Neighbors have presented a unified front in opposing a nearly 4,000 square foot home on a lot at Hildreth Corner. Photo by Anne O'Connor

Hildreth Corner plan updated

By Anne O’Connor
February 3, 2023

Over the past two years, multiple applications from one developer for approval for a new home at Hildreth Corner on Lowell Road have been in front of the Historic Districts Commission.

The commission has approval of any new construction in a historic district based on the size, mass and screening of the proposed building. The proposed lot is in the Barrett Farm Historic District.

On January 26, the commission again said no to a plan submitted by Mike Bushnell for 615 Lowell Road in the Barrett’s Mill Historic District, a lot that was created years ago when a larger lot was divided in four.

A prior application of his was denied in June, said Mina Makarious, a town attorney, during the HDC meeting. An appeal filed in Superior Court was paused while Bushnell worked with town staff and came up with a new application for the property.

The HDC guidance in June said the building at 3,600 square feet was too much for the lot and there is no room for a two-car garage. 

The new plan for a 3,900 square feet structure presented in January was designed to be consistent with the historic district, said Jonathan Silverstein, attorney for the applicant. The mass of the building extends through the lot, as do many old homes with a big house, little house, back house and barn at the end. 

The new placement and the changes to the roofline, with a one-story section in front of the two-story part and the two-car garage at the end was intended to improve the massing and scale as opposed to earlier renderings, he said.

The commission disagreed. “It’s massive for the neighborhood,” said Commissioner Melinda Shumway.

“This project has come a huge way,” said Commissioner Katherine Mast. She said she was troubled that the size of the home grew and still included a garage. “This is just inappropriate.”

“We said it’s too big,” said Dennis Fiori, a non-voting associate commissioner, “and they made it larger.”

The architect did a nice job but why ignore the size, asked Commissioner Kate Chartener. The applicant has “a lot more options than we do.”

Pushing the mass of the structure to the rear of the lot is not a successful approach, said Chair Luis Berrizbetia, “I think it’s too big.”

A non-voting, new associate member, Walter Clay, said the construction did not end at fields, as older homes with barns did. “That bothers me,” he said.

Commissioner Paul Ware was the only person except for those presenting the application who spoke in favor of the plan. “I think it’s a design that works and I’d be willing to approve it,” he said. In the end, he voted to deny the plan.

More than a dozen residents spoke against the plan, criticizing the size, mass and siting of the buildings. Some said the renderings were not to scale and things were missing from the application. 

Others spoke of the precedent that would be set if a new building did not fit in the historic district was allowed.

No community members spoke in favor.

The five voting members in attendance, Berrizbetia, Mast, Ware, Shumway and Chartener, voted unanimously to deny the application.