No Decision Yet on Golden Pond Appeal

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Town Hall Room 215 was filled on Wednesday night as the Board of Appeals reviewed a number of requests for relief from town by-laws. But, the January 26th meeting was dominated by a request from the Golden Pond Residential Care Corporation (GPRCC) to overturn a Planning Board site plan review decision.

The Planning Board previously approved an expansion plan for Golden Pond, but stipulated that they must add an east bound turning lane in front of the facility. The mandate included construction of a 600' travel lane on the east bound road shoulder. The travel lane would accommodate traffic not turning into the facility. GPRCC is requesting a removal of the condition.

In a 90 minute presentation, attorney Wayne Davies argued for GPRCC, saying the condition would cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Davies went into great detail to validate his assertion that the burden of proof for requiring the condition lies with the town and not with GPRCC. Davies also argued that the condition violated the by-law standard to which these types of decisions are made. The standard, Davies explained, permits the Planning Board to impose the condition if it finds intractable problems with no reasonable solution identified. Davies maintained there were no intractable problems to resolve when the Planning Board imposed the condition. As a result of not meeting the standard, Davies argued that the Planning Board does not have the discretionary power to deny approval.

In addition to not meeting the standard criteria for approval, Davies argued that the condition was not necessary in the first place. The volume of east bound traffic making a left turn in to the Golden Pond facility did not warrant the construction of the third lane. Citing a report done by a traffic study firm, Davies said during peak rush hours only 24 cars on average turn left into Golden Pond, and traffic backups behind the 24 turning vehicles was acceptable.

Citing procedural issues, the attorney questioned the validity of the decision coming from the Planning Board. The condition should come from a Special Permit and not from a Site Plan Review.

Davies continued to reiterate the allegation of improper application of standards and criteria. He also referenced what he called flawed studies that suggested the third lane would help maintain both vehicular and pedestrian safety.

Bringing his argument outside the scope of Golden Pond, Davies said the condition was blatantly discriminatory. He asked if the newly constructed dry cleaning establishment across the street from Golden Pond had to put in a turning lane lane for their customers.

"No," said Davies, "nor did any other business on West Main Street".

Davies also suggested that the construction of the turning lane was a town problem, not a Golden Pond problem.

Davies did acquiesce on one other condition imposed by the Planning Board. He said GPRCC would install a sidewalk in front of Golden Pond as requested. Calling it “the sidewalk to nowhere”, Davies said their previous request to strike the requirement would be removed.

Speaking for the Planning Board, Chairman Joe Markey refuted many of Davies allegations. Markey stated the Planning Board had approved the site plan for the expansion project, with conditions. The site plan was never denied or not approved.

In answer to the comments that the town by-laws were incorrect or in some way flawed, Markey responded that the State Attorney Generals office had reviewed and approved the by-laws. Markey also said that the traffic study, as interpreted by the Planning Board, concluded that the turning lane should be constructed.

Markey continued to address the issues presented by Davies until the meeting was closed due to the late hour. The discussion will be reopened at next week's session.