Monday, July 17, 2006

Small Town News - Cumberland Farms: The Hearing

The Planning & Zoning Commission public hearing on the Cumberland Farms Application was held in the Town Hall. The proposal, which would combine two parcels and make them less conforming than they are existing, were presented by an attorney from Cumberland Farms and a contracted engineer. Again, the proposal was to raze the entire site and construct a new convenience store with four fueling stations in front of the store.

None of the public spoke for approval.

Thirteen members of the public spoke against approval. Here is a summary of most of their comments:

One of them was Sean. Sean also wrote a letter to the P&Z, which was read into the record. His major points were: 1) the Zoning Board of Appeals has to approve a location for a gas station before any application for one is considered by the P&Z, 2) application should be denied because the property belonging to Cumberland Farms is not approved for gas station use and is within 200 feet of a school and place of assembly which is against zoning regulations, 3) the impact on Main Street traffic will be deleterious and has not been studied, 4) the design and style of the gas station will be an eyesore across from our historic town hall, 5) various health and safety issues including fueling fires, 6) pedestrian safety (little kids cross the street there to get to school), and 7) vapors around the station from fueling and cars. He went on to say that this application should have been submitted as a special permit that requires more supporting information and studies.

The response to Sean’s letter was that the traffic study was already looked at by the DOT (which it wasn’t) and wasn’t really required as the DOT classified the business as “pass by” and so no traffic study was required. There will be no change to traffic because of this station/store. Also, the P&Z has changed the regulations for the need for the ZBA to approve gas stations and as far as the gas use on the Cumberland Farms property that the zoning regulations had changed and that did not apply anymore either. (A quick check did show that the P&Z did change the regulations so that they can do the ZBA step themselves, but they had not proceeded on this matter.) To sum up, they pooh-poohed Sean’s points.

Another architect in town had prepared drawings of how the new planned gas station with 80 foot long canopy would ruin the looks of the town and especially the historic town hall. An alternative design was drawn that showed and how it could be improved with smaller canopies set apart and at angles (as was done at another local Cumberland Farms station).

A respected member of the community agreed with Sean and the architect and said that a gas station in the middle of town was a travesty.

Another citizen said that not entirely opposed to improving the site very much an eyesore, but that this gas station was way too big.

Another citizen spoke about his letter that detailed the significance of the town hall and town center and though not opposed to some improvement, the quality of these aspects must be maintained.

A lawyer in the town was not opposed as indicated by Sean or the other architect, but had concerns and hoped the P&Z would resolve the problems. He also thought that this gas station would be more like the one in the neighboring town with the small and angled canopies, not this huge station with 80 foot canopy.

The P&Z then asked Cumberland Farms why not have smaller canopies as shown in the architect’s drawings? Cumberland Farms answered that the canopies in the architect’s drawing would not work for the fire suppression equipment required or for vehicle access.

Then suddenly, with more of the public left wanting to speak the public hearing was closed by the P&Z Chair at 10:08 PM. And that was it. The hearing was over. No more chances to argue the matter at all for the public. No second hearing was scheduled as was their right. It was a done deal.

What do you think happened next?


Lynette said...

I think there are bull dozers and trucks arriving in your lovely town and construction has commenced. . . . ?

Sue said...

You are closer than you think Lynette! God, I wish you could be wrong...

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