In its first meeting of the year, the Rochester Planning Board addressed the finer details surrounding the Cranberry Highway Development Project’s draft decision. The draft review involved discussing disputed additions to the plan put forth by both the applicant and the Planning Board.
Over the holidays, Ken Steen, the project’s applicant, requested additional water use for the development and further changes surrounding construction guidelines on the site. These changes led to the Planning Board calling to reopen the public hearing on the proposal. Though the reopening of the hearing will lead to a delay in the project, it is required to allow the Planning Board sufficient time to address any draft decision amendments.
Steen came before the Planning Board to advocate for an increase in the hours of operation for construction on the site. Initially, the normal operation would be limited to 7:00 am to 6:00 pm on weekdays, and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays. Steen proposed a change to allow work to begin at 7:00 am on Saturdays. In addition, Steen hoped to allow the operation of heavy equipment, typically limited from Monday through Friday, to take place on Saturday as well.
The Planning Board expressed general concerns with the proposed extended hours of operation. Most concerns related to the use of heavy equipment on Saturday. Chairman Arnold Johnson explained that, despite the limited abutters to the property, it could still create a noise problem for neighbors to the site early in the morning and on the weekends. Johnson voiced his position that allowing these drastic changes to the hours of the operation would limit Planning Board control over the site in the future. This could be problematic if the noise becomes a disturbance to abutters.
Steen explained that the increased hours of operation are necessary due to the size of the development. Ultimately, for Steen, allowing work on Saturdays would lead to a decrease in the total amount of time required on the site. This would lead to a reduction in noise pollution caused by construction in the long term.
Seeking a compromise, the Planning Board agreed to allow increases to the hours of operation and the use of heavy equipment for six weeks from the beginning of work on the site. The Planning Board will follow the interaction of the increased construction with abutters and determine if the increased hours of operation can continue based on the six-week trial period.
Steen also sought to increase water consumption at the construction site, but Rochester Town Counsel Blair Bailey argued that the inclusion of specific figures would demand that the applicant come before the Planning Board any time an increase of water consumption is sought. Bailey also explained that public water supply figures fall under the jurisdiction of Rochester Board of Selectman and the Wareham Water District.
Johnson expressed the view that the figures need to be included due to a waiver that the Planning Board previously granted relating to stormwater mounding figures. If the consumption figures exceed the stormwater mounding figures that the board approved, then the decision of multiple town bodies would conflict.
The Planning Board decided to leave the provisions relating to water consumption figures in the draft decision until the board can get the opinion of peer-review consultant Field Engineering.
The draft decision for the Cranberry Highway Development will continue to be reviewed going into the Planning Board’s next meeting to allow Steen and the board an opportunity to discuss disputed points with their respective consultants. The final draft of the decision will be discussed during the next Planning Board meeting.
The Planning Board moved to discuss a contentious, new solar project proposed by Cushman Road Solar. The new project would involve the construction of a roughly 15-acre, 4-megawatt ground-mounted solar array.
Eric Las of Beals and Thomas, Inc., representing the project, explained the proposed plans for the site but is facing significant pushback from the site’s abutters. The concerns are primarily related to an access road required to reach the proposed area where the solar array will be constructed.
The access road, as proposed, would be constructed using an existing road that acts as a driveway for three abutting properties. In addition, the expansion of the existing road would bisect the three residential properties. Abutters raised concerns related to safety and the construction of the array so close to their own homes.
One abutter, Lisa Mann, joined the meeting to explain that the applicant’s ability to use this access road is still under legal dispute. Mann told board members that she would be drastically affected if the work were to go forward, as the entrance to the proposed access road is currently the driveway on her property. Johnson explained that the project is still in the early planning stages and that the Planning Board would closely follow the abutters’ concerns as the public hearing goes forward.
The next Rochester Planning Board meeting is scheduled for January 26, and all future Planning Board meetings are limited to online access for the public via Zoom until further notice.
Rochester Planning Board
By Matthew Donato