Conservation Commission Split on Permit for Woodmont Access Road

The Conservation Commission recommended with a 3-2 vote that the Planning Board approve a conditional use permit to allow construction of an access road to the future Woodmont Commons development in a wetland buffer.

Commissioner Mike Speltz and Eugene Harrington voted against the permit, arguing the road could be realigned to avoid the 100-foot wetland buffer.

“Before you do any reconstruction, you will have an open space to work with that starts at the end of Garden Lane. Why not start the curve a little sooner?” Speltz asked. “The ordinance allows access ways across the buffer, but I’m not sure about running it through the buffer.”

Civil engineer Jeffrey Kevan said the design for the road reflects the Town’s Master Plan for that location.

Construction of the new road is to begin at Garden Lane, wrapping around the Market Basket plaza before connecting with Pillsbury Road. The former Market Basket, a 73,081-sqaure-foot building on the site, is to be razed and replaced with a 42,220-square-foot retail space. The site is to be redeveloped to additionally feature three other small commercial uses, such as a bank or restaurant, and two new parking lots.

The plan includes filling a portion of the existing detention basin on the site and reconfiguring the detention area to mitigate storm water, for which the Commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit.

Impacts to the buffer would be offset with additional detention pond storage – construction will increase the pond area on the site, abutting the proposed road, according to Kevan.

“We will be above the 30 percent green space required for the site and providing better storm water treatment than exists today,” he said.

Pillsbury Realty Development Attorney Ari Pollack said because the road crosses through three separate properties, its construction is dependent upon the cooperation of the three property owners.

And to make way for construction of the road, Demoulas Supermarkets will lose 73,000 square feet of leasable commercial space.

If the road were realigned, the plan would not accommodate the new, 42,220-square-foot commercial space Demoulas Supermarkets has proposed to construct on the site in place of the old Market Basket.

“You’re asking Demoulas to take even more of a loss,” Pollack said.

Kevan noted the purpose of the wetland buffer is to treat water before it enters the duck swamp, and the plan as proposed would improve storm water treatment on the site from what exists – even with the impact to the wetland buffer.

But Speltz said he would have to see on site what the buffer is doing to assess how the road would impact the existing wetland.

According to Speltz, the conditional use permit cannot be granted for economic gain to a developer. He asked that the Commission continue the decision to its next meeting to allow time to revisit the Town’s ordinance.

Pollack said Demoulas won’t realize an economic gain from the proposed plan, but rather would experience a less substantial loss if the road’s proposed alignment were maintained and the 42,220-square-foot pad could be redeveloped into a new commercial space.

Additionally, Pollack noted the reason for maintaining the proposed alignment of the road is not solely to prevent Demoulas Supermarkets from an even greater loss – it’s also to adhere to the Town’s Master Plan for the site, to improve storm water drainage and to allow for the location of sewer at the lowest point on the site for the future connection with Pillsbury Road.

Demoulas Supermarket engineer Jim Lamp said if the conditional use permit were not granted, allowing space for development of new commercial space, he would advise his client not to remove the old building and to lease the space.

“They shouldn’t take any more economic loss for this. It’s not what we want to do, it’s not the right thing to do, but economically, Market Basket has to take a bigger loss for doing the right thing,” he said.

“I would think it will be an advantage to Market Basket and other tenants to have this nice layout, whether the road is in or right outside the buffer,” Speltz said. “That’s a business decision I can’t make for you, whether it’s really impossible to put something on that small northern parcel or not.”

Pollack said if the conditional use permit were not granted and Demoulas did not remove the building, they would still have to locate the access road in the wetland buffer to maintain alignment with Garden Lane and avoid the existing building.

“It’s something of an ironic situation. If these permits don’t get approved, we’ll come back with the same plan and similar impacts, only it’s pushing us towards something less attractive that doesn’t satisfy the Master Plan,” Pollack said.

“The economic reason is not the sole reason,” Kevan agreed. “It may be a piece of it, but the primary is alignment of the roadway and how everything functions.”

Ultimately, the Planning Board will have final approval of the permits for construction of the private road in the wetland buffer.

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