Public hearings at the Rochester Planning Board on July 28 were dominated by discussion of planned developments on Cranberry Highway. Phil Cordeiro joined the hybrid meeting, held at the Rochester Middle School and on Zoom, to provide updates on the progress of the proposed plans.
“Since our last meeting, we have met with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to formalize our intent to file a highway access permit,” Cordeiro told the board. The permit continues to hinge on longstanding discussions with the Seasons Corner Market about the location and parameters of the access point.
In a previous meeting, the Rochester Planning Board voted to postpone further discussion of the access points until the proposed plans could be independently reviewed by a traffic engineer of the town’s choosing. Town Planner Steve Starrett explained that is has been increasingly difficult to find an independent consultant, as many engineering groups are short-staffed due to COVID-19 or recusing themselves due to conflicts of interest with the Town of Rochester.
Despite that hardship, Starrett informed Cordeiro that some progress had been made on that front. Three more proposals were sent out and one or two engineering groups have reached out to the town with responses. Starrett hoped that a traffic review could be assigned to one of the groups within three days of the meeting date.
Andrew Delli Carpini, of Seasons Corner Market, came before the board to voice his concerns surrounding the project. “We always assumed that the only movement with the curb cuts would be near the rear entrance of the property,” said Delli Carpini. “What has come to light is that there is also a proposal to move our side driveway 20 to 25 feet toward the back of the store.”
Delli Carpini expressed a fear that the movement of the driveway would make it increasingly difficult for customers to access the store and result in a deleterious impact to his business. “At some point, I hope members of the board would look at this plan and ask themselves how this is fair,” Delli Carpini announced during the hearing.
Cordeiro quickly addressed the conflict by noting that the proposal to move the side driveway was only listed on a set of older plans that are no longer being considered. After Cordeiro shared his updated plans, Delli Carpini explained that it was the first time he has seen this updated proposal. The communication lapse was not the first to stall progress on the development.
It wasn’t all bad for Cordeiro and the Cranberry Highway development. After successful work with the Rochester Conservation Commission, Cordeiro reported that they have amended their plans to address groundwater mounding and stormwater-related issues. With that, Cordeiro hopes to be only one more meeting away from full approval by the commission.
With a traffic review in sight and Cordeiro offering to provide his plans to the Seasons Corner Market team, both Steen Realty and Seasons Corner Market were hopeful to see more progress in the next Planning Board meeting.
Greg Carey, representing a solar development on Sarah Sherman Road, came before the Planning Board to request a Special Permit due to the size of the proposed array. His proposal calls for the construction of a four-acre solar array, which would produce roughly 1 megawatt of solar energy.
Carey explained that the proposal is making progress. His work with the Rochester Conservation Commission resulted in a clean, peer-review letter confirming that all issues surrounding the potential hazards of the project had been adequately addressed. In addition, Carey has reached a verbal agreement with the abutting property owners for a vegetative screening to shield the array from their view.
Steve Kohm of Prime Engineering, who is working with Carey, explained that the project is nearly ready to commence. With the Rochester Conservation Commission satisfied, they need only await the peer review of the Planning Board engineer in order to update their plans.
The Rochester Planning Board showed support for the project and explained that the review would likely be prepared by their next meeting set to take place on August 11. The public hearing was continued in order to give the Planning Board engineer sufficient time to comment on the proposal.
The final public hearing related to a novel solar canopy system that Peter Beaton, owner of the Eldredge Bogs, hopes to have installed alongside modifications he is making to the outdated canal system that runs through his property.
Sarah Stearns, of Beals and Thomas Inc., explained that the solar canopy would produce roughly 1 megawatt of solar energy and that the proposal is a unique way to add a solar component to the bogs. “This project is in two phases,” explained Stearns. “We will improve the canals, and then we will add solar functionality to the property.”
Stearns noted that her work with the Rochester Conservation Commission was completed after she addressed minor comments made during a review of the project. Her plans were tailored to avoid any of the surrounding natural habitats, and the site is set far back enough from abutting properties that vegetative screening will likely not be necessary.
Peter Beaton told the board that his primary motivation for the update came from his canals constantly overflowing from heavy rainfall. Beaton saw the need to upgrade the canals as an opportunity to modernize his bog with solar power.
The Planning Board agreed that a site visit was in order to ensure that the proposed construction was properly shielded from abutting properties. With that, the board voted to continue the hearing until their next meeting.
The next Rochester Planning Board meeting will be held on August 11 at the Rochester Middle School with remote access provided via Zoom.
Rochester Planning Board
By Matthew Donato