PR builders eye approvals for new road, bridgeBy Jay Turner
It’s been a slow and steady crawl for the developers of the Plymouth Rubber redevelopment effort following the landmark rezoning of the property nearly two years ago. But the pace of construction may soon quicken considerably with the arrival of warmer weather and the expected completion of another key permitting phase.
As it stands, the developer, Canton Holdings, has already received site plan approval and other necessary permits for “phase one” of the project, which focuses on the center of the 35-acre site and includes the bulk of the 272 proposed residential units along with various amenities and a small commercial component. Bernie Plante of Canton Holdings, who is overseeing the project, said much of the prep work for that phase has been completed and construction on the residential units themselves is slated to begin in about 90 days.
Meanwhile, over the next three weeks, representatives for the developer are scheduled to make stops at the Conservation Commission (April 26), Planning Board (May 3), and Zoning Board of Appeals (May 11) as they look to wrap up “phase two,” which focuses on the public portion of the development — including the Paul Revere Heritage Site and a nine-acre town park — as well as the construction of a steel truss bridge that will allow for access to and from Neponset Street.
As detailed at several earlier hearings on the proposal, the bridge would be necessary in order to reach Neponset Street due to the presence of a manmade channel on the site that was constructed in the 1960s by the Army Corps of Engineers as a flood control measure. Water flows into the property from the East Branch of the Neponset River (Canton River) and then some of that water is diverted into the channel that travels along the southerly and westerly sides of the property into what is known as Factory Pond.
The bridge, which would be 100 feet long and 38 feet wide, would span the diversion channel and be part of the last stretch of a new main road that would travel through the site from Revere to Neponset streets, ending in a new four-way intersection at Norfolk Street. Earlier plans for the development did not include a bridge or connection to Neponset Street, but Canton Holdings agreed to construct one at the request of town officials and it was included as part of the development agreement that was signed by selectmen and widely endorsed by voters at the May 2015 town meeting.
Town Administrator Charlie Aspinwall, who was not employed by the town at the time but has since been briefed on the project, reminded the ConCom of this broad-based support at an April 5 hearing [Click here to view the CCTV coverage of the hearing]. Fire Chief Charles Doody, whose station is located across the street from the property on Revere Street, has also lent his support to the bridge proposal, noting in a letter to ConCom that the new road “would reduce [their] response time to various neighborhoods off Neponset Street” and play a key role in “mitigating fire and medical emergencies.”
Yet it is also clear from both letters and direct testimony that a number of residents, particularly on the Neponset Street side, are adamantly opposed to the bridge and road proposal, citing traffic, public safety, and environmental concerns.
Jackie Langlois, a direct abutter, has been among the most vocal critics of the proposal and did not hold back in her comments on April 5, telling the ConCom that she does not trust the developer to take proper precautions to protect the environment during and after construction. She listed several species that make their home in and along the diversion channel — including red-shouldered hawks, bald eagles, beavers and turtles — and argued that approval of the bridge would “forever change the habitat along the riverbank” and result in the destruction of aquatic life.
Ann MacAdam of Lexington Street, another outspoken critic of the bridge, echoed Langlois’ concerns at the ConCom hearing, and both women have also testified at ZBA hearings about the traffic condition on Neponset Street and the potential worsening of that condition with the construction of a new road and bridge.
Despite the protestations of Langlois, MacAdam and other neighbors whose letters were read into the record, the ConCom ultimately voted 6-1 — with Vice Chairman Don MacAdam, who is Ann’s husband, dissenting — to issue a variance to the developer to construct the bridge within a protected wetland area. The members closed the hearing and are scheduled to vote on an order of conditions at their next meeting on April 26. In the meantime, engineers for Canton Holdings are continuing to respond to comments and questions raised by the Planning Board’s consulting engineer, Tom Houston, and will return to that board on May 3 in hopes of obtaining a favorable recommendation for a site plan. A final decision on the site plan and issuance of a special permit will rest with the ZBA, which is slated to continue its hearing on May 11.
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