Steen, Seasons Seek a Solution

            In a case of ‘my way or the highway’, the final public hearing of the Rochester Planning Board’s remote access meeting on Tuesday night took on the atmospheric swings of professional sports labor impasse, as cordial remarks gave way to a complicated problem and, from there, to conflict and rising temperatures, the drawing of lines in the sand, talk of potential legal action and, finally, the cooler priority on the big picture and the plan for a phone call.

            At conflict was how the access road for a new development planned by the Cranberry Highway Smart Growth Overlay District and filed by Steen Realty and Development that will consist of 208 residential units and commercial space will affect the existing Seasons Corner Market and gas station.

            The case continued from April 28, addressed several matters, but as representative Phil Cordeiro from Allen & Major Associates described, “the other elephant in the room” is the discussion of the connection of the site driveway interconnection to the ring road and roadway.

            “We’ve not reached a conclusion, have not reached an agreement so, while both the owner and Seasons can elaborate, we’d like the board to consider, we know it wouldn’t please Seasons,” said Cordeiro.

            The project’s relocated ring road led to discussions with Seasons representatives over the past few months. Proposals went back and forth, the latest of which from Seasons proposal that Steen found to be unacceptable.

            Cordeiro reminded the Planning Board that the road was relocated at the board’s request “so we hope the board will approve it in its current location. It would make Seasons happy if the road doesn’t get relocated and we leave the road untouched.”

            While Planning Board Chairman Arnie Johnson acknowledged the overall progress in keeping with the board’s requests, he indicated that Ken Motta will have a peer-review report before the board’s next meeting, giving the board time to address other matters pertaining to the project “while we’re trying to figure out how to access Route 58.” A site visit will be scheduled after Motta’s first peer review.

            Johnson estimated that the access road plan “is better than what is there now. It certainly can accommodate traffic from the 40R (affordable housing)” and addresses his problem with drivers making illegal left turns. “I do have a concern with Seasons losing an access and having that traffic converging in one spot,” he said.

            John Russell, representing Colbea Enterprises LLC, the owner of Seasons at 8 Cranberry Highway, addressed Steen’s plan to relocate the access road.

            “The line of sight is very important to our business,” he said, adding that the proposed relocation would adversely affect the mobility and safety of the trucks that feed the underground storage tanks at Seasons. “If we can’t come to some sort of an agreement, Colbea would have to exercise its rights and file an official appeal.”

            Ken Steen countered, saying, “We’re well within our rights to relocate that road as it is proposed.… we will defend that any day of the week.”

            Russell answered, “We will defend our right potentially in court. I hope we don’t have to go that route.”

            Johnson encouraged more discussion.

            Town Counsel Blair Bailey suggested that the board to “be prepared for the conversation coming down the road is if either of the traffic people have weighed in as to if the road stayed where it is.”

            Steen said his group can look into that.

            Bailey urged more dialogue.

            After an impassioned speech on the Seasons’ side by Mr. Carpini, Steen indicated his group can certainly get on a phone call and talk about it.

            A motion to continue the hearing to Tuesday, June 9, presumably at 7:00 pm, was accepted.

            The shortest hearing was arguably most important, as the board voted to pass the Flood Plain District Amendment, Section 21.10, Section 2 (formerly Section VII.2), approving new flood maps in time for Rochester’s June 22 town meeting.

            Blair Bailey explained that flood-plain maps are amended either by the agency or by a landowner appeal. FEMA puts the changes together and, any time FEMA amends the maps, Rochester must amend its local bylaw. The information is particularly important to landowners appealing the process from an insurance standpoint.

            The board heard discussion and continued the following cases to June 9: 

            Featherbed Lane South Solar LLC’s special permit application for a large-scale, south-facing, ground-mounted solar array; Clean Energy’s 1 megawatt, community solar project at 139 Sarah Sherman Road; and a 9.5 megawatt, ground-mounted solar array off of Braley Hill Road.

            The Planning Board also scheduled a site visit at Connet Woods for Thursday, June 4, at 4:00 pm.

Rochester Planning Board

By Mick Colageo

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