3. Old Business
a) Tropic Star Development LLC
75, 79, 70R, 81, and 83 Storey Avenue
Major Site Plan Review
Continued from September 17, 2014
Wayne Morrill, engineer, Jones Beach Engineers, 85 Portsmouth Avenue, Stratham, NH
Jeff Highland, Ironwood Design Group, 28 Front Street, Exeter, NH
Kevin Patton, senior associate, BKA Architects, Inc., 142 Crescent Street, Brockton, MA
Jeffrey Roelofs, Attorney, 30 Green Street, Newburyport, said on September 17th he was still
waiting for some peer review comments. A September 23rd ZBA hearing approved a special use
permit for relocating the gas station and the front setback. Revised plans were submitted
September 24th. Some previous submittals were outlined in Attorney Roelofs letter, most of
which were architectural revisions as discussed for the pharmacy and convenience store, and a
fence detail. A revised utility plan the Planning Office received on September 26th from Jones
and Beach Engineers, 85 Portsmouth Avenue, Stratham, NH, along with a lighting plan, were a
direct result of Newburyport Water and Sewer comments. Attorney Roelofs had met with
officials to talk through their comments. Richard Kaplan, Trustee of Plaza Realty Development
Trust, 29-35 Storey Avenue, reached out to Scott Mitchell, owner of Tropic Star LLC and they
worked out a traffic agreement.
Jeffrey Dirks, traffic engineer, Vanasse & Associates, 10 New England Business Center,
Andover, said a meeting with traffic engineers resulted in significant improvements to vehicle
queuing that burdened the Low Street - Storey Avenue intersection. A right turn only lane
coming up Low Street to Storey Avenue was added to bring the queue closer to the intersection
to get more cars through during light changes and reduce blocking at the Low Street driveway.
New, state-of-the-art equipment would replace everything at the signalized intersection, with
timing and phasing improvements in all seven interconnected signals along the corridor from
Market Basket to the fire station. Design plans would be delivered to the City and Mr. Kaplan to
provide an opportunity to comment in advance of submission to MA DOT.
Attorney Roelofs expected any decision by the board to reference the September 30th letter from
Mr. Dirks. Comments from the DPS arrived September 29th and Jones and Beach Engineers
responded today. He wished they’d arrived earlier in the process; some minor revisions resulted
from the comments. The main comment was to prohibit a left turn out from the Storey Avenue
access drive, an issue that Attorney Roelofs does not consider cause for concern. MA DOT
would review the same issue. The post-construction monitoring program would ensure
expectations were met (see #3 in the letter). Peer review comments that arrived this afternoon
proposed minor housekeeping revisions that would be addressed in the administrative review
process. Updated plans would be provided to the Planning Office and board, but should not stop
a vote tonight.
Chairman McCarthy asked for board comments. Members said it was DPS who noted there were
28 spaces more than mandated for the pharmacy and the convenience store parking. Removing
extra spaces would be an aesthetic upgrade that provided for more infiltration. Attorney Roelofs
thought he was past site layout issues and said the number of spaces proposed was appropriate,
the landscaping was extensive and overcompensated, in that it was more than Panera had done,
and the plan met stormwater management standards. Chairman McCarthy said he read through
most of the stormwater management report. There was a large amount of infiltration chambers at
the back of the site. Christiansen & Sergi (CSI) comments were minor regarding stormwater.
Chairman The DPS felt strongly about vehicles making a left hand turn out of the pharmacy onto
Storey Avenue. Members who had similar concerns recommended keeping the plan as is to see
what post-construction monitoring would reveal. The traffic had been thoroughly addressed.
Chairman McCarthy was grateful for the productive meeting between the teams of traffic
engineers – Tropic Star and Kaplan.
Public comment opened.
Elaine Andrew Lewis, 65 Clipper Way, received confirmation that a third lane would be added
to Low Street. She commented on the increased accumulation of soot on snow banks. What was
the purpose of the serrated island strip in front of Dunkin Donuts that would restrict vehicular
movement? Mr. Dirks said he did not want to restrict access to Woodman Way. If modifications
were needed, they would be done before the plan went to MA DOT. The serrated strip
discouraged turns into Dunkin Donuts from Storey Avenue, forcing cars to use the traffic signal
and turn onto Woodman Way. Ms. Lewis said cars would drive over it if they wanted to and she
was against the island. Bank customers entered Woodman Way as well.
