Representatives from various town boards expressed concerns to the Zoning Board of Appeals about water, traffic, schools and emergency access to the proposed affordable housing complex off West Street as its latest hearing on May 9th.
Mansfield's Gatehouse Group, LLC has proposed “,” a 96-unit residential complex in two buildings on 9.22 acres of industrial land between West Street and North Meadows Road (Route 27).
Based on today’s rates, rents would be $1,101 for a one-bedroom apartment, $1,321 for a two-bedroom, and $1,526 for a three-bedroom.
If approved, Gatehouse’s timeline calls for construction to begin in January 2013.
Paul Costello, a consultant for Medfield's Water and Sewer Board, expressed concerns to the ZBA with the project’s proximity to the Charles River (about 800 feet), its proximity to three town wells (about 1,000 feet) and potential resulting water quality issues. The board also had questions on the storm water levels noted on Gatehouse plans.
Costello said the area is prone to flooding and he questioned the flood maps used by Gatehouse. He said the river has a seasonal high of five or six feet and a seasonal low of approximately two feet. He recommended the seasonal high ground water elevation be at 125 feet, which coincides with the town’s flood plan.
He also questioned the elevation of the lower pond on the site and noted the soil in the area contains a great deal of sand and gravel.
Superintendent of Schools Robert Maguire expressed concerns with the projected number of school children the development would add to the system.
Maguire said the number appears to be a simple mathematical average taken from other Gatehouse host communities – namely Franklin, Plainville, Raynham, Stoughton, Walpole and Wareham.
He said the most recent data available from the state (2000) shows, “the state average of children per dwelling was .34 [but] in Medfield, the average at that time was .71, almost twice as much.”
Maguire said, “basically, people are moving into the community for the schools, it is the real attraction to the town. I’m very concerned that these numbers need to be looked at with a little more detail specific to Medfield.”
Said ZBA Chairman Robert Sylvia: “I don’t think any of the towns compare to Medfield … they don’t.”
Maguire is working with a consultant to get a better idea of the number of students the development might add to the schools.
Medfield Police Chief Robert Meaney Jr. and Fire Chief William Kingsbury each expressed a number of public safety concerns.
Three top concerns include emergency access for public safety vehicles, bus stop safety, and pedestrian safety, Meaney said.
“Let’s just make sure it’s safe out there,” he said.
It was noted that the emergency access road would have to be properly maintained year-round so that police and fire vehicles can use it at any time. It was suggested that an “Opticom” strobe be set atop the emergency access road gate, much like those on traffic lights. When emergency vehicles approach the light, it will turn green; in this case, the gate across the emergency access road would unlock.
Kingsbury said the town’s fire trucks will not be able to reach the roofs of the proposed three-story buildings, which is necessary when attempting to vent a fire.
He said the buildings are proposed to be 42 to 45 feet tall but, with the obstacles of parking, sidewalks, plantings, etc., the town’s 75-foot aerial ladder would only reach the soffits of the buildings.
He said the department’s 24-foot and 14-foot ladders will not be able to reach the third story windows. One truck carries a 35-foot ladder that would reach.
“There are some issues for our access in the event of a fire,” Kingsbury said.
said Sylvia: “That bothers me because I don’t want to be sitting here and be responsible for somebody dying in one of those buildings because we don’t get the fire out.”
Meaney said he addressed the bus stop issue with Gatehouse, which agreed to provide a safe area for children to wait for the bus that would have a safety barrier from traffic.
He also suggested a sidewalk from the entrance to the development on West Street, along the same side of the street, down toward Marsh Drive to create a safe way to walk downtown. He suggested a solar-powered crosswalk sign in the area if it did not interfere with traffic at the West Street/North Meadows Road (Route 27) intersection.
The hearing was continued to June 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the , with additional meetings planned for July 9 and July 23.
“By then [June 18], I hope that we’ll have input from our consultants and we will have succeeded in hiring an architect,” said Sylvia.
Also at the May 9th meeting, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to retain three consultants to represent the town throughout the process, including Douglas Prentiss as a transportation engineer, Thomas Houston as a civil engineer, and Michael Jacobs as a financial advisor.
The ZBA relied on the recommendations of current town consultants to evaluate the applicants. The Gatehouse Group will pay the consultants’ fees. Town Counsel Mark Cerel will facilitate the contracts to get the consultants started as soon as possible.
NOTE: The ZBA has also received comments from the Affordable Housing Committee, Conservation Commission, and the Board of Health.