Friday, March 24, 2000
Planning board sends review of real estate office site to selectmen
The board of selectmen recently asked the planning board to review the use of 7 School Street for business purposes. The 200-year-old building has a history of commercial use and is now proposed as a satellite office for Carlson Real Estate. Member Michael Abend drafted a memo to the selectmen outlining the concerns raised by the planning board during the last two meetings. Although no recommendation for or against approval is given, it presents all of the facts to the selectmen who then have the authority to make a decision.
In a final review at the March 13 meeting, Abend emphasized the parking problem that such a business would create. There are five spaces marked on the plan submitted by Carlson, including a space within the attached garage. "It's possible that one car could block all the others," he explained. "This will not work well with public parking or with a mix of office and residential parking." Abend went on to explain that although each factor alone might not be a major issue, the combination of a limited number of spaces, a mix with residential parking, the fact that the parking is stacked, the grade of School Street and the need to back out onto School Street, all create a substandard situation.
A reliance on on-street parking may also be a problem. School Street is not wide enough to accommodate parking directly in front of the building. The site is up against an awkward intersection, close to the rotary, with School Street at a steep grade. Also, it's not clear how to prevent clients from parking in the adjacent private parking lot. "Posting signs in a neighbor's lot is not an appropriate solution," stated Abend.
Pedestrian access to the business was another concern of the board. The northerly door along School Street has a brick walk leading to it from the driveway, but this will be awkward to find in bad weather and if the driveway is full. There is no walkway out to the street, nor is there a sidewalk adjacent to the street. The door facing Bedford Road will not be used for access, but proposed signage on that side of the building will encourage clients to park on Bedford Road or in the adjacent, privately owned Hunneman Real Estate and BankBoston lot.
Abend summarized the board's site recommendations, emphasizing that they are suggestions only and do not specifically represent conditions for approval.
· Expand on-site parking. Either widen the driveway to two car widths or make it three cars wide against the street.
· Provide additional on-street parking. Add two or three parking spaces along School Street using lawn area from the Town Green, but without affecting any trees.
· Use the site as a low-key operation. If it were a true satellite office, with clients only visiting by appointment and with minimal signage, it should not attract enough activity to pose a problem.
Abend emphasized the board's concern about maintaining the aesthetics of the town center. He noted that many businesses in the center suffer from a shortage of adequate off-street parkingthis includes some town facilities. But a key factor is whether or not this proposal adds disproportionally to the overall shortage in the center and whether or not pedestrian safety is compromised if this location invites a more active use. Abend closed by saying, "We recognize that the viability of a strong historical town center must include land uses that are appropriate and that fit into the fabric of the area. We hope that the selectmen consider these trade-offs in making their decision."
Members agreed that Abend's memo reflects the consensus of the board and should be submitted to the selectmen who will take up the issue at their March 28 meeting.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito