Steen Presents Revised Heron Cove Plan

            In a meeting spilling over with significant matters, the Marion Board of Selectmen opened a public hearing with developer Ken Steen of Steen Realty to discuss a Comprehensive Permit for his Heron Cove residential development on Wareham Road.

            Steen’s former application for a 96-unit residential complex has given way to a revised plan seeking 120 units in order to mitigate the costs that will come with infrastructural requirements. The 24 new units in what is described as a friendly 40B project will add 5,280 gallons per day in sewage, raising the total from 22,640 to 27,920 gallons.

            Represented by designer Phil Cordeiro of Lakeville-based Allen & Major Associates and attorney Mark Bobrowski, Steen sought the selectmen’s approval of proposed revisions for the sake of petitioning at the state level.

            Approximately a year and a half ago, the Marion selectmen approved a friendly 40B project along Route 6 before utility study results came back from Marion’s consultant engineer with costs that Steen found to be prohibitive. On January 5, Steen came back seeking the selectmen’s approval of his revised Local Initiative Program (LIP) application geared toward affordable housing.

            The revision includes eight new buildings, each containing three two-bedroom, triplex units mainly focused on using an area of land previously reserved for Approval Not Required (ANR) development. The two ANR lots will now be a campus-like project.

            “We are fully confident that the site is fully supportive of these elements,” said Cordeiro. Steen characterized the original plan as being at a dead end. The revised layout connects all roads and maintains a fire emergency exit.

            The responses were mostly positive.

            Selectman John Waterman thanked Steen for being responsive to the needs of Marion seniors to downsize. Waterman asked about incoming students to the public school system. Steen, who is presently building near the junction of routes 28 and 58 in Rochester, said the revised project would generate 12-15 new students over a 12 to 24-month range of absorption.

            Stressing that an immediate answer was not expected, Waterman further requested incentives to help more first responders and town employees at large move in. “I think it would generate a tremendous amount of goodwill,” he said.

            “If everything went well … maybe nine months we could move some people in, but probably 12 months is a more realistic target,” said Steen.

            Bobrowski said the timeline for a locally approved revision would depend heavily on the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). If directed to reapply, it would take another 60-90 days. “I’m already at 120 days,” said Bobrowski hypothetically. He said plans to go back to the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals on January 19 would be postponed.

            Marion Town Administrator Jay McGrail said the town’s intention would be to have the selectmen ready to vote on January 19 and said he would seek to set up a meeting for that date.

            “We look forward to getting this permit and getting a shovel in the ground,” said Steen.

            “We’re not talking about a simple process here; we just need to work together,” said Selectman Norm Hills.

            In a 4:30 pm public hearing, Liz Argo appeared on behalf of the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative Inc. (CVEC) regarding the solar array proposed for the Benson Brook landfill.

            The project is still in design stages, and the town is still waiting on the utility company Eversource for news on interconnection fees. If the fees are heavy, CVEC will return to Bill Saltonstall and discuss whether the project is still considered feasible.

            While developer Distributed Solar Development is reportedly very interested in seeing the project go forward, Argo doesn’t expect Eversource to report until the spring.

            In his Town Administrator’s Report, Jay McGrail told the selectmen that Marion has been accepted by the state as a First Responder Vaccination Clinic, starting next week with a drive-thru COVID-19 clinic (Moderna) for all first responders in the towns of Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester, and Wareham. Some 400 vaccines have been offered at the Cushing Community Center by appointment only.

            In a 4:15 pm appointment, Jeff Doubrava of the Community Preservation Committee pitched the selectmen on a new Community Preservation Act bylaw that could be on the warrant for the annual spring Town Meeting. As Doubrava explained, right now, there is no mechanism by which the town can take back funds lying dormant instead of being used for the purposes for which their allocation had been approved. Doubrava does not want an arbitrary timeline, saying that each situation is different. No vote was taken; the proposal will be on the Spring Town Meeting warrant, then the selectmen will vote.

            Chief of Police Richard Nighelli’s contract was ratified with a vote of the selectmen. The new police chief thanked the board, McGrail, the community, and retired Police Chief John Garcia. “I’ve received a lot of support since I was named chief,” said Nighelli, extending his thoughts to the men and women of the Marion Police Department. “Without them, I wouldn’t be in this position.”

            The selectmen also approved special officer Connor Flynn’s appointment to full-time officer on a one-year probationary period. Later in the meeting, the selectmen also voted to permanently appoint Nighelli as Marion’s emergency management director. Fire Chief Brian Jackvony had been serving in an interim capacity.

            After much discussion and review, the Board of Selectmen accepted McGrail’s recommendations to delay the reassignment of the aquaculture permits pending the ratification of a comprehensive set of regulations.

            Harbormaster Isaac Perry said he could offer the selectmen a timeline during its next meeting on January 19. Deputy Harbormaster/Shellfish Officer Adam Murphy said, “This won’t stop the applicants; it will prolong the process. There is opportunity.” McGrail said he would let the applicants know that Marion is not moving forward at this time.

            The reopening of the Benson Brook transfer station scheduled for January 2 has been delayed by the ongoing removal of compacter and wiring equipment owned by the Carver, Marion, Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District. When that is finished, then Waste Management will install new equipment.

            The board approved two requests to connect to municipal sewer from Briggs Lane and from 17 Moorings Road. Waterman recused himself from the 17 Moorings Road vote, citing a personal friendship. Still, he did strongly urge special conditions to an approval so that the town can best control sewerage into private roads.

            The Conservation Commission requested the appointment of Ethan Gerber as a full member.

            The selectmen approved the filing of an Annual Report to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC).

            The next meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Tuesday, January 19, at 4:00 pm.

Marion Board of Selectmen

By Mick Colageo

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