The proposed campus center at Tabor Academy was closing in on a motion by the Marion Planning Board to vote to approve until Town Planner Gil Hilario told the board during its March 1 meeting that he had just confirmed by phone with Town Counsel Barbara Carbone that the board’s 4-1 vote just minutes before, presumed to have granted a special permit to the prep school for a reduction in the required number of parking spaces, was invalid.
“It has to be a supermajority,” Hilario told the board, citing a state requirement. That meant a special permit-granting approval of a reduction from the zoning-required 58 parking spaces down to 50 needed five votes to pass. It didn’t matter that only five of the board’s six members were present.
The result of the correction was a motion to reconsider the vote, the focus being on lone dissenter Chris Collings— until one step before the roll call reached his turn when Planning Board member Eileen Marum preceded Collings’ vote with her own ‘nay.’ The reconsidered vote was 3-2 in favor of the special permit, which was denied.
Tabor Academy’s representative, Tristan deBarros, agreed to a continuance to March 15. At that point, he will present a revised parking plan for the proposed campus center at 85 Spring Street, where the Hayden Library presently sits.
The board’s decision was a stunning turnaround from what almost became a 149-minute meeting ending in Tabor’s favor when the mistake was discovered.
Engineer Bob Field, working for the applicant, cured some of the exasperation when he asked if the eight parking spots considered a logistical impossibility by all parties in attendance could be placed elsewhere on the parcel. Collings and Planning Board Vice-Chairperson Andrew Daniel applauded the suggestion.
Hilario stressed with deBarros that a revised plan need not necessarily include 58 parking spaces but merely be amended in any form that the board would find satisfactory. “It can’t be anything because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said a frustrated deBarros.
The parking hearing was thought to be a prelude to the piggybacked public hearing’s main course addressing the entire project, the major site plan review. The board unanimously voted to accept Jon Connell’s peer review, but vehicular traffic once again became a contentious point.
Collings’ said that the town has been doing all the compromising while Tabor has not demonstrated an interest in using the construction to address any of Marion’s needs. Marum’s turning point from for to against was a disagreement over electric car charging stations.
Weeks ago, Tabor had agreed to install the conduit for the possible future addition of two charging stations. On this night, Daniel said he wasn’t satisfied with the conduit alone but wanted to see the charging stations on a site plan. Dissatisfied with deBarros’ argument that the Planning Board could request but not require more charging stations, Marum implored deBarros to consider the ramifications of climate change on the very students the new campus center is being designed to serve.
Interim Head of School Julie Salit insisted the school is planning charging stations in other campus locations where they will better serve the students and faculty.
Marion’s Planning Board has the capacity for seven members, with two vacancies. The other missing piece was Chairperson Will Saltonstall, who recused himself from the public hearing because he is the project’s lead architect. Daniel has presided over Tabor’s public hearings with the Planning Board in Saltonstall’s absence.
In a prior public hearing for a special permit and major site-plan review, Saltonstall presided as Sherman Briggs & Hamblin Homes, Inc., presented a revised plan to construct 28 townhouses on 3.55 acres in a residential zoning district off of Spring Street near the intersection with Mill Street. The original plan, said project representative Steve Poole of Lakeview Engineering Associates, featured 27 regular units plus three affordable housing units. In lieu of units classified as affordable, Poole said Briggs would satisfy state housing requirements by making an offsite donation.
Planning Board members said Poole’s presentation lacked visuals to put the project into context against surrounding buildings. A nearby resident, Kai Srisirikul of 362 Spring Street, articulated concern over drainage. Marion will use Beals and Thomas as its peer-review engineer. The case was continued until March 15.
Citing a prior business relationship, Saltonstall also recused himself for the night’s opening public hearing, a special permit to construct a pier. The applicant, 122 Register Road, LLC, was represented by Dave Davignon of Schneider, Davignon, and Leone Inc. Impressed with the presentation, the board approved the special permit.
The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for March 15 at 7:00 pm.
Marion Planning Board
By Mick Colageo