ZBA greenlights ice rink, awaits condo hearing


Two of the town’s biggest pending development proposals made the rounds through the planning and zoning boards last month, but only one of them — a private ice rink facility — managed to sail through unscathed with the necessary approvals in hand.

Click image to view the August 27 hearing courtesy of CCTV.

Click image to view the August 27 hearing courtesy of CCTV.

Canton Ice House LLC, proposed by three Canton builders on an industrial parcel on North Street, will now advance to the construction phase after the ZBA voted unanimously last Thursday to approve the requested special permits and waivers. Paul Schneiders, attorney for the developers, said his clients are basically “all set to go” and are hoping to break ground on the project sometime this fall with a goal of being open by the start of the 2016-17 hockey season.

“They’ve actually got their steel on order to be delivered,” Schneiders told the zoning board just moments before getting the green light.

Plans for the new rink include two regulation ice surfaces, a large concession area on a mezzanine level, locker rooms for the CHS ice hockey teams, and other modern amenities. The building will be open year-round, seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight, and there will be seating for more than 600 spectators as well as 290 parking spaces.

In addition to securing a 5-0 vote from the Planning Board and a 3-0 vote from the zoning board, Schneiders said his clients also addressed the questions raised by the town’s consulting engineer and added a secondary means of ingress/egress to satisfy traffic flow concerns. And beyond the few technical issues that were raised, the project seemed to enjoy near-universal support from the community, including ringing endorsements from Canton Youth Hockey, the CHS Athletics Department, and the Canton Board of Selectmen, among others.

“I’ve never seen anything go as quickly as this one has with this much public support,” observed ZBA Chairman Paul Carroll at last week’s hearing.

“I think it’s a great project,” added ZBA member John McCourt. “I haven’t heard anything from the community other than it’s great, and I look forward to seeing it up.”

Meanwhile, the other large development up for consideration — a proposed mix of condominiums and commercial space at the former Emerson and Cuming property on Washington Street — will have to wait at least a few more weeks for a resolution after encountering some resistance from the Planning Board.

Current plans call for 8,000 square feet of retail/office space on the ground floor and a total of 58 condominiums on the upper floors, including 22 one-bedroom units and 36 two-bedroom units. The developer, JPM Development LLC, is also planning to add a clock tower to the structure as well as a “green” roof with vegetative cover.

The property in question, which is located between Canton High School and Town Hall, is a veritable zoning nightmare, consisting of two underlying districts (industrial and residential C) and two overlays: zones A and B of the Canton Center Economic Opportunity District, which both encourage mixed uses but have different density limits.

The primary sticking point to date concerns the amount and character of the proposed open space, which is required in CCEOD B but only recommended in CCEOD A. At a July 15 Planning Board hearing, the applicant presented plans that included roughly 27,000 square feet of open space; however, multiple Planning Board members indicated that it was simply not enough and amounted to a “green belt” around a parking lot, rather than the public parkland that is called for in the zoning bylaws.

Returning to the Planning Board a month later, the developer presented a modified set of plans that shifted some of the green space toward the front of the property near Washington Street, yet board members remained unimpressed.

“While it’s a good try, I’m not quite sure it’s there yet,” said Jeremy Comeau, one of the more vocal critics of the design.

“You are asking for a special permit; you are asking for something special,” Comeau later added. “And in order for you to get something special, we need something special in return, and we always ask for open space that’s contiguous and that’s usable as a park for the general public.”

In response to the board’s comments, Schneiders, who is also the attorney for JPM Development, asked for some flexibility given the zoning complexities of the site.

“It is certainly the most fouled up zoning site in the town of Canton … and all of it on a very, very small parcel,” he said. “So recognizing that it is really a fouled up zoning situation, I think we need a little flexibility in order to get to where you want to go and where we want to go, and that is to get you some open space.”

Planning Board member Tori McClain, who echoed Comeau’s criticisms of the open space plan, also expressed concern with the amount of traffic that the project may generate, particularly given its location near Canton Center.

“Nothing that gets built in the one-mile corridor along Washington Street is minimal,” McClain said at the July 15 meeting. “It’s already abysmal — adding three trips makes it even more abysmal, and putting 58 units plus businesses is going to have a significant impact on traffic in Canton.”

After lengthy discussions at both the July and August meetings, the developers agreed to revisit their plans and are scheduled to return to the Planning Board on Wednesday, September 16. They also requested an extension from the ZBA and will next meet with the board on Thursday, September 24.

To view the hearings of the planning and zoning boards, or any other Canton government meeting, tune in to Canton Community TV’s government station or visit www.cantoncommunitytv.pegcentral.com.

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