Marion’s resolution to the failed proposal to replace the traditional hammerhead shape as an approved dead end for town roads with a “Hybrid-Y” shape has come in the form of two options: a larger hammerhead or a cul-de-sac.
The hammerhead had been a hot topic in town ever since Fieldstone Lane residents failed in a bid at Town Meeting to get their dead-end street absorbed by the town so it could become eligible for town services such as snowplowing.
At the time, the Department of Public Works recommended against accepting Fieldstone Lane, citing safety concerns with the hammerhead shape and a sudden slope in the grade around the dead end.
Monday night’s public meeting of the Marion Planning Board did not produce an official end to the public hearing on changes to Section 300-2.1 through 300-6.1 of the town’s Subdivision Rules and Regulations, but it was readily apparent that a resolution has been achieved.
“After many back-and-forth’s between DPW and the Fire Department,” said Planning Board Chairman Norm Hills, the new plan comes with “dimensions so that there is enough room for the DPW drivers.”
“This is much better than what was proposed,” said Planning Board member Andrew Daniel, who debated the former proposal of a Hybrid-Y in place of the traditional hammerhead in the Rules and Regulations and researched other New England municipalities for feedback.
Under the revised hammerhead, road width will be set according to Subdivision Regulations, but a 50-foot-wide (outer) layout will be required on the main road with a 30-foot roadway radius onto the hammerhead, the roadway of which will be at least 30-feet wide and extend a minimum of 60 feet in each direction from the center line of the perpendicular main roadway.
The cul-de-sac design will have the same requirements on the main roadway and a 30-foot radius onto the cul-de-sac. The paved circle will be a minimum of 108 feet in diameter and 130 feet in diameter to the edge of the road layout (65-foot radius to property lines.)
Hills still has clerical work to do, writing the revised proposal into the changes (including diagrams of both approved models with required minimal dimensions), after which the board at its next meeting will presumably vote to accept as presented. Hills told the board he will change the language to “Figure 1 and Figure 2” and take out the words.
Parking will not be allowed on these configurations.
At the suggestion of Town Planner Doug Guey-Lee, the board voted to continue the public hearing to October 17 at 7:15 pm.
On the advice of Guey-Lee’s review and Building Commissioner Bob Grillo, the Planning Board was ready to determine that an amendment to the site plan for expanded parking at the Captain Hadley House (corner Front Street and Route 6) does not rise to a level requiring site-plan review.
Enter T.J. Walker, former owner of the property (and contractor) who took the floor in the public-comment session to challenge the decision. Walker articulated concerns over the history of the property, asserted that more than five parking spaces are being added, while the amount of open space is “substantially decreased” and no plan to address drainage.
“This plan violates the spirit of everything you folks do. There’s more parking in this proposal than the drug store that was wildly unpopular,” said Walker, alluding to four iterations of the site plan. “There have been violations of the stop-work order. … I don’t see why we would waiver parking along Route 6. It just seems incomplete at this time. To sweep it under the carpet and say it’s a miscommunication between the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board is missing the mark.”
Marion’s previous building commissioner had issued a Cease and Desist order because the site plan was not updated. “It was stopped because of things happening that were not on the plan,” said Daniel.
On behalf of the property owner, Lou Kruger said, “This whole thing was put on hold because of COVID. It wasn’t to delay anything. It’s what the owner decided to do. There was an application made.”
The dispute continued, and Kruger indicated that the gravel on site is not indicative of an intention to use it for parking (Kruger asserted that the property now has 36-car parking capacity). Guey-Lee, also Marion’s Conservation agent, clarified that while the rear of the lot falls under the Conservation Commission’s purview, the side facing Wareham Street (Route 6) does not.
Planning Board member Chris Collings was convinced that Walker had presented more than enough credible argument to cause the board to call for site-plan review. He was openly dissatisfied with the clarity in the plan as presented and the lack of accessible comprehensive history of the case.
“I want site-plan review,” said Collings. “I don’t like all the loose ends and incomplete answers. It just bothers me that this isn’t easy. When we have people with strong opinions and (make arguments that) we’re opposed to, I would like to see the owner come in and present.”
Daniel said he saw Walkers’ point, but based on the board’s purview said the application does not rise to a level requiring site-plan review.
The board voted 5-1 to accept the amendment as “minor” (not requiring site-plan review) with Collings’ the lone dissenting vote.
During the Community Outreach (open comment) session, local developer Sherman Briggs asked if board members were up to date on the Marion Village Overlay District. Hills said the matter has not yet been brought to the board and that Briggs got a look at the draft as a courtesy.
Hills said the Marion Village Overlay District was drafted by the Codification Committee, which is part of the Planning Board and will therefore be brought to the Planning Board for review. “Everything that goes through the Codification Committee goes through the Planning Board, everything,” agreed board member Eileen Marum.
Daniel joined Briggs in asserting that the writing of new bylaws should be done by the Planning Board and that the job of the Codification Committee is “basically supposed to be cleaning up the bylaws.”
Hills indicated approximately 200 were recently “straightened out. … After looking at them, the Codification Committee tried to generate a different one that replaced all of those,” he explained, noting that the committee is still trying to resolve all the feedback comments. “It all has to come to the Planning Board.” (Two board members serve on the Codification Committee.)
Daniel said the board needs more time than it has had in some cases with important bylaw changes being introduced right before Town Meeting.
Member Alanna Nelson said there are different tasks that the board should be doing on that subject, including policy and planning.
Member Tucker Burr cautioned that considering the length of Codification Committee meetings, the Planning Board should not try to absorb that time into its meetings. He also agreed that “you don’t want to make changes last minute before Town Meeting.”
Hills reminded the board that any bylaw changes require a public hearing and said that the real goal is to make the bylaws simple enough that the building commissioner can enforce them without complication. “I’m at the point where I send it to the Town Counsel to review,” he said.
Briggs also addressed the long-standing issue of the 40B statute (affordable-housing requirement) and the anticipation that Heron Cove Estates will push the town well over that requirement. He has long argued that Marion’s density requirement incentivizes developers to build low-income housing instead of the market-rate housing that would generate tax revenue.
“Our bylaw is wide open to it. I would like somebody to come up with an answer to it sooner rather than later,” said Briggs.
“Once we meet the state requirement, that bylaw needs to go away,” agreed Daniel. “Why would we make more trouble for ourselves than we already get from the state?”
In other action, the Planning Board voted to approve up to $800 to contract the transfer and setup of GIS (zoning map) files from Marion resident and Open Space Acquisition Commission Chairman John Rockwell. The cost is estimated to be at least $500 but not to exceed $800 for the current fiscal year.
According to Town Planner Doug Guey-Lee, Marion’s last official zoning map dates back to 2014 and that having this GIS data in-house will allow Marion to transfer to a digital format with a public interface.
“There’s really no working zoning map for someone to do their due diligence about their prospective piece of property,” Guey-Lee said, noting that this data transfer will set the stage for the town to achieve that future step.
In a related action, the board agreed to sign the updated Zoning Map. Hills qualified that the update from 2014 does not include updates to the Aquifer Protection District, which will hopefully happen at the next town meeting.
The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, October 17, at 7:00 pm at the Police Station, also accessible via Zoom.
Marion Planning Board
By Mick Colageo