Planning Board unsatisfied with owner’s response to non-compliance at 144 Turnpike Rd

by beth on April 11, 2019

Post image for Planning Board unsatisfied with owner’s response to non-compliance at 144 Turnpike Rd

Above: Rather than returning to Site Plan compliance, while applying for a modification, a property owner implemented a temporary compromise. (photos by Beth Melo)

On Monday night, the Town Planner updated the Planning Board and concerned residents about an alleged site plan violation at 144 Turnpike Road. Planner Karina Quinn told the board that the owner was taking actions to work out a solution. But the board unanimously agreed that the actions weren’t the right ones.

As I reported in January, the board had developer William Depietri in to defend cut-through access he installed between his abutting properties at 144 and 154 Turnpike Road. At the time, Depietri said the access was to provide easier access to Breakneck Hill road for tenants of the office park at 144 Turnpike Road. The Planning Board said that violated a condition of the Site Plan approval.

The owner disagreed at the time and said he would wait for a ruling by the Building Commissioner. Following the meeting, the Building Commissioner sent a letter notifying Depietri that he was in non-compliance and giving him 30 days to act. It seems* that the action that Depietri took was to suggest an interim compromise while he applies for a Modication to the Site Plan.

That suggestion was apparently prompted by a resident’s comment at the January Planning Meeting.

During the hearing, neighbors raised concerns about safety issues caused by additional cars exiting onto Breakneck Hill Road at rush hours. But resident John Butler cited a safety benefit for Breakneck Hill Road during busy dinner hours. He said that the additional parking given to 154 Turnpike Road restaurant customers helped avoid cars parked on Breakneck Hill Road – something he witnessed last spring. He suggested a compromise might be in order where the access stayed while the cut-through traffic is prevented by barriers.

Barriers proposed by Depietri to Building Commissioner at 144 Turnpike Rd dated 3-20-19After receiving the violation notice, Depietri responded to the Commisioner with a plan to install temporary jersey barriers across a section of the 144 parking lot. (Click on the image right from the Planning Board packet, dated as a March 20th submission.) Quinn indicated that the proposed barriers was meant by Depietri to show he was doing something to resolve the situation.

Quinn said that Depietri plans to apply for a Modification to the plan. Since there are public notice requirements for the hearing, she doesn’t expect that to take place until early May. In the meantime, she indicated that the Building Commissioner was going to allow the non-compliance to continue as long as the developer was working with the Planning Board on a solution. The Planner wasn’t sure what the modification application would request.

Planning Board members were less than impressed. Each indicated that parking lot barrier doesn’t bring the site plan back into compliance. Member Andrew Mills suggested that the developer should place the barriers across the egress path he created between the lots. Stating that would only require 2 barriers, he pointed out that would cost the developer less money. As for parking capacity, Mills pointed out that the plaza hasn’t been making use of the underground parking lot as was originally intended when the site plan was approved. Other members said they agreed with his assessment. 

Member Jesse Stein said the image of the proposed barriers wasn’t a material gesture.  He opined that until the property is back in compliance, the owner should be racking up daily fines. Stein believed they should be sticking to their code and process. Someone who wants to make changes should be applying in the proper way.

Chair Don Morris said the proper thing to do would be to remove the pavers, replant the grass, return to original site plan and then apply for a modification. 

The chair also stressed that the board had no authority to approve a compromise measure. He said that until a proper application is filed, notice is posted, and a hearing is held in which the public can comment, the board doesn’t have the right to approve something different than the original plan.

It’s worth noting that it appears the board also doesn’t have the right to assess the fines for the violations. That sits with the Building Commissioner. The code states:

This chapter shall be enforced by the Building Inspector, as Zoning Enforcement Officer, as provided for in MGL c. 40A, § 7. No structure shall be erected, altered, demolished or moved and no land or structure shall be changed in use until and unless a permit has been issued. Any person violating any provisions of this bylaw, any conditions under which a permit is issued, or any decision rendered by the Board of Appeals or the Planning Board shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $300 for each offense. Each day that such violation continues shall constitute a separate offense.

