ZBA Considers New Use for Center Property

The Rochester center property of 0 New Bedford Road was back on the radar of Rochester on July 22 for the Special Permit application before the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals filed by two potential new property owners looking to use the 10.19-acre wooded lot for a private workshop and garage to restore and keep collectible and antique motor vehicles.

            Under the Limited Commercial District Zoning Bylaw, however, such use isn’t immediately allowed. And although this request so far has garnered less resistance from abutters and townspeople than the failed 2016 proposal to install a large-scale solar farm smack dab in the middle of the historic center, there were still a few concerns and questions about the size of the proposed building and its impact on neighbors.

            Mark and Ashley Briggs, residents of Marion, have a purchase and sale agreement to buy the primarily wooded lot nestled inside the Residential/Agricultural Zone as a spot to build a hobby-style

collectible car restoration, detailing and storage facility. The vision is to have a place for Mr. Briggs to work on his passion, restoring antique vehicles, with the benefits of a climate-controlled space large enough to store the vehicles, restore them, carve out a woodworking carpentry shop, and have a bathroom and kitchenette close by. He does plan on occasionally selling a car or two that he restores at the site, but not enough to require a car dealership license from the town (more than two car sales per year). Speaking on the Briggs’ behalf was Bill Madden of G.A.F. Engineering.

            “Mark restores cars and other motor vehicles … in some way, shape and form,” explained Madden. The applicants are looking to erect a 100-by-20-foot building while maintaining generous setbacks that exceed the stringent zoning requirements, minimize disturbances to existing vegetation and trees, and keep adequate buffers so that abutting residences won’t be disturbed by their presence.

            Straightaway, Madden addressed Mr. Briggs’s intent to likely sell about two of his restored cars a year but without planning to use the location as a “sales facility” of sorts.

            “We wouldn’t want the ZBA to believe that this is going to be abused … or [used as] a place where cars are going to be sold on a regular and consistent basis,” said Madden. “That is absolutely not what is intended here.” He said sales would be by online appointment only and with no need for a formal parking lot. All that is required is an access driveway off New Bedford Road that also provides access around the building to accommodate fire apparatuses and a circular flow of traffic.

            Madden emphasized that, after ZBA approval, the project will undergo a Site Plan Review with the Planning Board when all the details would be finalized and conditioned.

            Overall, the property would undergo development in 30 percent of the property, said Madden, to “really [maintain] some of the rural character of the town.” Madden also does not expect to need Conservation Commission approval. The project will, though, require Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program permission and, possibly, Historic District Commission review.

            “To summarize, we think that the use is pretty innocuous, the building is well sited [and] we’ve kept it away from the abutting properties to the maximum degree possible, we’ve preserved as much natural buffers as we can … and we’ve minimized the views from public ways…. We think this is an appropriate use for … this zoning district,” concluded Madden, especially given that “much more intense” uses are allowed in the Limited Commercial District than the one Mark and Ashley Briggs propose.

            ZBA Chairman David Arancio asked about outdoor lighting, an exterior elevation plan, and why the building has to be so large in scale. Madden said he did not have all the information Arancio was looking for, and the Briggses, away on vacation that night, could appear at the next meeting to answer any questions about building size.

            The hearing was continued until August 12.

            The next meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals will be held on Thursday, August 12, at 7:00 pm in-person at the Rochester Town Hall and via Zoom.

By Jean Perry

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