65 condos proposed for lumberyard site focus of neighbors' concerns
Updated 3:33 pm, Wednesday, April 24, 2013
He drives, he told a Town Plan and Zoning Commission public hearing Tuesday, because "crossing that street is too dangerous."
The commission held its third public session on the 65-unit Osprey Landing condominium complex proposed for the end of Thorpe Street at the site of a former lumberyard, just off the busy intersection of Post and Mill Plain roads. The board made no decision Tuesday night, and continued the hearing for a fourth session set for 7:30 p.m. May 7 in McKinley School.
O'Donnell said the addition of 65 condo units on the short, narrow street will not only have a negative impact on neighborhood safety, but exacerbate traffic issues at the five-way intersection.
Many residents of Thorpe Street, Beaumont, Bungalow, Granville and Frances Street told the TPZ members similar stories about the their neighborhood.
Elizabeth Meny, a Bungalow Avenue resident, showed the commission pictures of the neighborhood. It is, she said, a "front-yard" neighborhood, where families gather in front yards and children play in the street. "We have four basketball goals cemented in the ground," Meny said. "People have, for a long time, used the street as part of their living space."
Others said that while they would like to see the former lumberyard property cleaned up and developed, the 65-unit proposal is too large.
"I want responsible development there," said Frances Street resident Donna Walsh, who said her view now is of "ugly garages" on the industrial-zoned property.
The project applicants, Terry McClinch and Ernie Pierson, had purchased the 6.67-acre property at a 1994 bankruptcy auction. Most recently, the property was leased to United Rentals, a business that rents out heavy equipment. Prior to that, it was home to McClinch, another equipment business, but for many years before that it was the home of Fairfield Lumber.
At the start of Tuesday's hearing, John Fallon, the lawyer for 185 Thorpe Street Corp., formed by the land owners and would-be developers, said his client is willing to assist the town in cleaning up a filled-in portion of town-owned land at the edge of the property abutting marshland.
The one-acre slice of town property had been filled in, covered with asphalt and a fence erected around it by previous owners. There is no indication that town officials ever took any action against those owners for the encroachment.
Fallon said the developer would also help finance that remediation, estimated to cost between $200,000 to $250,000 by providing $200,000 toward that clean up. That help, Fallon said, is not a legal admission of liability for the prior owner's actions.
Fallon has contended since the beginning of the hearings on the condo application that his clients were not responsible for cleaning up property that they don't own, and didn't contaminate. Originally, there were no plans to clean up the town-owned acreage.
Representative Town Meeting member Ellen Jacob, R-9, who said she learned more about the neighborhood when going door-to-door recently to discuss the condo proposal, questioned the timing of the remediation offer.
"This time, we're hearing about new sewers there, $200,000 here, new easements there," Jacob said of the development plans. "If you change your story that drastically, it's worrisome to me."
During the hearing, Conservation Director Thomas Steinke displayed pictures of the Thorpe Street property over the years, including some that show where cranes and heavy equipment were stored on town property by the current owners, citing 15 years of "occupation and use."
He conceded the would-be developer "does not have to do anything" with the town property, but noted that there may be contaminants in the fill that was used on the town's land. If those contaminants are exposed when fill material is removed, it is a concern, Steinke said.
Steinke also questioned engineering plans for the project, suggesting the plan could contribute to growth of a mosquito-breeding habitat.
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