This week I attended the final Framingham Zoning Board of Appeals hearing about Shillman House. The technical reason we were before the ZBA was the need for their approval of our amended landscaping plan. The original plan, approved before construction began, was amended due to the natural adjustments in the field as projects get built. Some of the changes were also designed to be responsive to neighbors’ ideas about trees, shrubbery and fences to better screen the building’s lights and viewscapes.
However, the consideration of landscaping plans had ballooned because of a concern about the color of the building exterior. During the pre-construction permitting process, JCHE had shown a rendering of a two-toned building —white and taupe. Post-permitting, the architect suggested that adding a third color—yellow—would improve the building’s appearance. JCHE agreed and yellow was added. Unfortunately, no one thought to bring this issue back to the ZBA for public approval. Shillman was built, the yellow just appeared, and some townspeople found it disconcerting. As our democracy facilitates, they expressed their disapproval by calling selectmen and board of appeals members who were also frustrated when caught off guard by the appearance of the additional color.
So what does this have to do with landscaping? Despite their frustration, ZBA members recognized that forcing us to repaint would be a wasteful use of resources. Additional tree plantings, however, could increase the screening of the building and add value to the neighborhood. They ordered us to hold a neighborhood meeting to discuss both re-painting and landscaping options in lieu of re-painting. The neighbors endorsed the landscaping option. The meeting generated good input and ideas. Our landscape architect drew up plans to respond to every concern we heard. We presented these plans and, happily, our neighbors recognized our responsiveness. We were asked by the ZBA to create a reserve fund for additional trees if it is determined that the site is too bare during the winter months.
We were very pleased with the outcome of this meeting:
- We have finally resolved all the permitting issues. The additional trees, while expensive, add value to the property and neighborhood.
- Our neighbors (and the town meeting members) expressed appreciation for our willingness to respond to their issues. We were pleased by their reaction: many of these immediate abutters had opposed the Shillman House project at other junctures.
Last night we handed one another an olive branch. This is something we have long looked forward to doing. We have an opportunity now to start fresh and be good neighbors to each other. I look forward to that.
As always, I welcome your comments.