Dead-End Solution Hits Pothole

            Last winter’s contentious situation between residents of Marion Village Estates and developer Ken Steen over snowplowing responsibilities on Fieldstone Lane sent the newly formed homeowners association onto Town Meeting floor looking for acceptance as a town street.

            Their motion failed, as the town cited the hammerhead dead end to Fieldstone Lane as a key obstacle to safe snowplowing, only made worse by what the Department of Public Works considers a dangerous slope in the terrain.

            Fieldstone Lane residents attended the Marion Planning Board’s July 18 public hearing eager to listen in and comment on an effort to write the traditional, T-shaped hammerhead out of the town’s rules and regulations.

            A committee comprised of Planning Board Chairman Norm Hills, Town Administrator Jay McGrail, Fire Chief Brian Jackvony and DPW Director Nathaniel Munafo held a series of meetings to determine a course of action for future reference.

            “The response came back as a hybrid ‘Y,'” Hills told the Planning Board.

            The public hearing was held to determine the board’s course of action regarding Section 300-2.1 through 300-6.1 of Marion’s Subdivision Rules and Regulations. Hills handed Munafo the floor, who talked about concerns unique to the Fire Department and the DPW and how the hybrid “Y” addresses both.

            “The DPW side has been against hammerheads for many years. They present very much of a challenge during plowing and asking plows to back up during a storm is something we want to try to avoid,” Munafo explained. “So in the course of a few meetings, we came up with this hybrid solution here that incorporates some of the better aspects of both or those options of a cul-de-sac and the hammerhead – or the ‘T’ as it’s called in other places.

            “We felt that this was a good compromise in what both departments were looking for in these turnarounds at the ends of these subdivisions.”

            The conversation turned when Planning Board members weighed in on the discussion.

            Andrew Daniel reported on research he did after receiving the proposal, telling the board that he reached out as far as Milton, Vermont to see if that town has any such (Y-shaped) designs in use and reported that the town went to the “Y” to avoid cul-de-sacs, not hammerheads.

            Daniel said the proposed move to a Y-shaped, hybrid hammerhead was met with many rejections in his queries to engineering firms, other towns’ fire departments and DPWs. He praised the Town of Fairhaven for its tiered response, calling it “case specific” rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

            Member Jon Henry, noting 35 years on the Fire Department including driving a 42-foot-long ladder truck and a commercial driver’s license for 45 years, was also against writing the hammerhead out of Marion’s Subdivision Rules and Regulations.

            “I can’t disagree with Andrew that we should not limit ourselves to one or two or three (options.) … When you throw something out, you learn to regret that,” he said. “I think we should leave well enough alone and not change the regulation. … The ‘Y’ looks like an obstacle. I side with Mr. Daniel on his assessments.”

            Member Tucker Burr aligned with Daniel and Henry. “I don’t think I would be in favor of getting rid of the hammerhead. … It seems we’d be losing a solution for a tight area …”

            Member Eileen Marum agreed with Munafo and Hills. “The DPW and the Fire Department … let’s give them what they need and keep some options on the side.”

            Jackvony was not present at the hearing but was quoted from an email correspondence as finding “the hybrid or ‘Y’ hammerhead system … acceptable.”

            “This was developed over a number of meetings. The DPW and the FD, they’re the ones … going forward, I’m not going to tell them how to do their business. … They’re the ones that requested this change,” said Hills.

            Daniel found it hard to believe that the fire chief requested the removal of the hammerhead option and noted that the state Fire Code lists five options including the ‘Y,’ the hammerhead, cul de sac and two others he found difficult to describe. “There’s not a whole lot of options because those are the ones allowed by the state,” he said.

            When public comment was invited, all three residents who spoke were Fieldstone Lane residents. Jennifer Esposito told the board the fire chief had brought down a ladder truck to maneuver on the T-shaped dead end there, and she offered the board delivery of her video of the exercise.

            Marum considers Fieldstone Lane’s dead end to be dangerous in winter weather.

            “I wouldn’t want to drive a car out on that hammerhead because there are no guardrails, it appears to be just loose gravel,” she said, noting that heavy rainfall could wash away and take some of the road surface with it.

            Esposito and the other two Fieldstone Lane residents who spoke, Andre Arsenault and John Miller, found the issue applicable to their situation, at which point Hills was compelled to recap the germination of the proposal to revise the Subdivision Rules and Regulations.

            “When I started, I mentioned that earlier this year we had approved some changes to the Rules and Regulations that were developed by an engineering firm last year for us. That new wording did include reference to a hammerhead, which was not there before. That wording has not been incorporated yet because we were still discussing … now the potential changing of the term hammerhead to something else. That’s why it’s not on the website,” he said. “One of the reasons I’m trying to get all this through so we can get all the rest of the changes that are in this change to the rules and regulations incorporated. And this one word is hanging us up right at this point in time.”

            Town Planner Doug Guey-Lee suggested that the acceptance of the hybrid Y would not necessarily rule out a traditional, T-shape hammerhead and suggested more generic language that would leave the town with options.

            Hills said his takeaway from the board’s interaction is that a decision will not be possible without going back to the fire chief and to DPW director and determine what if any changes are acceptable to them.

            “Those guys, in the end, are the ones that are responsible,” said Hills, disagreeing with Guey-Lee’s proposal. “It’s non-specific, and I want something specific. I don’t want a hammerhead of the dimensions that’s out there now. If we’re going to have a hammerhead, we’re going to specify the dimensions. I want to go back to the two people that are responsible and get agreement from them.”

            Hills reiterated he does not want to tell the Fire Department and the DPW how to do their business. Daniel countered by saying he is not proposing the board does that, only that what the state allows remain possible for the town to determine rather than closing off an option he insisted is standard practice.

            Henry concurred with Daniel that the regulations should be generic and not specific.

            The board voted to continue the public hearing to Monday, August 1, at 7:05 pm.

            In other business, the board voted to pay SRPEDD $2,405.49 for the agency’s services.

            Under Old Business, Hills corresponded with Town Counsel about Zoning maps and told the board it can have a two-page map, the second page including lot lines and other information helpful to the board without obscuring the basics of the Zoning Map. The board favors two pages.

            Hills said Guey-Lee has the experience and told the board he would see what can be generated in time for Town Meeting.

            The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, August 1, at 7:00 pm.

Marion Planning Board

By Mick Colageo

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