Based on Quinn’s report on Monday, it wasn’t clear if any fines had been charged and/or would be.

Following the board’s comments, several neighbors again expressed upset over the situation caused by additional exiting cars and the way the owner went about the change. Depietri wasn’t in attendance, which irked at least one neighbor. Morris noted his attendance was immaterial and not required since the agenda item was just an update on the status.

As of the Monday meeting, Quinn wasn’t sure if barriers had been place or when the developer planned to do that. Yesterday, I checked it out and discovered that the the egress between lots remained open and barriers were placed as per Depietri’s proposal. Click on thumbnails below to see enlarged image from around 11:30 am yesterday.

parking lot 154 Turnpike Rd 4-10-19 parking lot 144 Turnpike Rd 4-10-19

*Editor’s Note: Bear with me on some vagueness in this story. I feel like I’m playing the Telephone game. I’m recapping what Quinn reported (with some uncertainty) from what she learned from the Building Commissioner who had been communicating with Depietri. I did try to get some more details and confirmations from the Building Commissioner, but have yet to hear back. (For instance, I don’t know when the original letter was dated and what was specifically communicated about fines or a grace period.)

 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nathan Kendall April 14, 2019 at 12:40 PM

I’ve been following this subject since it came up, I live directly behind the building. Unfortunately the barriers are not working, I saw a rather large dump truck towing a tractor off the property that went by the temp barrier with ease.

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2 Alan April 16, 2019 at 10:16 AM

I just drove by and saw that one of the barriers had been moved. They need to filled with water like they were designed to be so they cant be moved.

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3 Concerned Voter April 17, 2019 at 9:31 AM

As other residents have pointed out above, a process should have been followed and for whatever reason, was not. This owner is doing whatever he feels like with no consequence. The upshot is that the connection should be removed immediately. Generally speaking, do the rules, laws, and process apply to everyone else but not any one single developer? All developers are subject to the same process. That’s called fairness. The connection goes immediately and fines levied. That’s called enforcement.

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4 lackadaisical April 18, 2019 at 10:22 AM

So – the building commissioner/building inspector has the authority to enforce fines for violating permit conditions and, we have a clear cut case of those conditions having been violated – for some time.

Yet, for some reason (lack of enforcement?) the developer in question continues to thumb his nose at the town and its residents, erecting easily-moved plastic barriers.

What does Mark Robidoux have to say for his conduct? And our tax dollars are paying him how much per year?

Oh! Wait! The developer in question is Bill Depietri – you know, of Park Central fame? No I’m beginning to understand.

What is going on in this town between developers and town ‘government’?

If is looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…

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5 beth April 18, 2019 at 2:11 PM

You are behind on Building Commissioners. Mark Robidoux no longer works for Southborough. The current commissioner is Laurie Livoli. She was hired in December and began in mid-January.

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6 Concerned Voter April 19, 2019 at 9:18 AM

Disrespectful of the law, the neighbors and the town. The photo above showing a “solution” that is no solution per the planning board is a mockery of the planning board, the building inspector, the neighborhood residents, and the town authorities.

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7 John Butler April 20, 2019 at 12:54 PM

I think that Depietri and the Building Inspector are doing the right thing right now, given the situation, because they are being practical to relieve a situation that is immediately dangerous. It isn’t formally correct, but there are times when there are severe risks, that being practical first is more important than anything else.
The peak parking pressure for that building is at night when the restaurants are most active. Before the parking lot connection, people were parking up Breakneck Hill road. I observed and photographed cars parked as far up as the curve of the Mt. Vickery Road junction at night. There is no visibility for northbound traffic on Breakneck Hill road and people sometimes accelerate to catch the light on Rt 9. Pedestrians getting out of cars are at immediate risk. There are no other risks in this whole situation that are as immediately pressing as this one.
Yes, the barricades in the adjoining lot need to be effective and immovable. Yes, of course, there are lots of ways this should have all been done better, starting with following proper procedure with the Town and showing some respect thereby. The Planning Board is right to be upset about that aspect. The overall situation is not great and the right long term answer is not clear.
But, above all, we cannot accept cars parked up Breakneck Hill Road at night, and we don’t want a pedestrian being struck by a car. That could be a tragedy for which there would be no remedy for the people involved.

