Tom Magauran’s final meeting as a member of the Marion Planning Board Monday night was emblematic of his long tenure there, as a touchy subject from the past resurfaced, a looming policy battle approached, and a good deal of town business was done in between.
Chair Jay Ryder commended Magauran, whom he called his mentor, during his opening remarks. “He has provided so many memorable moments,” Ryder said. “Thank you for your years of service, albeit controversial. You’ve always been a voice of reason, and there’s no one who I hold in higher regard in terms of knowing what’s going on in Marion.”
As it turns out, there’s a lot.
The Planning Board finalized the language of its legally required recommendation on the polarizing Solar Bylaws, set for vote at the Town Meeting that begins May 13. After months of work sessions, board meetings, and public hearings – on a project that originated as a joint enterprise with the Energy Management Committee – the Planning Board decided against endorsing either Article 30 or 31, which would formalize the process for installing ground-mounted solar arrays in residential areas and clear the way for a Municipal Solar Overlay District, respectively.
Ryder said he believed that the Board should issue a rationale for its rejection of the bylaws, even if it’s not obligatory. Vice Chair Pat McArdle went even further.
“I have a fear that [the voters] pass it as is, and we get nothing,” she said, adding that the EMC “will do their song and dance … we need something a little more dramatic.”
McArdle, an attorney, likened the Solar Bylaws showdown at Town Meeting to “two closing arguments in a case,” while Member Ted North, the policies’ most outspoken opponent, warned against “negotiating on Town Meeting floor.” The Planning Board agreed that it had to present a strong but succinct rejection, while disabusing Marion voters of the notion that any members are anti-solar; rather, the language of the statement will read that they are against the Solar Bylaws “as drafted and presented in the Town Warrant.” In addition, the Board will inform the electorate that it plans to craft its own bylaws.
“This version doesn’t work,” Magauran said. “There are substantial risks.”
Ryder plans to present the Selectmen – who signed off on the Solar Bylaws – with the Planning Board’s report this week.
In other news, Johnson Family Investments, led by Arnold Johnson (also chair of the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals), faced its first public hearing in a bid to demolish the old Frigate Steak House and replace it with a produce market, bakery, and ice cream window. According to Johnson, the business would approximately double the footprint of the Frigate, include 26 parking spots, and sell fruits and vegetables from local farmers.
While several Planning Board members and abutters invoked the words “Cumberland Farms” in discussing potential traffic tangles, the response overall was positive, with several neighbors, including Carl Correia, lauding Johnson and his team for their outreach efforts.
The public hearing was continued to May 20, pending review of plans from Marion engineer Ken Motta.
Earlier in the meeting, Will Saltonstall of Saltonstall Architects presented plans for a small addition to Tabor Academy’s athletic facilities as part of a public hearing. While there are technically only three residential abutters, Head of School John Quirk directed a broader mailing to notify Marion residents, and the principals were rewarded with very little discussion on the project. Tabor plans to construct a practice area for its rowing team, which at times is unable to work out because of rough waters on Sippican Harbor.
Saltonstall said the structure would consist of a raised platform and two parallel pools, simulating as closely as possible the act of rowing. The practice area will serve only the existing Tabor community, accommodate no spectators (thus precluding a traffic increase), will register a 35’-by-78’ footprint. The environmental assessment for the project has been waived.
The public hearing must have numbered among the smoother ones between the town and Tabor Academy during Magauran’s time on the Planning Board.
“I’ve been honored to serve,” said Magauran, who has declined to seek another term in the May 17 Marion election. “Any expectations about the position were quickly dashed. I’ve tried to do what’s fair, tried to put myself in the place of the applicant and of the town.”
The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for May 20.
By Shawn Badgley