who display the prizes were not hard on the eyes, Mr. Galipeau noted, and Bob Barker was "very gracious," Mrs. Galipeau said. She noted he held a press conference the following day to announce he was retiring so the couple was glad they had gone to the show when they did.


When Henri Galipeau's name was called, Mrs. Galipeau recalled, she and her son were screaming and cheering and then the show's staff said, "'Stop, we weren't quite ready.'" "Bob Barker said, 'we're going to do it again," Mrs. Galipeau said, "and you've got to be really surprised cause if you're not, we'll call someone else.'" "They called him again and we screamed," she said with a laugh, but added quite seriously how meaningful it was that Henri was called since "The Price is Right" was something he and Joanne had shared. Mr. Galipeau said he was a little disappointed he didn't do better guessing the prices, but "it's a little confusing trying to watch six cameras moving around the stage" and the audience yelling out suggestions. Watching on television it's easy to second-guess the contestants, but much harder to do in person, he said. It was also difficult to get a good look at the prizes being bid on. 'Lovely parting gifts' Though he did not get onto the stage with the host, Galipeau did get several "lovely parting gifts," his wife said.


They've already received a table and are expecting a CD player for the car. The actual taping began around 1:15 p.m. and finished in an hour and 15 minutes. While the contestants filled out paper work to accept their prizes, a second taping got underway. The taping came in the middle of the Galipeaus' vacation during which they drove 2,300 miles up and down the coast from San Francisco to Napa Valley to San Diego and Palm Springs and all points in between. And though they had a great time seeing friends and relatives, "The Price is Right" was "the highlight," Mrs. Galipeau said. "We're dying to see what it looks like," she said of the actual show.


It will be airing on Friday, Dec. 7, at 11 a.m. Mrs. Galipeau said they will tape the show and watch it with their children and grandchildren in the area, who include Gina O'Donnell of Woburn and her two children, Erin and Patrick. Before moving to Billerica, the Galipeaus lived in Woburn for 25 years raising six children here and attending St. Charles.