The proposed layout of the fire station slated for Main Street near Coombs Avenue in Greenfield. Screenshot
The future fire station lot on Main Street near Coombs Avenue in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ
GREENFIELD — The Zoning Board of Appeals has approved the site plan and a special permit, with conditions, for the new fire station, slated to be built on Main Street near Coombs Avenue.
Those conditions include planting a low-growing green shrubbery along the parking area on the Coombs Avenue side of the development; adding a barrier around the concrete transformer pad (or a transformer that offers significant sound reduction); and that the project meet all city and state building requirements. Board members also OK’d the sewer connection plans, while acknowledging receipt of a memo submitted by Engineering Superintendent Alan Twarog.
The special permit, which allows for a variance that would reduce the 8-foot buffer requirement along Coombs Avenue and the open space requirement of 15% for new development, was unanimously approved by the ZBA Wednesday night. With Fire Station Building Committee members David Singer and Jim Winn recusing themselves due to conflicts of interest, the permit required support from the remaining four sitting board members.
The overall $17 million budget for the fire station includes $2 million for the construction of the temporary fire station on Hope Street, in addition to construction for the new station, professional fees and contingency funds. The temporary fire station, which the department moved into in September, is expected to be used for two years.
Fire Station Building Committee members have said the goal is for the bid package to be sent out by July 1, in hopes of keeping with a contract award date of Aug. 15 and construction start in September.
Speaking on behalf of the city, Katrina Pacheco of Pacheco Ross Architects and Jon Allard of Fuss & O’Neill presented the plans for the new fire station, noting their request for a variance.
“Most of the landscape, you’ll see, is at the north end of the building, where we separate the facade with some plantings, and along the visitor’s parking side as well,” Allard said, pointing to the 15 parking spaces for visitors/employees on the east side of the building, which can be accessed from Main Street.
Allard explained that while there is a landscape buffer between the employee parking and Coombs Avenue, it is currently less than one foot. In that parking lot, there are seven designated employee spaces.
“It is, without question, kind of a tight site,” ZBA Chair Mark Maloney commented.
At one point, Maloney suggested the potential to increase the open space by decreasing the number of parking spaces. Fire Chief Robert Strahan, however, said the department “cannot afford” to lose the spaces designated both for employees and visitors, given that heavy staffing days would require them.
ZBA member Peter Wozniak emphasized that if the extent of parking is necessary, there should be signs to ensure whoever parks in those spaces is there for department business.
He also expressed concern for the hum, or potential noise, that might come from the transformer pad proposed on the Coombs Avenue side of the building, close to residences.
“There ought to be something done to mitigate whatever noise comes from that transformer, because it doesn’t appear all that far from the residence,” he said.
Other discussion focused on the navigation of engines and other department vehicles to and from the building, stormwater drainage plans and the two proposed sewer lines. In his correspondence, Twarog noted that one sewer line per building is typical and would be recommended unless absolutely necessary.
“They are primarily laid out in such a fashion because of the bays,” responded Pacheco.
One of the lines, she explained, includes an oil and water separator, capturing any oil and other contamination on site, while the other is designated primarily for sanitary waste from the office areas and bunk areas. Maloney asked if there is any way to accommodate the Department of Public Works’ note that one sewage line is standard.
“I think it would not be cost-effective to combine them,” Pacheco said, adding that it would be involve a “complex feat” to do so.
Maloney emphasized the significance of the board granting a variance, noting in his tenure on the ZBA, only one had ever been granted.
“Variances in Massachusetts are hard to come by,” he said. “I think we’re going to be pretty flexible, because I think we know we need to have an actual fire station and have our Fire Department in an actual building and get them out of the tents. I think whatever conditions the board is inclined to impose … I’m sure you will all happily smile and comply with it.”
No members of the public commented during the meeting’s public hearing portion.
“I know it’s been a long session, but it’s important for the project,” Pacheco told members before they began their deliberation after nearly two hours of discussion. “I appreciate the offers to help us mitigate what we’re requesting.”
Ultimately, all four members voted in support of the variance with conditions.
Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne
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