By JOHN HOWELL The battle lines have been drawn for nearly 18 months now. On one side is Charles Anderson of PRW Holdings LLC, who plans to purchase Pond Plaza and add a 655-unit self-storage unit. On the other are homeowners around the pond and
The battle lines have been drawn for nearly 18 months now.
On one side is Charles Anderson of PRW Holdings LLC, who plans to purchase Pond Plaza and add a 655-unit self-storage unit. On the other are homeowners around the pond and Massasoit Terrace who oppose the self-storage unit. They are Save Sand Pond, a recently formed nonprofit organization.
The sides will face off again this coming Monday at a special meeting of the Zoning Board starting at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers in City Hall. The board will consider PRW’s request for a special use permit allowing the storage units and fewer than required parking spaces.
This is not the first skirmish, nor does it promise to be the deciding battle.
In a surprise decision, since the Planning Department recommended approval, the Planning Board denied master plan approval of the development after a heavily attended and heated meeting in September 2017 on the basis that the storage unit would be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan. PRW appealed to the Zoning Board of Review that overturned the Planning Board. Now the Zoning Board will consider the special use permit.
This time, Save Sand Pond has upped the battle. They have retained attorney Marisa Desautel, who feels this is a unique situation as Sand Pond is a kettle pond (spring fed) and environmentally sensitive. She plans to have experts testify on the environmental, zoning as well as fire and safety issues raised by the development.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Desautel called the pond a “quite unique and sensitive resource” and that their expert will be looking carefully at the storm water management of the project as it relates to the pond and requirements of the city.
“Any increased threat to Sand Pond is unacceptable,” she said.
David Bouchard, whose home is on the pond across from the plaza, is one of the leaders of the neighborhood group. In an interview Tuesday he questioned the need for a self-storage facility when there are already eight, and two more approved for construction, within seven miles of Sand Pond.
“Why next to an established neighborhood and next to a pond?” he asked. He said the neighborhood group has remained active, recently holding a successful Funny4Funds comedy night at St. Benedict Church.
In a telephone interview Tuesday, Anderson said his studies show a demand for self-storage units and he expects no problem in fully renting out the facility. In response to environmental concerns, Anderson said the impervious area of the plaza would be reduced from 3.22 acres to 2.47 acres and that there would be on-site retention of storm water except in extreme weather conditions ending the current situation where all storm water drains into the pond. He said he is planning “extensive landscaping” projected to cost $100,000 as “it [the site] is quite barren now.”
Neighbors have also voiced concerns over the hours of operation of the facility and whether it might be used for the storage of hazardous materials.
“That’s one of the big misnomers,” Anderson said of the hours of operations. Contrary to speculation the facility would be open 24 hours a day, Anderson said it would be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. He explained those renting units would drive into the building from a garage door on the south side. Once inside, they would have access to their unit from one of two elevators if not on the ground floor. He said those renting units would have to agree to terms prohibiting the storage of certain materials. In addition, employees would be on the watch.
“They’re pretty much ghost towns,” Anderson said of self-storage units. “They’re perfect neighbors.”
“They’re totally locked and have security systems,” he said. He projected city tax revenues at $134,000.
As for concerns over the size and height of the facility, Anderson said his architect has built a model of the facility and he intends to display how it will look to the board. He is also offering the board two plans for the building, one of a “residential” design and the other more contemporary.
“We’re flexible as to the look of the structure. We want it to look nice,” he said.
Overall, Anderson considers the development as enhancing the area.
“Hopefully, the neighbors have an open mind and see what we see,” he said.
Desautel said an expert on behalf of Save Sand Pond would present an analysis of the zoning ordinance showing the development does not meet the requirements of the comprehensive plan. The analysis will include a report on the general character of the surrounding area.