Briggs Gains Final Approval

Rochester’s Planning Board Tuesday became the last of three town panels to approve Marion resident Mark Briggs’ plan to construct two buildings to store and repair collectible automobiles, trucks and other motor vehicles on New Bedford Road.

            The move came after the board endorsed a permit condition change for “Briggs Hobby Barn,” tied to a court appeal Briggs’ attorney will be filing. The project received a Special Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals on May 23, and last week the Historic District Commission granted the project a Certificate of Appropriateness. But at the Planning Board’s June 6 meeting, the panel learned from Briggs’ attorney Karla Chaffee that the Historic District Commission’s condition against the type of fencing the plan proposes will lead her to appeal the commission’s decision.

            The commission does not want the solid stockade fence Briggs has proposed on the cemetery border to the property, Chaffee said at that meeting. Rather, it wants a fence set 25 feet back from the street line with slates providing 25% visibility of what is behind it.

            Chaffee said she will take court action against that condition, as it will change the design plan that the ZBA had already approved and that the Planning Board was being asked to approve. The change might be considered major and reignite the entire vetting process. Yet she and Mark Briggs said at the June 6 meeting that they wanted the Planning panel’s decision soon so the construction of the project could begin within this building season.

            Board Chairman Arnold Johnson, noting the Planning Board will consider the fencing issue a minor change not requiring a rehearing, said at the June 6 meeting that he sided with Briggs and Chaffee.

            On June 11, Chaffee, attending the meeting remotely via Zoom, addressed that objectionable condition by proposing different language for the Planning Board’s Site Plan Review permit. She said the panel’s condition should be for a flat-board fence along the cemetery side of the property 5 feet from Briggs’ property line or 25 feet if the Historic District Commission’s condition is enforceable.

            The board endorsed this condition after Johnson reiterated his own objections to a fence allowing that much visibility so far back from the property line. He said he found that to be a “ridiculous condition.”

            Johnson noted that the Planning Board had invited the Historic District Commission to the June 11 meeting to discuss the issue, but its members declined to attend. That made him more determined to meet with them at another time. “I would like to see them at the June 25 meeting,” he said.

            Before motioning the approval vote, Johnson explained to Briggs that he needed four votes, and only four members were present. If a single member voted no, the application would be denied.

            “Proceed with the vote,” Briggs said. “Let’s get this done tonight.” The 4-0 vote to approve granted him that wish.

            In other action, the board continued until June 25 its hearing into a request to modify the site-plan-review application for Rochester Crossroads, 22 Cranberry Highway, that change being to reroute a paved, rear-access road proposed for the project. Johnson said the board must await the report of the town’s peer-review engineer, Ken Motta, before it votes to approve.

            The board also continued until June 25 its hearing on the site-plan-review application for a self-storage facility on County Road, which is part of the Rochester Crossroads project. The proposal features four buildings to include one multi-story structure. Sheryl Gerard of Highland Development Ventures, the applicant, said the design of the larger building is meant to represent a more welcoming retail design.

            “Unite sizes for any need,” Gerard said. “Well-lit and safe.” Johnson the board will need to see Motta’s report on the project before voting on it.

            The Rochester Planning Board’s next meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 25, at 7:00 pm at Town Hall, 1 Constitution Way.

Hobby Barn Public Hearing

By Michael J. DeCicco

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