Last week, Town Administrator Mark Purple told a resident that talks about a potential road hadn’t been going on at his level for “long”. It was a rejection of concerns that Town officials had been floating an idea to run a road through L’Abri Fellowship land without approaching them.
Multiple readers have pointed me to a video from June 2016 that pokes a hole in that narrative. (Which also drove me to pull up my own coverage of that discussion.)
I reached out to Purple for his response. He answered:
While I recall that during the Selectmen discussions about the proposed Park Central development that other options for egress into and out of the property were discussed, I did not remember that there was specific mention about L’Abri as part of those discussions. After viewing the link you provided, I stand corrected.
Thanks for keeping me honest. Moving forward, I would expect that any discussion of the Park Central location and any future development on that parcel will involve a discussion of additional egress. Given the limitations that MassDOT has put on access from Park Central Drive onto Route 9, which essentially drives all of the traffic on to local roads, it makes virtually any proposal at that location incredibly challenging to gain consensus.
Also in attendance at the June 2016 meeting were Purple, then-Selectman Paul Cimino and still-serving selectmen Dan Kolenda, Bonnie Phaneuf, and Brian Shea.
To be fair, I should note that the potential road in question was one of many options floated that night. Cimino was recapping a meeting held with state officials and department heads to brainstorm all the options open to them, ask MassDOT questions and solicit any ideas the state had to help.
Cimino shared the idea of building a road parallel to 495. As I wrote back then:
One “out of the most out of the box” suggestions was creating an access road from the development area to Main Street or Lynnbrook Road. If pursued, that might be partially funded by a MassWorks grant.
Before those potential abutters panic, Cimino clarified that it was discussed “at a very macro level” and would require an “overwhelming amount of design and public comment.”
Now-Chair Dan Kolenda later referred to the idea as a creative solution he liked. He pointed out that easements would be needed and hard to come by.
Cimino responded that much of the land was owned by L’Abri Fellowship. He shared Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano’s speculation that as a non-profit, they may be more amenable to the idea than most private owners. But he pointed out that building the road would be expensive.
Kolenda and Cimino discussed financing difficulty, grant money, and leveraging the developer to contribute to the expense.
Following that, the talk turned to specifics on other controls the board had for traffic flow on Flagg Road.
Selectmen didn’t settle on a road plan that night. Instead, they made clear that they intended to keep working with the state, community and developer on options.
Last week, Ben Keyes of L’Abri Fellowship told the board he was disturbed by rumors he had been hearing about the Town officials talking about using the land for a Park Central road or for emergency access to the land locked lot.
Earlier in the meeting, Purple had shared news of recent discussions taking place around a new commercial project proposed at Park Central. He mentioned the idea of pursuing a MassWorks grant for building a North-South road from Park Central to Rout 30.
Keyes said he objected to Town officials seeming to be working on behalf of the developer without ever contacting L’Abri. Purple responded that he didn’t know where Keyes got the impression that talks had been going on for long.
Kolenda and Phaneuf commented in support of the fact that Purple was just updating the board that night. They made no clarifications about earlier discussions selectmen had been involved in about road solutions for Park Central. Shea didn’t comment.
(Neither Dykema or Cimino, who is no longer a selectman, were at last week’s meeting.)