The Marion Planning Board met once again with attorney Doug Troyer on Monday to discuss the Cumberland Farms parking lot at the corner of Route 6 and Front Street. This time, the parties reached some resolution, with Troyer expressing confidence that his client would carry out improvements to the site.
Those improvements include an additional seven parking spaces – which will not require additional area – and a paint job intended to alleviate confusion, particularly on the rumble strip near the ingress and egress point off of Front Street. Currently that strip, while drivable, is concrete-colored as opposed to pavement black, causing some drivers to avoid it.
Planning Board members expressed a belief that this is restricting traffic flow and compounding delays at the location, which has received complaints about efficiency and safety, especially during peak hours.
“People feel like they can’t drive on it,” Building Commissioner Scott Shippey agreed. “It’s a psychological thing, because it’s a different color. So, if they paint it black, blend it in, and make it so that people don’t park there, it will be fine.”
The Planning Board voted unanimously to present Cumberland Farms with the requests and deemed them “insubstantial” changes on the advice of Town Counsel Jon Witten, who had said that other courses of action would trigger a major site plan review, which could complicate and delay the process.
“It’s commendable that you guys have been so cooperative,” said Planning Board Chairperson Patricia McArdle. “I’m not ready to sing ‘Kumbaya’ just yet, but I appreciate your being here, because I know you don’t have to be.”
Planning member Stephen Kokkins called the resolution a “cooperative step in the right direction,” but with the caveat that Marion expects Cumberland Farms to continue studying traffic, safety, and efficiency concerns.
Troyer got the message.
“I take it seriously, and my client takes it seriously,” he said. “We’re hoping that with the additional hire [of more store management], there will definitely be more training on site. We’re doing our best to make this a better site.”
Elsewhere on the agenda, the Planning Board just couldn’t resist discussing the Solar Bylaw once more for old times’ sake. The Solar Bylaw passed at the recent Fall Town Meeting, and Witten responded to some members’ concerns about Moderator David Titus’s refusal to hear their motion to scrap the solar farm provision from the language.
Witten told the Planning Board that all case law he has come across supports the notion that Town Meeting Moderators, as elected officials, are the final word on the floor in the absence of any malice or bias.
“The law is clear,” Witten said. “That’s how it works. That’s the process. It’s an imperfect system.”
Witten was also in attendance to advise the Planning Board on its eventual handling of medical marijuana zoning bylaws. While member Ted North said that Marion could approach zoning dispensaries from three angles – geographical designation, licensing agreements, and sizing restrictions – in anticipation of a potential vote at the Annual Town Meeting in the spring, Witten added a fourth option for the time being: a “short-term moratorium,” which the state has found acceptable in recent instances, giving officials more time to formulate language, perhaps until a 2014 Fall Town Meeting.
By Shawn Badgley