Planning Board: You Can’t Regulate Stupidity

A raised island that dictates a right-turn only out of a new filling station on Cranberry Highway turned into a figurative speed bump in a discussion about safety during the July 22 Rochester Planning Board meeting.

Half the board favored altering the site plan for Rochester Crossroads, LLC to include a raised island to reinforce a no-left turn out of the proposed Seasons gas station and half were against it.

Chairman Arnold Johnson was adamantly in favor of the raised island, as were board members Gary Florindo and Ben Bailey, and neither were budging from their position despite a meeting the developer had with Police Chief Paul Magee. According to Rochester Crossroads’ attorney Richard Serkey, Chief Magee approved language for a condition to monitor the site if the developer stuck with the plan to only install scored concrete to reinforce the traffic flow. That condition would allow the chief to review any incidents regarding safety of the exit within the first year and, if the chief later deemed the scored concrete island inadequate, he would have sole discretion to report to the Planning Board to revisit the matter.

“And we advised him that we could live with it,” said Serkey.

Board member Susan Teal said she liked that option because it would give the board a chance to “see how it plays out in the field.”

Johnson, however, while admitting that even he disobeys left-turn only signs, said people would still make the illegal left turn unless a raised island is installed to stop them. He also took issue with the wording of the chief’s condition.

“The chief does not have the authority,” said Johnson, regarding the language granting the chief sole discretion. “First off … he can advise the board, but that stipulation cannot be written as is.” Besides, added Johnson, the chief told Johnson that he does not think the scored pavement is going to be effective.

Jim Kane, manager of ADM Management Corporation, said the developer’s main concern was snow removal, saying that a raised island would obstruct snow plowing.

Bailey asked Kane why he thinks that drivers will adhere to the left-hand turn sign.

Kane replied that if drivers do not follow the sign, the developer would “run right back out and do what we didn’t want to do” – install a raised island.

“Are you saying you want to wait for accidents to happen, or do you want to put up a camera?” asked Bailey. How would the developer monitor potential violations?

Teal had some ideas, such as visible tire tread on the grooved pavement and neighbors calling in complaints.

“Why do we want to put a burden on the neighbors to fix this thing?” said Johnson.

The only thing that will document problems, said Florindo, is an inevitable accident.

The main issue at hand, as board member Michael Murphy pointed out, was that “You can’t regulate stupidity.”

Things got a little tense between Bailey and Serkey before the discussion shifted back to monitoring the potential safety hazard.

“I’m a big proponent of landowner rights,” said Bailey. “However, we’re talking about the potential for someone to be killed in a car accident … I also know that’s a very dangerous corner.” Bailey said he understood that the developer wanted to try the grooved concrete first, but he for one would not approve that.

Florindo interjected and, during a heartfelt diatribe about the potential for a fatal accident as a result of sticking with just the scored concrete, managed to persuade Kane to agree to the raised island.

“These are small potatoes,” said Florindo. He said he was willing to go along with 99% of the rest of the plan, but Florindo wanted that safety issue addressed. “Let’s face the music,” said Florindo. He told Kane the only way the developer could realize the necessity of the raised island would be when the chief calls them up and tells them of a fatal accident.

Kane agreed, saying, “We have much bigger fish to fry.”

And just like that, the discussion moved forward to address drainage issues until the hearing was continued until August 12 to allow time for Field Engineering to generate a report to the board.

Also at the meeting, Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Richard Cutler went over some proposed changes to the zoning bylaws a subcommittee had been studying.

A public hearing regarding amendments to the Town Subdivision Rules and Regulations was brief with little discussion, with board members flipping through the proposed changes handed to them by Town Planner Mary Crain.

The board approved a division of land for Michael Murphy of County Road. The board approved taking a section of Murphy’s Lot 3A and adding it to adjoining Lot 3C. Lot 3C remains an unbuildable lot, yet the land division creates a less non-conforming lot. As a relative to the petitioner, board member Michael Murphy recused himself from discussion.

Two public hearings for Harris Real Estate Boston, LLC have been continued until August 12 at the applicant’s request.

The next Rochester Planning Board meeting is August 12 at 7:00 pm at Town Hall.

By Jean Perry


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