The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 12, 2008

Planning Board reviews Ferns addition

Ferns expansion plans show the new section located between the existing store and the garage.


Unlike the Historical Commission, which has questioned the design of the proposed addition to Ferns Country Store (see “Controversy clouds Historical Commission meeting,” page 1), the Planning Board response was generally favorable as they reviewed the plan on Monday, September 8. As part of the Board of Selectmen’s site plan review process, they have asked other town officials to comment on the proposal to renovate the store at the corner of Lowell Street and Bedford Road. The plan is to expand the store, linking it to the former garage next door.

Before discussion of a revised plan and additional information provided by the applicants, the board summarized the findings of other town officials. For instance, a letter from Police Chief John Sullivan stated, “After reviewing the site plans and speaking to Larry Bearfield directly regarding this project, I feel comfortable that all safety issues have been addressed. We spoke about the parking situation, lighting and customer traffic.”

The Planning Board agreed with Fire Chief David Flannery’s seven comments on the proposal:

• Fire Department access needs to be maintained at the site. The fire lane must be posted.

• A Knox Box located at the Fire Department’s direction needs to be installed for keys to access the facility in an emergency.

• An addressable fire alarm system needs to be installed. Carbon monoxide detection needs to be installed in the apartment above the store.

• The fire alarm system needs to be connected to the town’s fire alarm circuit.

• The two propane gas tanks in the rear of the garage shall be removed.

• If the heating fuel for the building is converted to natural gas, the fuel oil tanks in the basement will be removed.

• Address numbers need to be marked on the building.

The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) had previously granted variances for the project and the Board of Health has also given approval. Because of past soil contamination by methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), the Board of Health suggested that an environmental specialist be hired during the project to consult about any precautions needed to minimize soil disturbance. The Conservation Commission did not see any wetland issues, but advised against waiving the $1,000 application fee (see “Conservation Commission shorts,” August 28,” page 15). The Pathways Committee had asked that adequate pedestrian and wheelchair access be ensured around the building and parking area.

Bylaw glitches

From the audience, ZBA Chair Ed Rolf raised the question of zoning bylaw section that does not include beer or wine in the list of items which may be sold in the business district. According to Mansfield, Building Commissioner John Luther agrees that the bylaw does not permit the sale of beer and wine. However, he feels the bylaw is out of date, given that the town has twice approved a related ballot question to allow such sales. Voters will be asked to vote a third and final time on the question at November’s election. Planning Board member Michael Epstein suggested the Selectmen look into whether the ballot question might establish the right to sell beer and wine at that location. Alternatively, he suggested the ZBA might be able to grant a variance to allowing these types of sales in a “country store.”

Another possible legal problem was mentioned regarding the fact that part of Ferns’ rear parking lot does not appear on the map of Carlisle’s center business district. Bearfield suggested the map was in error, since he believed that edge of the zoning district probably did not line up with property lines as they existed when the district was created. Mansfield noted that while that may be true, Town Meeting had established the zoning district as defined by the map. With no conclusive information, the board felt the issue did not warrant further discussion.

Traffic and parking

Police Department data regarding 24-hour traffic on Lowell Street, compiled in 2004, showed average daily traffic ranging from a low of about 2,800 vehicles on Sunday to a high of roughly 5,500 on Tuesday. Peak rush-hour traffic at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. averaged about 500 vehicles per hour. Bearfield estimated that on weekdays about 500 vehicles per day will be customers.

The board carefully examined the parking spaces, lot layout, drainage, lighting and signage and how they would relate to vehicle passage through the parking areas in the front and rear of the store and no major problems were found. A clockwise traffic flow is proposed for the rear parking area, with signs to guide drivers both entering and exiting the lot. Bearfield said that the one-way traffic is already in effect and is working well. The plan currently shows 24 parking spaces.

A minimum of 18 parking spaces will be needed to accommodate the store’s expanded gross floor area calculated by the ZBA. The ZBA granted a variance for a new floor space of 2,559 square feet, or about 28% above the 2,000-square foot maximum gross floor area for businesses allowed by zoning bylaw According to Mansfield, the Building Commissioner has mentioned a higher gross floor area may be appropriate if the second story in the garage provides “sufficient headroom in the design to be habitable.” It was unclear whether this would be the case. The Planning Board noted that a larger floor area calculation would not impact the parking, since extra spaces were already provided.

The Planning Board will fold their recommendations in with those of other town officials and prepare a report to be voted on at their next meeting. Once approved, the report will be sent to the Selectmen. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito