Sperry Tents Parking Issue Addressed

The issue of whether Sperry Tents can park on its residential neighbor’s parking lot moved one step closer to resolution at the Planning Board’s November 22 meeting.

Over two months ago, Building Commissioner James Buckles served a Cease and Desist order to Marjorie Skrutski of 10 Marion Road after she allowed Sperry Tents to park on her property as its business grew in trucks and employees. Ms. Skrutski requested a variance so her residential property could serve the limited commercial purpose of parking Sperry’s vehicles – but the Zoning Board of Appeals at its October 27 meeting referred the case to the Planning Board.

At the Planning Board’s discussion on the matter, the board determined that Sperry Tents would need to undergo a site plan review process to amend the current plan to allow parking at Skrutski’s property. A hearing was postponed until January 24 to allow Tim Sperry time to submit a plan and adequate time for advertising. Once complete, the company would still have to obtain a variance from the ZBA to park of its neighbor’s lot.

Tim Sperry explained that the unexpected growth of his company lead  him to accept Ms. Skrutski’s offer to use her land. “It’s really for employee parking… The business has almost doubled, and there are twice as many trucks and double the employees. This happened twice as fast as I expected it,” he said. “If we could work it out, great, but if not we’ll head out of town.”

The board expressed a willingness to resolve the matter, with Chairman Arnie Johnson explaining that the problem stemmed from Sperry Tents’ failure to notify the Planning Board of its new parking plans.

“[We] have to know about these things. [We] have to be kept informed,” he said. “We would have avoided a lot of heartache if we were informed.”

In response to a question from Mr. Sperry, Mr. Johnson said that compaction studies would not be required and that the applicant could use Ms. Skrutski’s plan from an unrelated Conservation Commission application and combine it with Mr. Sperry’s current site plan. The board also voted to waive the application fee.

“My only concern is that the entrance is at a 45 degree angle. Personally, I would push for a 90-degree angle. 45 degrees is not safe, especially in the spring when there is heavy traffic on Dexter Lane,” Mr. Johnson said.
The board agreed to conduct a site visit on December 3 at 8:30 am.

Before the Sperry Tents discussion, Board Member Susan Teal expressed concern that the site plan review process could dissuade smaller businesses from moving to Rochester.

“I’m quite angry at the way this has played out,” she said in reference to Sperry Tents. She said even though there was no opposition to the company moving to town years ago, “they had to jump through a lot of hoops.“

“It is an unsavory experience, even if you do get through the process and get to run your business. It seems [Sperry Tents] was nickled and dimed to death,” she said.

Mr. Johnson and Gary Florindo – who both were on the board when Sperry’s original site plan was reviewed – defended the process. Mr. Johnson said the board allowed Mr. Sperry to operate his business on a nonconforming lot when the ZBA ruled so, and waived traffic circulation studies, saving the applicant money. “We did treat them more than fairly in the process that resulted in the decision.”

“I’m irritated that you said we nickled and dimed then. We didn’t,” said Mr. Florindo, who said the board handled the process fairly. “When we do the site plan review, we do it 100 percent.”

Ms. Teal responded that she wanted the board to be “introspective” as to whether the site plan review process could be more “streamlined, effective and clear.”

“If there is a business daunted by the process, they should meet with us and discuss their concerns,” replied Board Member Bendrix Bailey. “At present, I’m not sure why businesses would be unlikely to move to this town.”

“I think we are pretty easy, compared to towns like Plymouth and Middleborough, [which have application processes] that are lengthy and expensive,” Mr. Johnson added.

In other matters, Mr. Johnson discussed synchronizing the Board of Health’s new regulations regarding setbacks for wells, detention ponds and septic tanks with the Planning Board’s application process.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for December 13.

By Laura Fedak Pedulli

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