Applications Need Sprucing

The Rochester Planning Board critically reviewed rather than approved the projects they were presented on Tuesday night.

            The panel started with informal discussions over site plans for a marijuana retail establishment on Cranberry Highway and a native tree and wildflowers nursery at 157 Vaughn Hill Road.

            Megan’s Organic Market, the marijuana retail facility, will be located at 621 County Road and will be one of two stores on a 7,500 square-foot pad. It will include 44 parking spaces, a front entrance for customers and a rear entrance for deliveries, and all drainage will be underground, said project representative Phil Cordeiro.

            Board member Ben Bailey expressed concern that the marijuana shop, according to the measurement scale on the informal plan, might sit less than 500 feet away from a daycare center, which state law forbids. Board Chairman Arnold Johnson instructed Cordeiro to return with the list of waivers being requested on the project’s formal application.

            Charles Anderson said he and his wife Jennifer are from Virginia, where their nursery business started, and have recently moved to Mattapoisett. “Tree Talk Natives” on Vaughn Hill Road is his wife’s creation. On 2½ acres will sit an 8×10-foot shed, a parking area and strips of land for the trees and shrubs that will be grown in large pots. “We grow everything from seedlings,” he said.

            Board members criticized the plan the Andersons presented as not being as detailed as the panel needs them to be for a firm, formal decision. They even criticized the list of waivers presented as too vague.

            The Andersons said they were trying to avoid the huge expense of an engineered plan but agreed to create a more formal, detailed layout plan and return with it with their formal application.

            Next, the board reviewed the draft decision to approve a canopied, solar-energy array at Rochester Memorial School. Here, too, the panel stopped short of voting a decision.

            Project representatives asked if the screening of the site from abutters had to be completed by the time construction started. The board responded pointedly that this was, indeed, an important requirement. “With every one of our solar projects,” Johnson said, “we’ve required building the screen first. We’ve never wavered from that.”

            The ensuing discussion also revealed the construction may still be ongoing when the 2023-24 school year begins in September.

            The board said that means more revisions to the draft plan. A life safety plan must now be included. Johnson said that plan will be added, “Then maybe we can bring this to a vote.”

            Next, the board reviewed a complaint from Conservation Commission member William Clapp that when he met with the board on November 16 seeking approval of two 1-1 lots, he was wronged when Johnson said his lots “don’t pass muster.”

            It made him consider spending money on his plans on the assumption Johnson was right. Clapp asked for Johnson’s apology for being wrong about his lots. He recently told The Wanderer he would go to the Ethics Commission if he did not receive that apology. “If I took his advice,” Clapp said, “I would have lost out on developing a second lot that would have caused me a financial hardship.”

            Johnson apologized, but Bailey added that the Planning Board did approve Clapp’s lots that night and asserted that Clapp would have had no loss to take to an Ethics-based lawsuit. “If you made a financial decision based on a rumor, that’s on you,” said Bailey.

            Clapp said he was satisfied.

            The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board was not announced upon adjournment.

Rochester Planning Board

By Michael J. DeCicco

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