Hearings Closed for Wellspring, Rochester Farms

Two public hearings that had proven relatively contentious over time were finally closed on September 26 after the Rochester Planning Board was satisfied that all details were finalized and all concerns addressed.

The board closed the Site Plan Review public hearing for Craig Canning’s Rochester Farms, LLC farmer’s market and agricultural operation slated for Marion Road (Route 105) and contemplated a list of possible conditions for approval starting with a row of Leyland cypress trees the board suggested for screening, to which Canning had agreed, although the screening was not mandatory. Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson suggested the trees be planted 10 feet apart in a row and noted that on the plan.

Next, Johnson mentioned two steel gates marked on the plan for securing the site, but Canning, unaware of the gates, opted to have them removed. Johnson also noted the 40-foot wide entryway lane that was discussed during the previous meeting, and then mentioned some trees near the road that would be taken down, also discussed during the last meeting.

When Johnson suggested planting a couple more in the place of some trees that Johnson said the Town’s tree warden had rendered “garbage,” Canning replied, “Some nice birch trees? Perfect. Maybe a couple of maples? Sure. Life is good.”

Among other noted conditions, Johnson suggested that queuing of delivery trucks not be allowed on the access road or on Route 105 prior to scheduled opening and delivery hours be limited to 6:30 am until 6:00 pm. Employee arrival/departure hours were also set for 6:00 am until 9:00 pm after the 8:00 pm closing, at the suggestion of town counsel.

“He thought that probably we would set some hours for the employees that would need to be there,” Johnson said, “to remove some possible gray area down the road, to set hours for employees other than the agricultural ones.”

Outside night lighting after hours would be minimal, almost non-existent, with security lighting limited to a few motion detection lights at each corner of the building.

“I’d be okay with that, as long as it’s facing down,” said board member John DeMaggio.

Should Canning desire further outside illumination in the future, he would have to return to the Planning Board with a plan. Same went for the outside seating, which the board capped at 18 tables.

Before closing the hearing, Johnson opened up the floor to any last-minute comments from the public, of which there were a few, with no new issues arising.

Attorney Dan Fleming, representing the Cutlers who live across from Canning’s proposed project and are opposed to the plan, again asserted the Planning Board no longer had jurisdiction over the project, according to the bylaw that Fleming interpreted to mean that, once the Zoning Board of Appeals closes its own public hearing, the Planning Board no longer has jurisdiction.

“We will proceed with what I have to do with regard to this project,” said Fleming, implying that his client would appeal.

“We are the Special Permit granting authority,” said Johnson. “It’s written right in the bylaw … but that’s why we have town counsel on retainer.”

“And we did not abdicate … that right because the ZBA determined use first, so we’ll continue with our process,” Johnson added.

Fleming told Johnson the next move, then, would be to go to court. Johnson corrected him, saying the next step would be to first return to the ZBA. Johnson cautioned Fleming, “If you go to court and skip the ZBA on our decision, it’s an automatic loss for you.”

“It’s not our first rodeo in court,” said Johnson. “Whatever you want to do.”

Johnson said the board would review a draft decision on the Site Plan Review during its October 12 meeting.

Also during the meeting, Wellspring Farm’s Site Plan Review public hearing was closed with all outstanding issues resolved.

“I believe everything else had been previously addressed,” said Johnson, although he wanted a condition specifying that clinicians are allowed to arrive on the site at 8:30 am, 30 minutes before the operation opens at 9:00 am Monday through Friday, leave by 6:30 pm, and clinicians must park in the rear parking lot.

“I think we’re going to put a stipulation in there that in six months, the Planning Board would do a review of the compliance with the conditions that we set forth in the decision just to make sure everything’s going along,” Johnson added.

Wellspring Farms co-owner Holly Vogel’s facial expression appeared slightly surprised when no one from the public had any final concerns to address before the public hearing was officially closed.

The public hearing for Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. for a large-scale solar farm on Marion Road was continued until October 12.

The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10, at 7:00 pm at Town Hall. A second meeting in the same week has also been scheduled for Thursday, October 12, at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Senior Center on Dexter Lane because of a quorum issue on October 10.

Rochester Planning Board

By Jean Perry


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