Saturday, January 31, 2015

What are we voting on at the upcoming STM?

If you think that we are voting on Tuesday night to build a new larger CVS store with a drive-through pharmacy or a new JCrew store, you are incorrect and should read the rest of this article.

The vote at the Special Town Meeting on Tuesday, February 3 is solely to approve the proposed zoning change from the current residential zone to a commercial/business zone.... Nothing else!  This vote does not involve approval of the actual project details such as the new larger CVS store with a drive-through pharmacy. 

Town residents will not get an opportunity in the future to vote on the specifics for this project.  If this zoning change is approved, town residents will only be able to make comments at a future Planning Board Public Hearing but will not be able to vote yes or no on the specific project.

Here is the warrant article that town residents will be voting on at Tuesday's meeting:

To see if the Town will vote to change the zoning district in which the land described in this article is located from the Residence A District to the Business District, or take any other action relative thereto:

Beginning at a point at the northwest intersection of the existing 20’-0” easement with the property line of Parcel 2 as previously described by a curve to the left having a radius of two hundred eighty-six and 82/100 (286.82) feet, thence EASTERLY on other land now or formerly of Daniel E. Burbank, Jr., et al, eighty and 55/100 (80.55) feet; thence NORTHEASTERLY on land now or formerly of Daniel E. Burbank, Jr., et al, one hundred thirty-one and 90/100 (131.90) feet to land of The First Church of Christ Scientist; thence SOUTHERLY on said land of The First Church of Christ Scientist three hundred and 03/100 (300.03) feet to Williams Street; thence SOUTHWESTERLY on said Williams Street one hundred thirty-six and 16/100 (136.16) feet; thence SOUTHWESTERLY on said Williams Street and by a curve to the right having a radius of five hundred eighty-six and 82/100 (586.82) feet, one hundred sixty-four and 81/100 (164.81) feet to the southeasterly corner of the first parcel of land herein described; thence NORTHERLY on said first parcel of land herein described, three hundred and 3/100 (300.03) feet to a point of beginning. Consisting of 79,230 square feet (1.819 acres).

The property is now zoned residential; the shops would like to expand. Currently, business use is not allowed in a residential zone. A zone change to business is needed to expand.  This article requires a two-thirds vote.

If this zoning change is approved, Grove Property will then move forward with detailed design work followed by a Planning Board "site and design" review.  During this review, the Planning Board will make specific recommendations for changes in the design and/or stipulations before they grant approval and issue a building permit.  If the Planning Board wants to see specific design changes, Grove Properties can either accept them or take the town to court for mediation of the differences.

Another option is that Grove Property can simply decide to cancel the project and then sell the now commercially zoned property to a different developer.  Who knows what might happen then.....

Many people are voting YES because they want a drive-through CVS or JCrew.... this is not what is being decided on Tuesday night. 

One Longmeadow Planning Board member- Heather LaPorte at the January 7 Public Hearing stated she was in favor of the zoning change because she liked the idea of a CVS with a drive-through pharmacy window.  Based upon her comments this appeared to be one of the primary reasons that she voted YES to recommend the proposed zoning change.  It turns out that her thinking was not much different from the other Planning Board members based upon their comments.  The Planning Board should have been voting on the proposal to make a zoning change for this property to commercial from residential and its impact on the surrounding area not the merits of the proposed project details.

In a recent letter-to-the-editor Select Board member Alex Grant wanted Grove Property to put their promises in writing.  That is not going to happen.  Grove Property positioned the presentation of this project such that they could offer all sorts of  "benefits" upfront if town residents voted to grant the zoning change.   There is no guarantee that the Grove Property plans as proposed will be implemented.

Come as an informed voter to the Special Town Meeting on Tuesday, February 3 at 7 PM in the Longmeadow High School gymnasium.

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