Zoning Change Proposed for Front Street Parcels

It was a short meeting on January 22 as far as the Marion Planning Board goes, with two members absent.

Engineer Bill Madden came before the board to present an idea for a zoning change for property owned by Theodore Laycock located at 391 Front Street.

The proposed zoning change to General Business would apply to two contiguous parcels of land: one 9.8-acre parcel currently in Residence C and another 0.2-acre parcel currently in Residence A.

A third adjacent 1.8-acre parcel is already zoned General Business.

The proposal includes the land on which Collision Services of Marion and Ted’s Automotive are currently located. It is bounded on the north by Washburn Park and to the south by the old railroad bed, protected open space, as well as a residence.

Madden indicated that the concept is in keeping with the Master Plan’s objectives of “Pursuing high-end mixed use development on Route 105.”

The parcel has an existing 32-foot curb cut for access and an 8-inch municipal water supply pipe.

Madden presented two examples of how the parcels would be used if zoned General Business – including multiple buildings with retail space on the ground floor and residences on the top two floors.

Board member Will Saltonstall noted that under current zoning in General Business, residences would not be allowed above retail businesses. Madden also suggested there could be construction or landscape businesses located on the site. He pointed out that the owner could provide access from the future bike path, to be located along the old railroad bed, across the parcel to Washburn Park to the north.

Regarding the large pond on the eastern portion of the parcel, board member Norman Hills observed, “…From my experience on the Conservation Commission, I know there’s a lot of wetlands in that area…”

Madden continued to emphasize the proposal’s alignment with the goals of the Master Plan, citing tax and employment opportunities, open space, and connectivity to the bike path.

“There’s a walking path from the baseball diamond [at Washburn Park] to the pond,” added board member Andrew Daniel.

Board member Stephen Kokkins underscored an overarching concern of the board regarding the traffic implications of developing the site.

While the board recognized the evening’s discussion was about a zoning change and not a development proposal, additional development in this location would most likely require a traffic study during the site plan review.

Kokkins inquired if the property owner had done any evaluation of the site for development, to which Madden replied that they had merely done desktop evaluations at this time.

Town Planner Gil Hilario spoke in favor of the concept, saying the idea is an “enticing one” that “provides a good opportunity to [contribute to] a vibrant gateway” from Interstate 195 to Route 6.

Madden and Laycock hope to bring the zoning change proposal before Town Meeting this year.

In other business, the evening was punctuated with an unscheduled presentation on the Complete Streets Program by local resident Ted North.

North, a self-described former attorney, ran down an extensive list of his concerns regarding obligations he says the town would incur if it adopted the Complete Streets Policy, of which the Planning Board has already recommended adoption by the Board of Selectmen.

Planning Board Chairman Eileen Marum interrupted North to say that the board would not be able to take up discussion on the matter since they had not had a chance to read his document. In addition, Jennifer Francis, the board member most familiar with the program, was not in attendance this evening.

North continued with his report, highlighting unknown expenses he believes the town would be contractually obligated to undertake, such as engineering costs and reports relating to different elements of the program. North provided a lengthy written report to the board outlining his concerns in detail. He noted that, “The statewide program is deminimums [sic] and smaller than Tom Brady’s football contract,” implying that there is limited grant funding for what he believes is an undue financial and design burden to the town.

North claimed that all projects within the town that were within the purview of the Complete Streets Program criteria, whether or not they were selected for grant funding, would still need to meet the design guidelines and standards of the program. He used as an example his “Front Street Test,” and wondered aloud what the cost difference would be between just a simple paving project versus the cost of following all the requirements under MassDOT standards.

The board listened attentively to North, but concluded that they would table the conversation until the next meeting so that they would have time to digest his comments.

Saltonstall concluded the evening by reminding residents that the Community Preservation Committee is currently accepting applications for projects that fit the criteria for funding: open space acquisition, historic preservation, recreation or affordable housing.

The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for February 5 at 7:00 pm.

Marion Planning Board

By Sarah French Storer


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