At last night’s Planning Board meeting, members and Town Counsel addressed the Planning Board’s authority and purported limitations on their review of Park Central projects. It appears that the board is less constrained than they thought.
The developer presented updates to plans for parking, lighting and layout of landscape and recreational areas. Some residents were upset that the Planning Board wasn’t discussing traffic access for the project.
Members Phil Jenks and Jesse Stein responded that the board was acting under constraints of a residual or partial Site Plan Review. They believed the Zoning Board of Appeals’ decision limited their scope to 4 areas: parking, sidewalks, landscaping and lighting. But Stein admitted that he hadn’t had a chance to review the legal opinion on the matter.
Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano informed the board, that they have more authority. He explained that he had included language in the ZBA’s Use Variance decision allowing the Planning Board some freedom “above and beyond” those criteria. His purpose was to ensure the Planning board would have a substantive role in Site Plan Review.
Cipriano said that and more was covered by his five page opinion. Chair Don Morris explained that he read it earlier in the day but it was just received by fellow members that night.
Morris assured residents that he doesn’t intend to limit his Site Plan Review comments and conditions to the 4 areas. He considers all conditions to be on the table. But, he did agree with Cipriano that the board has some limitation on denying Site Plan Review approval.
According to Counsel, denial is is limited to the “highest level” of egregious issues or an untenable project. The board is meant to try to make the plan work. That can be done by imposing conditions to their approval.
The Chair clarified that he was waiting to get into traffic flow, drainage and some other areas until receiving a report from their engineering consultants Fuss & O’Neill. Meanwhile, the consultants are holding off until they receive revised, more final plans.
Those revised plans will be based on comments and changes from Town boards. In addition to ongoing Planning Board hearings, the project is still under review by the Conservation Commission. Developer Bill Depietri said that a meeting with their consultant today would determine whether he presents at their scheduled Thursday meeting or postpones.
Later, Cipriano rejected a statement by Morris that the ZBA decision stripped away the BOS’ authority on Flagg Road access. He said they couldn’t do that. The BOS has the right to regulate road access. Morris then followed that Planning could condition turning rights onto Flagg from the development.
Planning’s hearing is continued to August 15th. Morris said approval at that meeting was very unlikely. More likely, the hearing will be continued for a report by Fuss & O’Neil.