TreeTop relocation plan zips through town boards

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TreeTop Adventures — the Canton-based outdoor zip-line park that has delighted patrons but rankled many of its closest neighbors — has been given the chance to start anew after the town’s zoning board voted unanimously last week to approve the park’s relocation plans.

A young climber traverses a course at TreeTop Adventures. (Michelle Stark photo)

A young climber traverses a course at TreeTop Adventures. (Michelle Stark photo)

With the approval, which includes an affirmative vote for the site plan as well as special permits for a recreational use, signage, and use of an office trailer, the park has now been cleared to move from its current location off Ward Well Road to the main campus of the Irish Cultural Centre at 200 New Boston Drive — a distance of several hundred feet.

The original site was also on land owned by the ICC but was later found to be improperly zoned and the park was ordered to cease operations. Rather than press on with an appeal, TreeTop owners Topher and Molly Kerr elected instead to redesign and reconstruct the park on a new site further away from the affected neighbors. Their goal in doing so was to minimize or eliminate entirely the impacts to the abutters while remaining in Canton on a site that they believe is ideal for a ropes course/zipline use.

In an email following the recent ZBA decision, Molly Kerr said that they are thrilled to be staying in Canton on the ICC campus. “It’s been a great location for us and is a place where families come to have fun,” she said. “We look forward to welcoming our climbers back to TreeTop this spring, and will be adding some great new elements and more zip-lines for our 2018 season.”

The new park will utilize some of the same design elements and offer the same number of trails as the original course. However, instead of being bunched together in a “nest” formation, Topher said the new park will be more spread out and designed around three different “pods.” There will also be longer and more zip-lines, including some that will travel over the main ICC parking lot.

For both the Kerrs and the ICC leadership, a newly built park also means a rare second chance to make a good first impression — and the response thus far from town officials has been overwhelmingly positive.

ZBA member Greg Pando, who served as chairman for TreeTop’s site plan review, was particularly effusive in his praise for the applicants during last week’s hearing, noting that he was pleased with the new location as well as the level of detail provided by the Kerrs and their team of experts. Even the zoning issues with the original park, Pando said, were a case of “bad things happening to good people.” (Many residents, including those most affected by the original park, blame the Kerrs’ previous engineer, former Canton conservation agent Robert Murphy, for submitting incomplete plans while others fault the town officials for a lack of oversight.)

With regard to the latest proposal, Pando said the applicants clearly did their homework and he expressed full confidence that TreeTop would “continue to be a good partner to the Canton community.”

“It’s very rare when you’re allowed a mulligan and you hit a hole-in-one,” he said, “but from my standpoint and professional opinion, in terms of the work that has been put in and the studies and research and the compliance with the performance standards as well as the quality of the engineering submission, they are absolutely of the highest quality. So from my standpoint I’m very happy to support the current iteration.”

ZBA member John McCourt, who had previously expressed concerns with the original park’s location and had spoken up on behalf of the affected neighbors, also voiced his support for the new proposal. “I’ve been up to this area personally and walked around and this is quite an improvement and it has been presented very well,” he said. “Last Friday the ICC and TreeTop did a presentation [for the neighbors]. It was a small crew there, but there were abutters, there were concerned people, and I believe most or all of the questions … were answered quite well and I believe this is definitely going in the right direction.”

In addition to the favorable response from the ZBA, the latest proposal also received unanimous approval from the Conservation Commission as well as a unanimous recommendation from the Planning Board. The ConCom, which issued an order of conditions, was impressed with the applicant’s ability to preserve the surrounding wetlands. The Planning Board did attach a few conditions to its approval and the applicant satisfied each of them, including completion of a lighting analysis, addition of signage to direct truck traffic away from the park and warn motorists of zip-lines overhead, and an agreement to install permanent wiring within a reasonable timeframe so as not to rely on generators on a permanent basis.

At last week’s ZBA hearing, the reaction from the residents who spoke about the project were also generally positive, with a few of the neighbors specifically praising Topher and Molly Kerr as responsible and committed business owners.

One resident, Tom Lyman of Pleasant Street, did voice some concern about the hours of operation and requested that the board implement a firm closing time of 7 or 7:30 p.m. during the summer months.

The board, however, elected to approve the hours of operation as proposed, which calls for 9:30 p.m. closing times on Fridays and Saturdays during June, July and August. Pando said those times seemed reasonable; however, the board indicated as part of its approval that it reserved the right to scale back the hours of operation if necessary. “If it proves there are issues I know the Kerrs are good neighbors in the town and would be willing to make accommodations,” said Pando.

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avatar Posted by on Jan 27 2018. Filed under News, Town Government. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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