Planning Board updates long range planning agenda

By Douglas McCulloch | Nov 20, 2017

After receiving an earful from residents, the Planning Board has decided to not move forward with a rezoning proposal in Padanaram that would have affected the Old Southworth Library.

At the November 20 Planning Board meeting, Town Planner John Hansen revealed that his office has received a number of written correspondence and phone calls after pitching the idea to residents in Padanaram. The proposal involved rezoning two properties in Padanaram into the village business district, including the Old Southworth Library at 404 Elm Street.

The Select Board asked the Planning Board to look into the idea of rezoning the property to increase the options for the potential reuse of the library after giving the Save Old Southworth group more time to fully develop their proposal. The Select Board set a March 2018 deadline for the group amid concerns that an arts center the group pitched would not fit into the residential zoning of the building.

Save Old Soutworth is a non-profit organization pitching an arts center for the vacant building. The group submitted a response to a request for proposals in October, but members felt they did not have enough time to submit a fully developed plan and work out zoning issues.

Hansen said the biggest issue raised in correspondence he received was the lack of parking around the Old Southworth Library.

“I don’t disagree with [the parking issue], but two more lots to include the Southworth Library... that building is going to take quite a bit of work to get tuned up,” said member Joseph Toomey. “We should give Southworth Library as much latitude on uses as possible.”

Member Lorri-Ann Miller noted she was in favor of the change, but given the feedback received she thinks it could be a hard sell at Town Meeting.

Hansen said that a use variance is another option that could move a reuse project that doesn't fit with the current zoning forward if the board wanted to allow limited commercial use of the Old Southworth Library once the town finds a lessee.

“The use variance may be a valuable tool here,” said Chair Joel Avila.

A proposal to change the zoning of the Dartmouth Police Department’s current Russells Mills Road headquarters will head to a public hearing at a later date, as Hansen said information was sent to neighbors in the area and no objections were raised.

The proposal involves extending the neighborhood business district, which currently runs on the south side of Russells Mills Road from Slocum Road to Elm Street, to include five additional properties including the 249 Russells Mills Road police station.

The police department will build a new headquarters building on Tucker Road, and will vacate the existing two acre Russells Mills Road site once the project is complete.

The idea was first pitched by the Select Board several months ago. In a letter to the Planning Board, Town Administrator David Cressman explained that the idea was to increase the land value and developers' appetite for covering demolition costs of the old building with the zoning change and a condominium use.

The board also weighed in on its long range plan of increasing senior housing options by allowing senior housing projects in the town’s residential zoning districts by special permit.

The board came up with several bullet points to pass along to a newly formed senior citizens’ steering committee for feedback, including density limits, open space requirements, a minimum age of 62 years old, and limits on unit styles to single-family, duplexes, and triplexes.

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