Saturday, June 13, 2020

An Evening with the Planning Board

The Planning Board met on Tuesday night, and even without discussing Colarusso, the meeting went on for two and a half hours. The meeting began with two public hearings: the first on the proposal to develop the warehouse at 60 South Front Street into a wine shop, a maker's studio, and event space; the second on the proposal to transform 620 Union Street, the former Home for the Aged, into a boutique hotel. 

In both cases, there was more rehashing of the Planning Board's concerns about the projects than there was hearing from the public. No one from the public commented on 60 South Front Street, although Planning Board chair Betsy Gramkow reported she had received three letters of support for the project, from Basilica Hudson, Wm. Farmer & Sons, and Jasanna Britton, and a letter of concern from Susan Simon, about potential noise from the outdoor space. It was determined that the public hearing would remain open for ten days--presumably until June 19--to receive written comments on the proposal, and the board would make a decision about granting site plan approval at its July meeting. 

Regarding the proposal for 620 Union Street, the only member of the public to comment was Sam Pratt, who expressed concern that the proposed addition would block the view and the light for apartments located at the back of 609 and 611 Warren Street. He suggested that the new addition, which is planned to align with the north wall of the 1906 addition to the original building, be set back 5 to 10 feet back from Cherry Alley. The architect and the developer said they were willing to explore the possibility.

It was again suggested that the public comment period for this project remain open for ten days to receive written comments, but Planning Board member Laura Margolis argued that the public needed to comment on the renderings that showed the building from the perspective of the alley, so it was decided that the public hearing would remain open until those renderings were submitted. 

Also on the agenda were the proposal for 502 Union Street. It was decided that the Planning Board would hold a public hearing on this project in July. 

The board also continued its pre-application meeting with Verizon about installing communications equipment on the roof of Providence Hall. So far, one important fact has emerged from this discussion: Once a communications facility is approved for a given site, others can come. It would then be considered a "bay station," and there would be no way to prohibit additional installations. So, although the antennas and other equipment now being proposed for this building, within sight of Warren Street and a historic district, seem fairly unobtrusive, they are likely to be just the beginning.   

Verizon is expected to submit its application for a special use permit in July or August. In the meantime, the Planning Board is preparing to hire a telecom expert as a consultant to advise them.

Back in December, at the end of a particularly contentious meeting, the Planning Board passed a resolution condemning "aggressive verbal or physical behavior toward members of the Planning Board at any time." At last Tuesday's meeting, the Planning Board passed a similar resolution, which they referred to as a "decorum resolution." As before, the resolution condemns "abusive behavior toward individuals and the board as a whole." This time, however, the resolution defines a penalty: consideration of the project presented by the person whose behavior is deemed to be abusive will be suspended until the board's next meeting.

To watch the entire two and a half hour meeting of the Planning Board, click here.

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