Approximately five years after their last meeting, the Cabot Land Reuse Committee reconvened Wednesday night, this time with three proposals to consider.
Chairman Mary McBride estimated it had been nearly five years since the committee last met, but was optimistic the group would reach a conclusion this time.
“This time I hope we can carry it to the finish line,” she said at the Oct. 11 meeting.
The Cabot Land is a 40-acre parcel on River Street along the Concord River that the town purchased from the Cabot Corporation more than 10 years ago, for a price of $2 million.
For a time, the land was looked at as a potential site for a new school, but the idea was ultimately scrapped.
Community Development Director Rob Anderson presented three concepts have been developed for the land to the newly formed committee.
In the first option, housing only, there would be nine housing clusters of four units each, for a total of 36 units of housing. The design would also include a two-story multi-use building and numerous parking spaces.
In the second option, a mix of housing and recreation, Anderson said the Cabot Land would have a three-story residential building with 40 to 60 units and a baseball field.
The final option, recreation only, would have an ice rink or recreation building and recreation bubble. The bubble would be a turf field during the warmer months, then covered by a bubble for winter use.
Each of the three concepts included a pavilion along the bike path, to allow residents to enjoy the splendor of the Cabot Land.
The work to create these concepts was funded through a $15,000 Planning Assistance Towards Housing (PATH) Grant.
Anderson said the PATH grant has allowed the town to explore the possibilities at the site. The program grants towns the ability to do feasibility studies on town-owned properties, as long as one of the concepts includes housing.
These are not the only options for this land, and Anderson said the committee could choose to recommend the town do nothing with the land. Instead, choosing to use it for conservation and preservation.
Ultimately, the committee will make a recommendation on what to do with this parcel of land. That decision could be recreation, housing, open space, or any combination of those.
The committee wrestled with how to make this recommendation when looking at that the larger scale view of needs in town. They brought up the old Ditson School, the Vining Elementary School, and the DPW property across from Iversen Ford.
“There are so many moving parts,” Anderson said. “If we see that what is decided on the Cabot Land will positively or negatively impact other places in town facing a similar question, this committee has a vital role in guiding the vision of those developments.”
McBride said she could see each of the committees coming together for a group meeting to discuss the big picture ideas for Billerica.
In the meantime, the committee discussed potential uses of the land, leaving all options open as the process begins. A housing option drew the most discussion, both for and against the idea.
“We have removed the gun to our head,” said committee member Dan Burns on the town’s 40B status. “Now we can look at growth in the town at a much more controlled manner.”
Of the options presented, Burns said they were too dense for his liking, but would be open to a more conservative housing option.
Anderson said it’s unclear if a developer would be interested in this property, pointing out the topographical and environmental challenges the parcel proposes.
Residents Justin Damon and Brian Henderson asked that the committee consider including river access in any plan.
It is unclear if a boat or canoe rental would be allowed on the property with conservation restrictions along the river.
The committee has scheduled a site walk of the property in the coming weeks and will meet monthly to further discuss plans for the property.