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New Woodland School Project Moving Toward Town Meeting

The project would place a larger replacement school for Woodland Elementary School on an adjoining field.

Woodland Elementary School site plan.
Woodland Elementary School site plan.  Download PDF 
Approval for a proposed replacement school for the crowded Woodland Elementary School could reach a Milford special Town Meeting within two months.

Two articles that ask Town Meeting members to authorize the placement of the school on a field adjoining the existing school, as well as funds that would provide for the construction, are expected to head to selectmen Dec. 16. Selectmen will be asked to set a Special Town Meeting date.

The school is expected to cost $60.9 million, with as much as 50 percent potentially provided by the state. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, which approves school design and provides state matching funds, is scheduled to review the project on Jan. 29.

On Wednesday, the town-appointed Woodland School Building Committee voted to recommend two articles for town meeting. The first asks members to add a section to the existing zoning bylaw to allow school-related structures, including play areas and parking lots, to be placed within 25 feet of adjoining residential properties. Town Meeting also would be asked to allow a taller height for public school buildings. The existing cap is 2.5 stories.

The proposed design, which features a three-story academic building, is taller than existing zoning law allows for a residential zone, and includes a parking lot and a play area for children that would be closer to surrounding homes than the 100-foot setback now required.

Town Meeting members would be asked in the zoning article to remove those restrictions for public schools. A second article would ask members to approve the financing.

Both articles will require two-thirds approval of Town Meeting members. On Wednesday, in discussing the articles, Woodland School Building Committee members said they would have to explain that the restrictions of the school site, and the need to keep the existing school open, constrict the location of the new building.

Other schools in Milford also violate the 2.5-story cap on height for residential areas, members observed, but these buildings were constructed years ago. They include Stacy Middle School. "Let's not pretend this is an issue, because it's not," said member Pat Kennelly, who noted that all of Milford's schools are in residential districts.

The proposed new school would be 42 feet tall, to the roof. The existing zoning restrictions limit the schools to 35 feet, or 2.5 stories, said Laura Wernick, senior principal architect for HMFH Architects.

If Town Meeting and the state approve the project, construction would take place while students continue to attend class in the existing building. Once the new school opens, the original building would be demolished and replaced with a playing field.

