Indirect access to Breakneck Hill Road was added to the parking lot for the 144 Turpike Road office building. Following up on a resident’s tip, the Planning Board discovered what it views as “apparent non-compliance” with the Site Plan Approval.
Drivers can now access the back road via the abutting parking lot for The Crossings plaza.
The board discussed the situation at Monday night’s Planning Board meeting. Planning members want to hear from how and why the change was made without seeking a modification to the Major Site Plan Approval. According to Town Planner Karina Quinn, the owner of both properties wasn’t available to attend the meeting. Capital Group Properties’ William Depietri asked to appear before the board in mid-January.
In the meantime, Quinn provided the information to the interim Building Commissioner. Chair Don Morris told the board that if the commissioner determines a violation within his purview, he could order the road be closed. (The newly appointed commissioner isn’t expected to start until sometime in January.)
Morris briefed the public on how the situation developed. Following a tip from a property neighbor, he discovered that pavers were installed between abutting corners of the parking lots. He informed Quinn, who informed the other members. Prior to the meeting, Quinn and other members individually checked out the situation.
Quinn reiterated that a condition of the 1996 Site Plan Approval for 144 Turnpike Road was:
There be no access, of any type, from the site onto Breakneck Hill Road
The pavers don’t connect the office park directly to Breakneck Hill. They provide access to The Crossings (aka White’s Corner, 154 Turnpike Rd.) That property already had direct access to Breakneck Hill Road. (Click on image right for the point of added access.)
Morris, who served on the board at the time of decision, said the condition was in response to neighbors’ concerns. Residents had worried about adding office building traffic to Breakneck Hill Road and Mount Vickery Road. He also saw incentive for drivers to take Breakneck Hill to the traffic lights at Route 9 to head west.
Member Andrew Mills said he had observed a steady stream of cars taking the path from 144 and turning left, the direction of Breakneck Hill Road.
Member Meme Luttrell expressed concern for what she saw as a “clear violation”. She said the road couldn’t afford the extra traffic:
That’s my hood and I don’t drive on that road if it’s raining, or if it’s dark, or if there’s a chance I’ll meet a bus. It’s a tough road.
Member Phil Jenks said that this offers a unique opportunity. He reasoned that if Depietri had sought a change, they would have asked for a traffic study. He posited that someone could now actually count the cars and observe which way they head.
During the discussion, Mills also raised other issues around the paved drive. He wondered if the elimination of three parking spaces made 154 Turnpike out of compliance on parking conditions. And he noted that the way seemed too narrow, having observed a truck almost clip a car.
Morris voiced concern about access to not just 144 Turnpike but 3 other connected office properties via 136 Turnpike Road.
A quick drive over showed that access on the east side of 144 hasn’t changed since the Google satellite photo was taken – just the west side. (Click on image right for that map.)
If access was added between 144 and 136, it would allow a back way for 5 office buildings to use Southborough Crossing’s access. Capital Group Properties also owns 136, 134, and 132 Turnpike Road. (That seems to be the three Morris was referring to.) In addition, those properties share a driveway with 118 and 120 Turnpike Road.
I followed up with Quinn who confirmed my findings. She couldn’t say whether Morris was mistaken or what he meant by his statement. She planned to follow up with him for future reference.
A meeting with the owner is expected to happen in January. You can check out the Planning Board packet here. [Note: The letters in the packet were the initial versions sent to the listed LLC owners. Quinn confirmed that she had followed up to send letters directly to Depietri after she learned that Capital Group owned the LLCs and that Frank Rossi, Jr had passed away.]
Updated (12/8/18 12:21 pm): A comment below shed more interesting light on the situation. Former Advisory member John Butler detailed parking issues at the Crossings plaza that may be behind the newly linked parking lots.
Butler has documented cars parking on Breakneck Hill Road when the plaza was full. He also points out that the underground garage that was included to meet parking conditions has been closed to public access. (And by Butler’s photographic evidence, it doesn’t seem to be used by many plaza employees.)
In his comment he referred to the pictures he took. He forwarded those to me, with the following explanation:
The one of the cars along Breakneck Hill Road was taken on April 25th 2018 at 6:50pm and emailed to the Building Inspector. It was taken at the same time as the one of the full parking lot.
The photo of the basement parking area was taken a few days later when the lot was again full, or nearly so. (Note that the elevator in the building which provides access to all floors is open to the public. I formerly used it regularly for access to the 2nd floor gym that was there. So I was not entering any areas marked as closed.)
You can view them by clicking the thumbnails below.
According to his comment, Butler has been in contact with the Town about this issue which he has taken as non-compliance with parking conditions. You can read the details below.