Craig Canning had big plans for his wide, open field on Marion Road. Abutters, neighbors, and townspeople in Rochester supported Canning’s proposal to transform the agricultural land into a working farm with a country-style farmers market and café. The large turnout for past Planning Board meetings showed that most of them believed a farmers market in Rochester was a sunnier idea than another solar farm – most people, that is, with the exception of the neighbors across the street who took Canning to court to stop Rochester Farms, LLC from spoiling their picture-window vista.
Now, five months since the Rochester Planning Board approved Canning’s Site Plan Review, the board on March 22 acquiesced to Canning’s request to rescind his Site Plan approval and accepted his request to withdraw his application without prejudice after conceding that Maryann and Kenneth Cutler’s litigation against the project rendered Canning’s business plan financially unfeasible.
Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson re-opened the public hearing to complete Canning’s two requests, pausing first for comment before doing so.
“The only thing I want to say,” said Johnson, “is I absolutely personally feel this [Site Plan Review] decision was very well thought out. There were countless hours in this … and I personally feel that that approval that we did was the best use of that property for the town as a whole.”
Planning Board member Gary Florindo also lamented the withdrawal.
“I’ve been on this board a long time, and that’s the first thing that’s come in front of [this board] for seven to ten years that made sense,” Florindo said, “that would fit into Rochester as well as benefit the people in the neighborhood and the town, and it’s a shame that we’re going this route.”
For now, the field remains as it was: the two greenhouses and wooden shed situated in the center of a late-wintery farmland with its open field vista relatively unchanged, except for the addition of a tractor-trailer stationed directly across from the Cutlers’ picture window.
In other matters, the board reviewed the draft decision of Site Plan Review approval for Borrego Solar Systems, developer of the large-scale solar farm off Rounseville and Mendell Roads. The board refined some of the conditions and details of the decision and sent it back to the town planner for updating. The board will vote on the decision at its next meeting.
Also during the meeting, the board could not act on the Approval Not Required application filed by Thomas Gayoski, Jr. for 35 Burgess Avenue.
Bob Rogers of G.A.F. Engineering said the plan was to create three conveyance parcels, with one over 400-acre parcel dedicated to agricultural use, and land being added to two adjacent residential lots.
The board’s issue was with an existing shed encroaching on the rear setback of one of the residential lots, a non-conformity under the zoning bylaw. Johnson said the board could not accept the filing unless the Zoning Board of Appeals granted a variance for the shed.
“It’s not because we wouldn’t like to; it’s because we can’t. You know the regs,” Planning Board member Ben Bailey said to Rogers who questioned the board’s concern.
Rogers phoned Gayoski for permission to continue the hearing and request an extension for the application, then returned to the room saying Gayoski did not grant him permission to extend the hearing.
The board was visibly perplexed because Gayoski could have requested the extension and sought approval from the ZBA, which Rogers said did not interest Gayoski.
Rogers said the 21 days since the application was filed was up, and being pressed for time, the application “didn’t have much of a chance” due to the storm and subsequent cancelation of the March 13 meeting. Rogers said it would be too expensive to move the shed, and it would be a risk to go before the ZBA because the ZBA could deny the variance.
“I don’t understand why the answer would be no,” said Bailey. “At least this is a chance.”
“We did not know that this [setback] was an issue,” said Rogers.
As the discussion continued, Rogers argued that the changing of the lot lines would mitigate the non-conformity by adding rear setback footage, but Johnson argued that it would be a trade-off for the creation of another non-conformity the move would make with one of the other lots.
Johnson said the plans were insufficient and could not be approved.
“We have to deny because of a technicality,” Bailey said.
Rogers was clearly frustrated as the discussion wrapped up, but Johnson maintained that the board could only deny the application if Gayoski did not wish to request an extension.
At that, the board denied the application.
The public hearing for Clean Energy Collective for the solar farm on Mattapoisett Road was continued at the applicant’s request for March 23 due to a recent change in the applicant’s plan pertaining to sightlines and screening.
This meeting was the rescheduled meeting for March 13 that was canceled due to the weather. The next regular meeting of the Rochester Planning Board was scheduled for March 27 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.
Rochester Planning Board
By Jean Perry