SRPEDD Visit Brings Anxiety

Marion Town Planner Doug Guey-Lee found himself dousing a brush fire of inflammatory responses from elected officials to a presentation remotely made by Grant King, deputy director of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), during Monday night’s meeting of the Marion Planning Board.

            SRPEDD is comprised of teams of professionals that work with 27 Massachusetts municipalities.

            In explaining the evolution of Priority Development Areas (PDA’s) and Priority Protection Areas (PPA’s), King shared a visual slide presentation highlighting the 2008 advent of the commuter rail bringing about a first pass with the identification of general areas, the 2013 refining of boundaries and in 2024 an update to those boundaries, along with modern mapping and design and action items recommended for key sites.

            King’s presentation highlighted a timeline including a kickoff phase, a local workshops phase and the current Phase 3, specific application for the town’s feedback.

            Some of the Planning Board members felt that the accompanying changes were being dropped rather abruptly for feedback to be solicited on a June 30 deadline. Referring to prior meetings with Guey-Lee and Select Board member Norm Hills, King said the incentive-based program has a timeline so that the town can effectively compete for grant funding for state assistance with much-needed projects.

            King compared SRPEDD dialogue to a preconference meeting and insisted that the agency is in the business of helping towns establish their own, simple, land-use priorities but does not rezone land. Moreover, SRPEDD’s recommendations are not legally binding, King stressed.

            While looking to wrap up the establishment of priority areas by June 30, more opportunities for public comment will come about in early fall 2024.

            “The (Select) board majority is not aware of this. … I’m concerned,” said Select Board member Randy Parker, who was attending the meeting as a citizen. Alluding to a similar scenario over a decade ago, Parker said, “They also said it wasn’t a zoning change, it was setback change. … you can paint it any way you want, but you’re changing things.”

            King said that nothing being mapped in his presentation will lead to change unless the citizens of Marion want it.

            Planning Board member Tucker Burr was equally skeptical, saying, “you want to use this to direct the conversation. When you have one person of the community to direct the conversation, people get upset. ‘Wait a second, that was just one guy with a bunch of people from out of town.’ I was the chair for the last year, and no one came to me to ask, ‘do you want …?’ It just got thrown on the agenda.”

            Sensing King was in an awkward spot, Guey-Lee apologized for that “there wasn’t any due notice. … The chairman doesn’t review the agenda. We had a workshop, then Grant asked me about opportunities and gave me some options, and this is what I suggested.

            “This is the process, we’re not behind it, we’re not ahead of it. We’re in the process.”

            “SPREDD has no skin in this game. I’m just your mapper,” said King, noting that this program has been in various stages of the works since 2008. “I just want to reassure you, these were in your 2017 Master Plan, this isn’t out of nowhere. This has been in your planning documentation for a decade.”

            King reiterated his willingness to return to the board to continue the question-and-answer session with the board in a better-prepared circumstance.

            The board held two public hearings, both of which were continued after presentations, discussion and public comment.

            Matt Sperry, who appeared on behalf of Sperry Fabric Architecture, Inc., for its proposal of a commercial, pre-engineered building on a concrete slab with a 4-foot wall and heat and insulation but no plumbing, to be assembled on site at 19 Marconi Lane on land-zoned Limited Industrial, was not pleased to learn his case would require a continuance.

            Major Site Plan Review typically requires multiple sessions, but the board was digesting comments from Fire Chief Brian Jackvony requesting that the east side of the tight space be designed with a 20-foot-wide fire lane posted and clear of obstructions and running 25 feet past the exterior door and within 150 feet of the furthest dimension of the building.

            In response to board member Eileen Marum’s question about pedestrian safety on the site and going to and from the site, along with motor-vehicle safety, Sperry indicated that the traffic, both vehicular and on foot, is something the owner can shut down.

            “We can limit that, that’s our property,” said Sperry, who also allows South Coast Improvement to park vehicles there.

            Marum noted that drainage calculations done for the site show that the host development has less runoff than the prior development, “so that is an excellent sign.”

            Guey-Lee recommended that the board require adding to the $500 in Sperry’s 53G account that supports peer review, noting the minimum peer review needed must include a drainage report. “Just to be sure, I don’t think it’s the biggest project, but we’ve been pretty consistent,” said Guey-Lee.

            “It was clear to me that this was a simpler enough project that this was going to get through. … If I knew there was peer review and another meeting, I would have planned for that,” said Sperry.

            Now presiding since being named chairman early in the meeting, Andrew Daniel apologized but agreed with Guey-Lee, who characterized it as a small project and believes it can be “turned around pretty quickly. I would love for this to be turned around too. … need to make sure we are addressing those issues,” he said.

            The board voted to increase the 53G account $2,500 for a $3,000 total. Jon Henry abstained from the vote; the rest approved.

            The case was continued to June 17.

            In the other public hearing, Steve Gioisa of SITEC appeared on behalf of Sippican Holdings LLC for its proposal of a self-storage facility at 13 Barnabas Road, the site of the former Lockheed Martin property. The previously altered land is zoned Limited Industrial and lies within the Mattapoisett River Valley Water Supply Protection District.

            Burr recused himself and silently watched the proceedings from a position with citizens attending the meeting.

            Gioisa reviewed the foundational points of the proposal previously discussed and updated the board on new developments at the site, including a wetland delineation that has been approved, noted 30-foot and 15-foot setback lines, and topographic and property surveys.

            “The idea is to demolish the existing parking lot and create a two-story, self-storage building,” explained Gioisa, displaying in different layers the footprint of a main building covering 20,000 square feet and an office covering 900 square feet.

            The main storage building, which will be aligned to its longer sides are parallel to Highland Street, will be on ground that is higher on the east side and drops down to the west. Therefore, lower-level access will be on one side of the structure and upper-level on the other.

            Municipal water and sewer will service the building, which will have a sprinkler. Lighting will be Dark Sky compliant.

            Noting that the Marion Conservation Commission has already approved the project, including the stormwater-management system for the site, Gioisa pointed out three control points for drainage, including catch basins at low points and a third water-quality treatment unit screening for grease, etc.

            Sippican Holdings LLC hired Bowman traffic consultants, and Gioisa reported on expected generated flows for weekdays and weekends. At the peak hour, he anticipates seven or eight vehicles, so the total vehicles expected over the course of the week is 60 per weekday and 72 per weekend day.

            The project is not proposing solar energy at this point. It will have ADA-compliant spots.

            The plan, which had not received peer review as of Monday night, was well received by the Planning Board, which voted to seek peer review of the site plan and the stormwater report. The case was continued to July 1.

            The board’s reorganization vote resulted in Andrew Daniel being named chairman and Alanna Nelson vice chair, while Marum stayed on as clerk. Burr, the former chairman, takes over for Henry as the board’s representative to SRPEDD, and Daniel stays on as the board’s representative to Marion’s Community Preservation Committee.

            Burr publicly recognized Nelson and Henry for donating another three years of their time to the board. Both ran unopposed on May 17 and were re-elected.

            The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, June 3, at 7:00 pm at the Police Station.

Marion Planning Board

By Mick Colageo

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