I’m finally catching up on hearings from last week’s Planning Board meetings. There was news worth sharing out of two of the hearings that opened two weeks ago.
Both are continued to this coming Monday, August 5th. So, I’m trying to squeeze in the updates first.
Fayville Hall (and Deerfoot Estates)
At Planning’s request, Developer Jon Delli Priscoli shared details on materials he will use in the facade restoration of the historic building at 42 Central Street.
Plans call for the current siding to be stripped down and replaced with white cedar shingles. While the shingles will be “Cape style” the wood will be preserved with a stain that keeps it from turning gray. The roofing shingles will be replaced with ones that look like slate. The replacement windows will be replaced with appropriate wood windows.
In the front, the handicap ramp will be moved to the side of the building, so that the front steps can be returned to a more historic appearance. Prescoli believes that the overgrown maples are beyond just pruning. He may replace them with two trees that won’t detract from the facade. He also hopes to locate a fountain in keeping with old images of the building. If he locates something appropriate, he would return to the board for that approval.
In speaking about his expertise in restorations, Priscoli referred to his work on the Burnett estate, now renamed Deerfoot. He noted that restoration work on the B&B should be substantially complete by the end of December.
As for how he’ll use Fayville, he’ll be selling antiques and fine arts. There will be some limited gallery hours for the art, but antiques will mainly be sold by auction. (Priscoli didn’t want to tie his hands on the number of auctions, but estimated around six per year.) Leading up to auctions, interested customers would be invited in to examine items in storage. He expects many of the customers would bid online.
Due to the limited business hours, the parking lot will be widely available for use to visitors to the playground, field and baseball diamond across the street.
There were some questions raised by member Meme Lutrell about whether the project complied with the Adaptive Reuse bylaws. Priscoli believed that it had been cleared by Town Counsel. Town Planner Karina Quinn said she would follow up, but believed that counsel had written an opinion.
Members assured Priscoli that as long as the project meets requirements, they had no major objections.
2 East Main Street
The big news on the downtown project at the corner of Main and Newton streets is that I have to stop referring it to as the Mixed-Use project downtown. The plan to combine upper floor housing with lower floor retail is off the table for now. Developer Peter Bemis is currently pursuing approvals to use the site for one use only – an office building.
Previously, Bemis stated an office building wasn’t financially viable at the site. The Monday before last, he still sounded skeptical. But, he told planning members he had a party interested in having a downtown office. If that party pulls out, he will return to the board with different plans. (According to Bemis, most businesses prefer to be on Route 9.)
For now, the developer indicated he believed an office was more likely to pass without opposition than a mixed-use project.
Explaining the change, Bemis said that he had “counted the votes”. He referenced Planning members that had publicly voiced skepticism over plans claiming the second floor residential units qualified as non-transient hotels. Later, he noted that bringing in a restaurant to compete with Mauro’s across the way could raise ire from the abutters. (Owner Steve Mauro had already cited concerns about whether the project would worsen drainage issues on the street that hurt his business.) Bemis opined that a plan that brings in new office workers as customers for the existing downtown restaurants would be better for everyone.
There was tension at a few points in the hearings, but each time it appeared to dissipate. In the end, members indicated that they were generally supportive, just needed to vet specifics.
When member Jesse Stein pushed for details on signage, Bemis pushed back that would be handled later with the Building Commissioner, who has that authority. The developer explained that the tenant was still up in the air.
Chair Don Morris explained that siting anything in the Downtown Business Village requires a special permit from Planning. Under that permit, Planning (and the public through them) has the right to demand a higher level of detail. He reminded that before Walgreens was approved, abutters were even able to pick the color of the building.
Stein asked for the applicant’s tone to be cooperative. Bemis responded that he would “walk the walk” with them.
Morris said that before the board can approve the project, they need more information about work planned for that area of Main and Newton streets. Bemis was initially alarmed by being tied to that project. The Chair clarified that the board needed to understand if the Town would commit to details desired and anticipated by the developer (e.g., sidewalks shown in the plan and referenced formalized Main Street parking).
Morris said that if the Town can’t commit, the developer will need to revise his plans accordingly so that Planning knows what it is approving. Later, Stein followed that they should also hear from DPW about plans to improve drainage in the area.
Economic Development Chair Julie Connelly was the only one to voice disappointment in the use change. She said the Town has long wanted the downtown retail and housing opportunities mixed-use would provide. She hopes that they’ll get there some day. In the meantime, the EDC supports the project as a step in the right direction for downtown.
Updated (8/5/19 9:05 am): According to two commenters, the former Burnett estate is being named simply “Deerfoot”, not “Deerfoot Estates” as I initially wrote.