Planning Board Approves Mechanic Street Warehouse
Aug 01, 2019 06:00AM
By Amy Bartelloni
written by Amy Bartelloni, Contributing Writer
The Bellingham Planning Board has its eyes on the future, which is the reason that the Mechanic Street warehouse project was “continued” several times before finally being approved during their June 27 meeting. Public hearings began in December 2018 and were continued over concerns regarding traffic, drainage, the site of the building on the lot, and the development of the land over the course of construction.
“We want to make sure the neighbors are protected in the best way possible,” said Town Planner Jim Kupfer. Before the meeting, the Board and applicant, LPC Northeast, LLC, of Boston, met with abutters regarding a property buffer and concerns about possible tenants. While the building is not leased yet, the Planning Board agreed to continually monitor the site and require the owner to submit any changes in tenancy to the Board. To that end, the applicant was required to secure a bond for $125,000 to mitigate any and all unforeseen circumstances resulting from an unknown tenant.
“The proposal is for a 345,000-square-foot building with associated improvements,” Kupfer explained. Improvements include drainage, driveways, and traffic lights—which were a sticking point for the Board. Traffic flow and safety were considered, and the applicant proposed several mitigation strategies to resolve concerns.
“Over the course of reviewing the project, it went from two driveways to one,” Kupfer explained. The two driveways had been proposed to open up onto Mechanic Street, which the Board and concerned residents felt was an issue. “The intent and the long-term plan for the Planning Board is to really look at Route 140 and understand the corridor and better plan for its future,” said Kupfer. They tried to limit the number of entrance and exit points on 140, especially since the exit proposed was at the bottom of a valley, and there were concerns about speeding traffic and poor sight lines.
“The Board didn’t feel that adding a driveway there would be in the best interests of the town, so we asked them to seek a redesign that would have only one entry point off Mechanic Street.” The entry point they agreed on is bigger and will act as a public road. From that public road, a driveway would be the entry point to the warehouse.
The requirement of a traffic light was a key issue, according to Kupfer. “The Planning Board has stated definitively that they want a light there, and they don’t want the town to have to cover that cost.” The state has the ultimate say on adding a traffic light, so the approval was structured so that until such time as a light goes there a police detail is required at that location. The hours and days of that will be tenant dependent, which the Planning Board will review.
“It’s expected that, at minimum, it will be five days a week and during peak hours,” Kupfer explained. The applicant will pay for the cost of the light up front, and the town will retain that money until the light is allowed to go in. The applicant will also install all the conduits and utilities associated with the light, so that when they get the go-ahead from the state, they only have to install the pole and mast arm.
The addition of the light is not just for the warehouse. The Board is looking at the big picture—at the potential for residential development beyond there, as well as development across the street. As part of the approval, the applicant will provide $100,000 for a corridor study for the area between Maple Street and the town-center intersection. “We need to understand how to improve that corridor given the fact that possible tenant development isn’t slowing,” Kupfer said. The applicant will also provide $200,000 for the design and/or construction of improvements to the Route 140/126 interchange, as well as $150,000 for implementation of adaptive control equipment for improvements to the Route 140/126 intersection (or to be used for general improvements), and constructing a sidewalk along Route 140.
While the applicant doesn’t have a tenant yet, Kupfer is confident that that won’t be a problem. “We’ve seen in past warehouses that they get their permits and start construction and then start garnering significant interest from tenants,” he said. In this general area, because there is a limited amount of land for these types and this size of developments, it’s been common that people are willing to go ahead and construct and then find tenants later. The project will wrap up with the Conservation Commission at the end of July, and work should begin in late August or early September.
For more information on the project, go to the Bellingham Planning Board’s website at https://www.bellinghamma.org/planning-zoning-department.