Steen, Seasons Back at Odds over Ring Road

            The Rochester Planning Board tackled confusion over updated plans pertaining to a new development on Cranberry Highway in their Zoom meeting held on June 23.

            Phil Cordeiro, representing Steen Realty and Developments, began a presentation of the updates to the project and noted that traffic engineers had been working to develop new plans for the proposed ring road that would surround an existing Seasons Corner Market near the development. Town Planner Steve Starrett explained that, because the plans were submitted late, they were not included in the updated information packet provided to the board members.

            Ken Steen, heading the development, mentioned that the standstill with the Seasons Corner Market had continued. “At this point, the discussions continue with Seasons, and we have a proposal under review,” said Steen. “Seasons, as of last week, submitted an alternative driveway arrangement.” Steen explained that the proposed plan is still under review from his team.

            Andrew Delli Carpini, representing Seasons Corner Market, requested a traffic study for the board to review in order to satisfy the board’s concerns about the turning radius for large trucks leaving the market and entering the ring road. He told the board that the cause of the delay in delivering the updated information was due to a conflict of interest that required his team to consult with a completely different group of traffic engineers at the last minute.

            Delli Carpini expressed frustration at how stalled the plans have become, and he assured the board that his team was doing everything they could to put a resolution forward. “We have been working diligently to get this project to this finish line,” Delli Carpini told the board members.

            John Russell, representing Seasons Corner Market, also mentioned that they are not the ones to blame for the slow progress on the project. “We worked our tail off to push this forward,” Russell explained. “We worked hard to get the traffic study after we were told there was a conflict of interest. We feel that the new plan with the revised radius takes safety into account by putting the access to the ring road on a curve.”

            Cordeiro was able to share the updated plans over Zoom to display the proposed changes to the road access point. The plans revealed an updated center line and showed the truck turning radiuses. This demonstrated the truck movement and showed the changes that engineers had made to ensure trucks can safely exit. The plans also featured modifications to the curb to provide more space for exiting trucks.

            After reviewing the updated plans to address the turning radiuses, the board still commented that the trucks would need to cross the center line to effectively make the turn. In addition, they noted that the issue of trucks having the proper amount of space to queue was not addressed in the updated plans.

            “It feels like we are taking steps backward,” Delli Carpini told the board. “Mr. Steen said that we were almost there apart from issues on the lease. And the only change we needed to make was to make the radiuses gentler.”

            With little hope of resolving the conflict surrounding the proposed plans, Town Counsel Blair Bailey recommended that the board commission their own traffic engineer to review the plans and determine what changes should be made. The board agreed that an independent review would be an expedient way to resolve the disagreements.

            With the issue of the ring road postponed, Steen and Russell also disagreed over whether or not a second access point to the Seasons Corner Market could be changed to be more compatible with the goals of the new development.

            Russell suggested that the access could not be moved due to a previous agreement that Seasons Corner Market had made with the Planning Board and suggested that litigation may be possible if such an occurrence were to take place.

            Steen quickly countered the arguments put forth by Russell. “Every legal interpretation is contrary to what Mr. Russell is portraying to the board,” said Steen. “We have the ability to move the easement.”

            Town Counsel Blair Bailey supported Steen’s statement. “The decision made with Seasons acknowledges that the second access point may have to change depending on the new road,” Bailey said. “It was always anticipated that something may have to change with that access road depending on the property developed behind it.”

            The board ultimately ordered to continue the issue until their next meeting in order to provide time for their independent review of the plans.

            The board’s final business addressed an informal hearing brought by Sarah Stearns of Beals and Thomas. The hearing was to address the construction of a canopy solar system at Eldredge Bogs. The bulk of the project is an agricultural improvement project seeking to improve an older water conveyance system. Further, an innovative solar canopy will be added above the new canals to add a renewable energy source to the site.

            Stearns explained that the idea of the proposal is for the panels to be raised above the reconstructed canals. The innovative orientation was developed to not constrain the cranberry operation. The proposal gives enough room to work the bogs and offers the benefit of adding a renewable energy source to make the bog more sustainable.

            Due to potential zoning issues, the board recommended that plans be brought before the Zoning Board of Appeals before the project is pursued further.

            The next Rochester Planning Board meeting is set to take place on July 14. The meeting will be held in the cafeteria of the Old Rochester Junior High School, but live, remote access will also be provided via Zoom.

Rochester Planning Board

By Matthew Donato

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