Fieldstone Expansion Approved

At the conclusion of Monday night’s three-hour, 26-minute public meeting, the details of agreed-upon conditions still needed assembly for the purposes of Town Planner Doug Guey-Lee’s written decision. But the Marion Planning Board unanimously voted to approve the proposed expansion of Fieldstone Farms Market at 806 Mill Street (Route 6).

            After Representative Bill Madden of G.A.F. Engineering finished an itemized summary of the applicant’s responses to SITEC’s lengthy site-plan review, Fieldstone owner Arnie Johnson was given the green light to begin the project that will raze a house, combine that adjacent lot with the one where his store sits and expand the store.

            Several abutters attended the continued public hearing, airing their concerns over issues related to wetlands, buffers, people walking through abutting yards to get to the store and lighting of the parking lot.

            Except for Ben and Angie Hack’s request for a fence to push foot traffic around their 29 Olde Sheepfield Road property – the board prefers a natural buffer – Johnson’s plans and revisions seemed to address the vast majority of concerns except one.

            After Johnson stressed with abutters that no trees are coming down on their side of the store and that “we’re adding a considerable amount of vegetation to augment what’s there,” 25 Olde Sheepfield Road resident Dina Nichols asserted that the expansion will bring down residential home values abutting the store.

            In acknowledging that the board was not hearing a “use” issue, Nichols noted that the Approval Not Required combination of lots to facilitate the expansion subtracts a house from Marion at a time when multiple boards and committees are working to create more housing so seniors can age in place and the town can attract more young families.

            “Once that happens, that larger home, the home in front of that one, that lot someday, that’s going to be commercial,” said Nichols. “I’m in real estate. If their home’s a little run down, they’re going to be saying, ‘we’re next.’ As neighbors, we want extra attention. I can guarantee you that is what is going to happen down there.”

            Adding that Marion’s Master Plan does not list Fieldstone’s location as a priority area for business, Nichols asked the board to, “please be very considerate to the impact, not just now but years down the road. … Be extra generous.”

            The comments were triggered by the applicant’s request not to have to list the trees in the back of the Fieldstone property on the site plan when they are all staying in place. Madden openly considered the abutters’ request punitive. Johnson called it “wasteful.”

            Johnson, who regularly vets proposals in Rochester as the chairman of that town’s Planning Board, has repeatedly told abutters in this case that he wants to be a good neighbor and do the right thing. He reiterated that stance when board member Eileen Marum brought to his attention the environmental ramifications of using salt to melt ice in his parking lot.

            The one major disagreement that Madden took with SITEC’s site-plan review was its recommendation that parking spaces on the site be reduced from the proposed 44 to 35. In the applicant’s opinion, there is nothing to gain by making such a change.

            Johnson also noted that while he originally planned not to light the expanded parking lot, in deference to SITEC’s comment G.A.F. Engineering has added two lighting poles in the northeasterly side of the site that will be 20 feet high and Dark Sky compliant. They will be shut off before the outside ice-cream window closes, but those employees will be instructed to park out front.

            Issues regarding dumpster service were raised, and Johnson said a recent change in vendors has interrupted progress he has been making. Services such as dumpster removal/replacement and deliveries will be relegated to between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm (dumpster) and 7:00 pm (deliveries). The monthly service of vacuuming the parking lot cannot happen when vehicles are present, so that matter remained murky.

            Member Andrew Daniel’s motion to close the public hearing at 9:58 pm was not supported; the hearing was closed at 10:17 and the vote taken at 10:26 pm.

            A public hearing that results into a Special Permit granted to Providence resident Ever Ortiz to conduct an auto-sales business in limited size at 13 Washburn Lane turned into a forum to air concerns about dangerous driving conditions especially where the road meets Front Street near Route 195.

            “You are taking your life into your hands by pulling out of that road,” said resident Michele L. Wilson, adding she has lost an axel and two tires driving 10 miles per hour on Washburn Lane. Wilson said she chose to live near the park for its conservation area and recreational activities such as little league, horse shows and dog walking. But existing signs there, she says, “make it absolutely impossible to see left or right.”

            Ortiz intends not to showcase vehicles but to act as a finder and negotiator, doing all his preparation work far away from the site. He told the board, on the advice of a friend, that he find a place where there is a noticeable lack of car dealerships.

            It was discussed how car flippers typically keep a small inventory, but Ortiz’s business will be conducted online until it’s time to close a deal. The Planning Board stipulated that Ortiz have no more than two vehicles he is selling on the site at the same time. The Board of Health had already ruled that no washing of vehicles is allowed at the site.

            There are two available parking spaces for the business, and board members were challenged to determine how that can accommodate a buyer, Ortiz, and the vehicle being purchased.

            Board member Ryan Burke made sure Ortiz understands that the Special Permit approved by the board on this night would require updating should the business update to change or expand its operations. “The Special Permit will be based on what you put on the application,” said Burke.

            Member Alanna Nelson asked Ortiz about a growth plan for his business.

            “This is just the start,” he said. “Maybe find a different place, something bigger … a body shop. For now, I just want to start with this.”

            Frank McNamee, a 35-year resident, supported Ortiz’s plan.

            “All the comments about how dangerous (that intersection is) are true. What this gentleman is proposing is low impact compared to what could be there. If he’s sincere, and that’s all he plans to do, I think Marion should support what he plans to do.” McNamee said. “I’m sorry, people thought I would oppose this, but I am not.”

            Board member Jon Henry identified himself as an abutter, noting the importance of signage and strongly suggested a traffic study be done. Having served 35 years on the Marion Fire Department, Henry said he saw some of the worst car accidents there, calling the area “very dangerous.”

            Henry was the lone dissenting vote, while Burke abstained. The Special Permit was granted Ortiz.

            After a presentation by Eydie Soares Matteos in a public hearing, a Special Permit was granted to Healing Villa Company LLC to conduct business at 163 Front Street.

            Motivated by her father’s dealing with cancer, Soares Matteos said she has been practicing two years.

            “I realized I was good at it,” said Soares Matteos, who identified her calling. “When you walk into my space, it feels like home.” His goal is to promote a healthier lifestyle, helping people from children to the aged. “My oldest client is 95.”

            Soares Matteos also sells Cape Verdean jewelry and shares profits with local athletic programs.

Parking is in the back, and Soares Matteos said little is expected.

            Marum said her presentation was “done very well” and that she enjoyed reading Soares Matteos’ mission statement, calling it, “very thoughtful.”

            The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, May 20, at 7:00 pm at the Police Station.

Marion Planning Board

By Mick Colageo

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