Larry Guinta, 39 Crow Lane and Ward 5 City Councilor, supported the DPS concerns about the
left hand turn out onto Storey Avenue. Historical knowledge of the intersection substantiated the
left-hand turnouts in that location were dangerous. If the plan were okayed today, would MA
DOT perform a safety survey on the left hand turn? Planning Director Port said it could be
performed by the city as well. Anthony Komornick, transportation program manager, Merrimack
Valley Planning Commission (MVPC), said MA DOT would look at existing data and projected
movements coming out of the driveway to make their decision, and ongoing monitoring would
determine if traffic volume coming out was larger than projected. MA DOT would not perform a
study after their approval but analysis by the applicant would identify crash issues quickly.
Attorney Roelofs said the project would not happen without a highway access permit from MA
DOT who would look at the traffic comprehensively in part because of the number of changes in
curb cuts. Their review would be extensive and the developer was committed to protocols for
post-construction monitoring. He did not think what Councilor Guinta worried about was a
concern. Chairman McCarthy said the board’s decision would reference the suggested
improvements and monitoring. Planning Board
Rick Taintor, 10 Dexter Street, said his concerns were that the corner focus was the drive
through window where there was little or no landscaping between sidewalk and building, almost
nothing in the way of complete streets, and pressure on the board to make a decision tonight. He
preferred the board take more time. Other concerns were about the bike lane on Storey Avenue,
the absence of a bike lane on the opposite side of the street, that landscaping and lighting plans
did not line up given that lights were on top of trees and some lights seemed to face outward. A
member said landscaping was not permitted in the easement area resulting in the stone wall
instead. Attorney Roelofs said bike lanes around the corner were dropped for the new turning
lane. The state was trying to figure out how to get bike lanes the full length of Storey Avenue,
but that was addressed in front of the property. Mr. Dirks said when there was no striped bike
lane, bicyclists and cars shared the travel way, with bikes using a wide enough shoulder.
Alicia Miller, Clipper Way, was concerned that ‘the fox was guarding the henhouse’ with traffic
monitoring. She had been a car crash victim when a car coming out of the Mobil station struck
her car. Mr. Dirks said the monitoring reports would be submitted to MA DOT, the City, and
MVPC, who would be able to validate the reports as independent reviewers. MA DOT had the
right to come back to the applicant to require corrective measures if they received a letter from
the Chief of Police or a City Councilor stating there were issues. MA DOT would require the
applicant to address any problem about which they were informed.
Public Comment closed.
Chairman McCarthy said information was complete. The late comments from Christiansen &
Sergi, DPS and MVPC contained nothing to suggest the project should not proceed as designed.
The decision’s seven pages listed all the meeting dates and submitted materials and would be
filed at the Registry of Deeds to become a public record. He added language about meeting the
requirements of the Master Plan regarding community character, parking and traffic, health, land
use planning, and open space protection. The decision included waiver language on landscaping
in the front and on the islands and signage details. Building construction drawings should go to
the Planning Office. Attorney Roelofs should return to the Planning Office with any material
changes, but not changes similar to moving a tree two or three inches. Attorney Roelofs said
there would be a lot of minor changes once they began to execute the plan.
Chairman McCarthy said other than temporary construction signage, there should be no signage
posted on either lot and to expect the similar conditions when the signage plan was ready to
review. The applicant had the right to go to the ZBA for signage. Additional language covered
in-ground irrigation, the open space access easement, to notify the Planning Office when they
would meet with MA DOT, that pharmacy windows should be transparent to allow light in, to
implement the transportation improvement plan, including the agreement made with Mr. Kaplan.
Dennis Crimson, Attorney for Mr. Kaplan, said to reference the last revision to the plan of
Chairman McCarthy continued, saying the dormer should have some depth on the top and the
door should have molding and a light in the doorway to resemble a pedestrian, rather than an
industrial, door. He presented pictures for the applicant. The applicant’s answers to DPS
comments were made in the Jones and Beach letter, and MVPC comments did not require Planning Board feedback, but comments from Christiansen & Sergi required a written response. Chairman
McCarthy was not comfortable signing off on the decision for recording at the Registry of Deeds
until Christiansen & Sergi had reviewed the applicant’s written response to CSI’s comments.
Scott Mitchell was asked to submit a final rendering for review by anyone who visits the
Bonnie Sontag made a motion to approve the Major Site Plan Review, waivers as requested, and
notifying CSI in writing. Henry Coo seconded and all members voted in favor.
During the course of discussion and consideration of this application, plan(s), supporting
material(s), department head comments, peer review report(s), planning department comments
and other related documents, all as filed with the planning department as part of this application
and all of which are available in the planning department, were considered.