The Marion Planning Board listened to John Rockwell on August 6 as he presented the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission’s proposal for a bike path along Point Road and a summary of the results of their Open Space and Recreation Survey.
Rockwell began his presentation by providing context for the bike path proposal, reminding the board of its efforts back in the late 1990s to put a bike path along Point, Converse, and Creek Roads, an attempt that “languished” except for the Creek Road portion.
The proposal this evening, for which Rockwell was seeking the board’s endorsement for the Commission’s application to the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), was for a 4,000-foot section of Point Road, modeled after the Creek Road bike path.
Rockwell described it as a “separated path” from Point Road, with a 5-foot separation from the road, going around utility poles and hydrants.
In support of the project, board member Chris Collings remarked, “I’m terrified I’m going to hit someone [on Point Road].”
The path would be approximately 12 feet wide; 8 feet of pervious surface made up of a 2-inch gravel base, and a top layer of processed stone. Two feet on either side would be cleared of vegetation for visibility from Point Road. The path is designed for families and casual bicyclists, and safety is paramount, Rockwell said.
“We want people to feel secure and be secure – that’s why we want it to be visible from Point Road, to car traffic.”
The Commission is not proposing to pave the path at this time due to the added cost and will address any complaints of its condition in the future if necessary.
Rockwell noted that the Commission would seek input from the public as to the location of the path, saying, “We will stake out the center line and invite people for comment, including the Planning Board and the chief – both chiefs, I guess.”
Planning Board member Andrew Daniel spoke in favor of the project, saying he preferred to see the bike path paved but advocated getting kids with bikes off the road.
Board member and Selectman Norman Hills reminded the board that the Commission had previously come before the CPC and had been directed to coordinate with the Transportation and Circulation Task Force, which they did.
The bike path proposal is ranked third in the list of 15 projects included in the Complete Streets application. The path also is incorporated in the Town’s Master Plan.
Planning Board Chairman Will Saltonstall assured Rockwell that the board would consider writing a letter of support for future grant applications pursued by the Commission.
Rockwell also briefly summarized the recent Open Space and Recreation survey completed by the town.
The survey was sent to every tenth Marion voter, with a resulting 46-percent response rate.
Rockwell noted that every time the town has been surveyed since 1994, planning issues have been at the forefront of the concerns of town residents.
Based on the results, town residents support the protection of open space, and prefer using zoning rather than outright purchase to achieve that objective.
Rockwell highlighted two zoning bylaws – the Waterfront Compound and the Conservation Subdivision – as “flawed” bylaws that could be improved and utilized more effectively for open space protection.
With the Conservation Subdivision in particular, Rockwell suggested that an applicant cannot comply with the conditions of the bylaw without requesting a waiver.
Hills interjected to remind the board that in 2016 it had discussed this survey and “…asked [the Commission] not to do it.” Hills said. “[The Commission] did it anyway.”
According to Hills, the Stewards of Community Open Space were planning to hire SRPEDD to perform the survey. Hills added, “[John Rockwell] has had [the survey] for 20 years – there are no facts collected.”
In response, Rockwell retorted, “Norm has tried to ‘deep six’ the survey…” but the Stewards have accepted it for the purpose of writing the town’s Open Space plan. He urged the town to forget about disagreements over who does the survey and try to give the residents what they want – a preference for protecting open space through zoning.
Collings sought clarity on what Rockwell meant by the use of zoning over purchase, summarizing it by saying, “[The] preference of the community is to fix the rules to allow people to secure open space when they develop their land.”
Hills assured the board that the bylaws referred to by Rockwell are part of a group of bylaws to be reviewed by the Bylaw Codification Subcommittee.
In other business, the board unanimously approved an Approval Not Required application by Mark Barry to subdivide land at 18 Pleasant Street. The land is at the rear, or western edge of the applicant’s property and the property of the Marion Art Center. Lot A-1, made up of 1,354 square feet, will be retained by Barry; the 2,126 square-foot lot A-2 will be conveyed to the Marion Art Center.
Also during the meeting, Planning Director Gil Hilario reported “big, big, big happy news” of the receipt of a $94,000 Office of Coastal Zone Management Coastal Resilience grant.
The Town’s eight sewer pump stations are all currently vulnerable to coastal flooding, with two of the pump stations in the velocity zone.
The grant provides funding to compare the current and future flooding and storm surge data at the individual pump stations to help understand the impact of storm surges. This data will be used to develop solutions to protect each pump station.
Hilario reported that this was a very competitive grant with only 16 towns in the Commonwealth receiving funding.
The town is required to provide a 20 percent match, and will have one year to complete the study.
The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for August 20 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Police Station.
Marion Planning Board
By Sarah French Storer