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8 easy_solution April 22, 2019 at 6:34 PM

Creating one problem to solve another is NO SOLUTION.

If the cars are illegally parked on Breakneck Hill AND creating a public safety hazard (hello SPD!), then TOW THEM. Word will get around pretty quickly that irresponsibly leaving your car parked on Breakneck Hill Rd. will result in its ‘disappearance’ and a hefty towing charge – as well as a parking ticket.

Is this town named Southborough or, as another person wrote months ago, Stupidborough?

As for Ms. Livoli – time to flex some administrative muscle and get Mr. Depietri in line.

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9 Same Old Story April 26, 2019 at 12:47 PM

It’s Dipietri so it’s ok and encouraged. This town is setup and controlled by certain developers regardless of the law. It’s sad and for all that didn’t vote to control this bunch at town meeting it’s a shame.

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10 Saboo Aghababayan April 28, 2019 at 10:18 PM

Being “practical” is not an excuse for breaking the law. This is not one person’s opinion whether something is practical therefore it should be permitted even if it is against official ruling. I can think of many practical things that may be against the law so I can’t follow through with them. There is a law and there was a ruling for the parking access to be the way it was before. Any changes must be approved by the responsible parties. Also, in the report, which has been previously mentioned too, there is underground parking lot that can be brought into use if the capacity of the current surface parking for 154 Turnpike Road shopping plaza is not sufficient so that people won’t park in the street. So, until the previous permit is in violation, we should expect fines for every day of the violation. No if and buts about it. The law is for everybody to follow.

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11 MJ April 22, 2019 at 9:57 PM

There are parking spaces below the White Corners building, which were part of the number of parking spaces that were among the initially approved parking spaces for that complex at 155. It is my understanding that those spaces are not being used for parking. We do not need additional parking spaces until we know that all spaces are being appropriately used.

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12 John Butler April 24, 2019 at 1:45 PM

The road is not posted for no parking.
The terms of the site plan are that the parking under the building must be open to employees, which it seems to be.
It is conceivable that changing these conditions might be part of some longer term plan, but until a longer term plan is worked out, this is the status. The barriers and the extra adjacent parking gives time to determine the best solution.

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13 MJ April 26, 2019 at 2:17 PM

Adding to the parking issues at the Whites Corner building and Breakneck Hill Rd., the other day I saw two people park their cars in the extended parking area with the barriers in place and then walk to the office buildings at 144 Turnpike Rd. There are no signs saying the parking lot is only for people going to 155 Turnpike Rd.

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14 Kelly Roney May 1, 2019 at 11:49 AM

I’m pretty sure that parking in a travel lane is illegal regardless of whether there’s a sign.

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15 Publius April 26, 2019 at 11:19 PM

Must confess to “breaking the rules” once maybe twice. This can be expected near a commercial corridor.

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16 Neighbor April 28, 2019 at 3:43 PM

This is a clear cut situation where it was stated “no access on Breakneck” in the original plans. We continue to go to meetings to discuss. Let’s do the right thing and refer to the original documentation and stop allowing exceptions to the rules for safety reasons.

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17 Paul April 28, 2019 at 4:23 PM

I must first state I am against the access pavers and disappointed that this commercial property owner believes he can extend his influence into the abutting residential neighborhood. These narrow roads (Breakneck Hill and Mt. Vickery) can’t safely handle additional traffic. Each property is a separate parcel, and though now under a single owner, should stand as individual sites and meet all conditions to be compliant. I would ask that the Town officials examine the parking space requirements for each building to confirm they meet the original rules when first built and the current requirements now. The underground parking at White Corner is key to this determination. After the legal parking capacities are reviewed and found compliant , then we can invest time on other issues. Don’t let this developer cause us to get worked up over his unauthorized action. Let cooler heads prevail and let’s do what is right for the citizens of Southborough and not for a commuter group looking for a shortcut home at our expense. I am very impressed with the mindset of our Planning Board members – thank you for that!

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