Planning Board Approves Overlay District

Tonight the Planning Board held a public hearing and vote on the proposed Agricultural Entertainment Overlay District (AEOD). The meeting was held at Burgess Elementary School.

After listening to public comment, the Planning Board Voted 7-0 to approve AEOD.

This was another important moment for the project.

One step in the multi-step process for the creation of the Sturbridge Agricultural and Equestrian Center is the creation and adoption of an Agricultural Entertainment Overlay District (AEOD).

At the October 28th Town Meeting, Sturbridge residents will be asked to adopt a proposed Agricultural Entertainment Overlay District (AEOD) that will allow this project to move forward and on to the next step.

What does this Zoning Overlay District do?

#1. It determines what can and cannot be built on the land.

If adopted, the land in question would be allowed to be used for an equine center, a racetrack, a sports restaurant and sports betting, agricultural activities as well town dedicated recreational and sports facilities. If the racetrack is not granted a license by the state to operate, this project will not move forward.

#2. It puts into the hands of the town the authority to approve or disapprove of the project as it moves forward.

The AEOD requires any applicant who wants to develop an equine center to get approval from the town for every facet of the project. From traffic to noise to parking, any applicant will have to provide detailed impact studies and satisfy the requirements of both site plan and special permitting bylaws.

#3. It defines and determines explicitly what can never be done on the land.

This includes restrictions expressly prohibiting a casino and slot machines, as well as restricting retail development. In short, if this passes at town meeting, this land can never be turned into a casino or a strip mall.

At every step, Sturbridge maintains ultimate control over what is acceptable use for the land in the overlay district.  The town’s Planning Board must be consulted and grant approval from beginning to end.

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