Board Denies Developer 24 Hr/Day-7 Days/Week Hours of Operation
Planning Board Chairman Brian Salisbury
What at first seemed like a done deal turned out to be anything but at the Bellingham Planning Board’s Jan. 26 meeting. In order to build what has become a controversial warehouse complex at 160 High Street, the developer, Campanelli Co., was seeking the Board’s approval on three permit applications and two special permit applications.
Amended Development Plan, Storm Water Management Plan and Scenic Road permits were approved after a lengthy discussion resulted in language being added to strengthen the trucking/traffic policy. Campanelli’s tenants, whether the tenants own or lease the trucks themselves or subcontract the trucking, will be responsible for making all truckers traveling to their facility aware that they are prohibited from turning from Hartford Ave. (Rte. 126) onto Maple Street and traveling south; the facility may only be accessed by turning from Mechanic St. (Rte. 140) onto Maple Street and traveling north. (Campanelli currently has only one potential tenant, Spears Associates.) The only Board member to vote against these three permits was Peter Pappas.
Special permits are required for Flexible Parking and Major Business Complex, and they require four out of five votes in order to pass (vs. a simple majority for the permits). The Flexible Parking Special Permit was approved with the four required votes-- Chairman Brian Salisbury, (pictured above), Vice Chairman William O’Connell, Jr., Bruce Lord, Dennis Trebino; Peter Pappas being the lone opposing vote.
The big surprise came when the Board voted on the Major Business Complex Special Permit. Board alternate Nikyda “Nicki” Resto voted with Peter Pappas against, while Salisbury, O’Connell, and Trebino voted in favor of granting the special permit. (Note: Because Resto was an acting member of the Board prior to Bruce Lord’s appointment when some of these permit applications were first introduced, she and not Lord voted on those parts of the project that had already come before the board, i.e., the two special permit apps.
Pappas had made it clear at the previous meeting that he would vote “no” because he had visited Campanelli’s website and saw that they build many types of commercial, industrial and medical/educational facilities, any of which would be more suited to this locale which, though zoned industrial, is surrounded by residential neighborhoods that trucks would have to pass through on the way to and from the highway (Rte. 495).
The reason for Resto’s “no” vote is that if the major warehouse complex special permit were approved as written, the businesses therein would be able to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with trucks entering and exiting the property at all hours of the day and night. “I can’t do that to those neighbors,” she said.
The problem is that, although they themselves have no plans to operate 24/7, Spears Associates has insisted on being granted 24/7 access because they feel it would be more difficult to sell the property in the future if the hours of operation are restricted. They previously indicated that this is a deal breaker and they would look elsewhere if the complex didn’t offer unlimited access.
After the vote, Zoning Board member/High Street resident and vocal opponent of this project Jim Dunlea had this to say: “These decisions are always extremely challenging from an individual board member perspective. I read this as certain board members read, heard, and understood the deep safety, health, and quality of life concerns coming from the community. It was a courageous decision, showing leadership. This had never been a argument from the residents about ‘no development.’ It was always about developing the right concept. The developer was approached on this many times by the residents. It is a beautiful setting, scenic roads, right on the Charles River. There are an infinite number of great ‘win – win’ concepts the developer could present. They have a clean slate to embrace the opportunities they have.
So what happens now? Will Spears Associates back out of their deal with Campanelli? Will Campanelli appeal the Board’s decision through the courts? Will they also look elsewhere to build their warehouses? Would they consider building something else in this location instead?
Board member Peter Pappas refused to even hazard a guess. “The got approval on four out of the five permits they applied for,” he said. “Who knows what they’ll do now. After seven years on this Board, I’ve given up trying to predict what [the applicant] will do.”
Dunlea offered the following suggestion: “Bring back a concept that takes into account that site, the relationship to neighborhood and residences, scenic roads, a concept that shows one really wants to partner with the community. Bring those concepts and the Planning Board and neighbors alike will partner with you to help you bring your concept to life, and indeed, in speedy fashion.”
Stay tuned into the Bellingham Bulletin--we’ll keep you posted, both here and in print.