The Planning Commission held a special meeting to continue their deliberation of Parcel B of the Marketplace redevelopment and the appeal by neighboring Wareham Development.
For a quick recap, the conversation surrounds Parcel B’s Final Development Plan (FDP) that would see the development of an 8-story building that would include 14,000 square feet of retail space, 150,000 square feet of office/lab space, and 565 parking spaces. The FDP was approved by the Commission back in January,
An appeal was submitted to the City Council by Wareham Development in February citing concerns with tower separation from their EmeryStation West property that they expressed would cause issues with wind on the ground level.
After review of the Commission’s original approval of the FDP and the appeal at the March 19th meeting, the City Council voted to remand the issue back to the Planning Commission (Resolution No. 19-29). Council directed the Commission to consider the issues raised and to hold a new public hearing on the project. Accordingly, the Commission’s review of the FDP is limited to the issues raised in the appeal.
At their April 24th meeting, the Planning Commission criticized the lack of time they were given to properly review all of the information that was submitted by the parties leading up to the meeting. After discussion, they decided to continue the discussion at this ‘special’ meeting.
The meeting opened with public comment and Wareham partner Geoff Sears noted that they were unprepared for the Public Hearing because of the short notice. “We’re frankly unprepared because we didn’t see that this noticed as a public meeting.”
The Commission’s discussion was short and unanimous on most points. Commissioner Keller laid out a detailed analysis of Wareham’s letter and why, in his view, the current Parcel B FDP should move forward. The foundation of his argument was an analysis and understanding of the 2008 preliminary development plan (PDP), which was a a major point in Wareham’s letter.
Wareham’s argument was that the current FDP for Parcel B did not meet the requirements of the 2008 PDP, but as Commission Keller highlighted in his prepared comment, the PDP is not set in stone, and by its very nature, is subject to modifications and updates as the redevelopment of a site moves forward and the public is able to comment through the process via such events as Planning Commission meetings.
In terms of specific claims brought by Wareham, including their opinion that Parcel B’s current design would negatively affect the quality of life for those in the City, Keller stated:
“I feel that empty lots, surface parking lots and empty storefronts are serious detriments to our quality of life. The project before us continues the intention of the 2008 PDP while providing our best chance in today’s economy, of supporting existing businesses in the public market while creating the interest, draw, and excitement to attract new retail and food services…I am surprised that Wareham, being the developer that they are, missed these benefits…”
Commissioner Keller continued by laying out the other benefits that the redevelopment have brought, including new bus stops with new bus shelters and new green bike lanes just to name a few. The rest of the Commission expressed agreement with Commission Keller’s conclusions.
Commissioner Hidalgo added his opinion on Wareham’s complaint that the final design could cause major wind issues,
“In terms of wind, the data provided to us [from Wareham] was just essentially percentage points…there was no formal wind study, there was no background data, so I cannot conclude, per the appellant’s letter, that there was an actual significant impact, where as the applicant’s packet had an EIR, it provided wind data.”
In the end, the Commission unanimously re-approved the Parcel B FDP.
Wareham’s only recourse moving forward would be to again appeal the approval or through litigation.
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