The new school would accommodate 985 students in the third, fourth and fifth grades, with each grade level having its own floor. The oldest students would be on the top floor. Two adjoining wings would have a gymnasium and offices.
MikeS December 12, 2013 at 08:47 AM
Why does any part of the school need to be 25 feet from someone's home? The Woodland campus is a huge space. Why can't they configure this to be within the 100 foot boundaries? 25 feet is way too close. Town meeting should make them stay within the 100 foot rule. The town made that rule to protect neighborhoods. The current space is constantly covered with litter and generally unkept. The noise levels during the day will be right in someone's backyard. This is very inconsiderate to the neighborhood surrounding the space.
Cappuccino December 12, 2013 at 09:32 AM
Committee presented a 70 foot height (the highest part of the building) at the ZBA hearing. There is a tower for light that makes it that tall. That's like having a town hall sized structure 25 feet from your home. Abutters were not notified of Planing Board meeting so they had no idea until it got to ZBA. There are wetland plants they are trying to protect. What about protecting PEOPLE?
Mary MacDonald (Editor) December 12, 2013 at 09:52 AM
The 25 foot encroachment is for the play ground structures and parking lot, not the building itself. I've asked for a PDF of the site plan and once it arrives, will attach it to the story.
Cappuccino December 12, 2013 at 09:59 AM
Town boards that are supposed to scrutinize projects are always ADVOCATES for other town boards. Here's one quote "Other schools in Milford also violate the 2.5-story cap on height for residential areas, members observed, but these buildings were constructed years ago. They include Stacy Middle School. 'Let's not pretend this is an issue, because it's not,' said member Pat Kennelly, who noted that all of Milford's schools are in residential districts." These are new residential neighborhoods. How would Mr. Kennelly like this 25 feet from his home. This is cronyism by one town committee for another. No protection for residents ever when town departments propose anything. COA is the rule.
MikeS December 12, 2013 at 10:06 AM
Thank you Mary, I think the public should see this plan and be able to review it more. It seems unfair to put any part of the project that close to homes. The Woodland Campus is huge. A valid reason should be given as to why the design cannot shift (or shrink) by 75 feet to protect the people's homes surrounding it. 25 feet is the size of a driveway.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) December 12, 2013 at 10:09 AM
Three homeowners have filed appeals of the ZBA approval, so I will follow up on their concerns.
Cappuccino December 12, 2013 at 10:25 AM
The building itself is VERY close to the lot line. This is because they want to protect wetland. They must protect people FIRST. The mass of the structure is too enormous to be so close homes, it will block the light of day. Remember, there are 22 acres to this site. Even if some of the setback includes parking lots, parking lots are plowed in the wee hours of the morning, 1:00 to 5:00 am. It will not be nice to hear those beep beep backup sound from construction equipment for the neighbors who will not be able to sleep.
kalman berke December 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM
I have written to the school board about the trash, litter and general neglect of the land and the dumpster. The entire installation is the least managed of all the schools. A certain principal used to make a project for the kids to police the area. Why do that? Let's just tear it down!
Cappuccino December 12, 2013 at 12:24 PM
Maybe the site being neglected is strategy for showing how much we need to demolish facility. We are a throw away society after all. Wish they would just renovate add on more classrooms, ancillary rooms ie cafeteria, library, gym, etc. parking, roadways and entrances and exits.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) December 12, 2013 at 01:54 PM
Hi, I've attached a PDF of the site plan to the article, which you can download for better viewing.
MikeS December 12, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Unfortunate that all this work went into designing the facility and they could not stay within the 100 foot limitations. It's a disservice to the neighborhood. Looks like a lot of unused space. Also - it looks like only 1 road in and out. Couldn't traffic patterns be shifted if there other entrances and exits? It all pours out onto 1 road. I would not pay $60M for this as is. 3 story building and 1 road. wow
Cappuccino December 12, 2013 at 02:38 PM
Thanks for PDF, Mary. As you can see there are wetlands in front of building. Those wetlands were created by the original Woodland building committee in 1976. These are not natural wetlands as far as I am concerned. At any rate, can't they get a waiver from that?
SA December 12, 2013 at 07:38 PM
You are missing a few facts: The proposed building is 70 ft. high not 40ft high in a residential neighborhood. it is twice the height of Stacy, 3 times the height of the current Woodland, taller than the Town Hall clock tower, about the height of St. Mary's bell tower, 20ft. floor to ceiling each floor, an atrium in the center approx. 40ft wide, 300ft long 70 ft high with skylights constructed directly in front of residences.1,000 children playing within 25 ft of homes with no buffer zone or set back. Consider an emergency evacuation of a 70 ft high building by grammar school age students. This is not a design for a neighborhood school. Why hasn't a picture of the new building been published?
Mary MacDonald (Editor) December 12, 2013 at 07:44 PM
SA, it was a report from a single meeting. I will follow on it with another story on the neighborhood concerns, as it appears there are many. However, the architect described the height of the building as 45 feet, unless I misheard her. Yes, it's a residential neighborhood. The existing school also is in a residential zone.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) December 12, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Also, I don't have a depiction of the new building, but I'll ask for one.
Henry Krinkle December 13, 2013 at 09:16 AM
Wrong site, wrong building.
Cappuccino December 14, 2013 at 10:32 AM
The school building committee is seeking to disempower all abutters from protecting their homes for ALL school projects now and FOREVER. Through an article at special town meeting, they are changing zoning by exempting public schools from height and setback requirements in residential zones. School department articles ALWAYS pass town boards and town meeting because this is a sewn up town. This is truly a totalitarian form of governing. Residents are not respected, they are run over.

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