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Westfield Planning Board Report, Week 3/10-3/16

by Anna Murray, 97Mar20

On Tuesday evening the Westfield Planning Board convened for its regularly scheduled meeting. The first order of business was not an agenda item, but a review of Westfield streets under consideration for partial or total vacation. Charles H. Brandt, town attorney, presented the following streets for proposed vacation: Clarence Street, Whittier Avenue, Roosevelt Street, Codding Road and Midvale Way. Later he briefly explained the particulars regarding each applicants request for vacation. Applicants making vacation requests are, primarily, hoping to do construction on their adjacent properties. Adding a portion to their lots would bring the property size into conformance with the town Land Ordinance.

"The ultimate decision as whether or not these streets will be vacated will be made by the Town Council at its March 25th meeting," explained acting Chairman Robert L.. Newell. "Mr. Brandt is asking the Planning Board, in light of its planning expertise, to advise the town council of its recommendation as to whether or not the proposed vacations are consistent with the town's master plan."

Many of the audience members were citizens concerned by the proposed Clarence Street subdivision. The application to subdivide a single lot and combine it with the vacated portion of Clarence Street creating four new lots, was the last scheduled item on the agenda.

One audience member asked if the portion of Clarence Street proposed for vacation was protected by its possible status as a wetland. Town engineer and Board Secretary Kenneth B. Marsh, had earlier excused himself from deliberations, however he did address the wetland issue. "There is no official designation of Clarence Street as a wetland," stated Mr. Marsh. "There are however, indications that wetlands might be present."

Board member Gary T. Hall suggested that the board delay recommendation on the Clarence Street vacation until further investigation was done on its status as a wetland. Further the expense of such an investigation was deemed to be the responsibility of the applicant. The actual application for the Clarence Street subdivision was scheduled to be carried over to the April 7th meeting.

The board also chose to delay a recommendation on Whittier Avenue until hearing the application for subdivision. Similarly, this application will be carried over to the April 7th meeting. The board did recommend the vacation of all or portions of Codding Road, Midvale Way and Roosevelt Street.

The first application to come before the board was put forth by Drs. Ian and Paul Langer DDS. of ]40 St. Paul Street. The applicants were seeking site plan approval changing the use of the premises from residential to offices. The applicants also sought variances for pre-existing, non-conforming conditions involving side-yard setback, lot size, frontage and improvements coverage.

The smaller lot size poses problems specific to the requirements put forth by the American Disabilities Act. Presenting the plans for the alterations to the Langer offices was Ms. Barbara Vincentson, architect for the applicants. Ms. Vincentson's plans included a covered lift which would transport handicapped individuals from the driveway to the primary entrance located at the front of the building.

The street, while zoned for professional user still maintains a distinctly residential character. (currently there are five residential homes on St. Paul Street and six professional buildings with residences. Ms. Vincentson stated throughout her testimony that all plans and alterations were consistent with the neighborhood, keeping its residential integrity intact.

Richard Elbert of St. Paul Street, had concerns with the proposed plans. The applicants plan to have the front porch enclosed by glass and replace the single door at the front entrance with double doors. "An open porch is consistent with the other buildings in the neighborhood. No other property has double doors at the primary entrance," observed Mr. Elbert. "further, one of the 30 foot sycamore trees in the front of the property is to be cut down. I think we should save that tree. Lastly, the proposed outside lighting will cause glare into residents homes after dark. I would hope this would somehow be addressed."

Ms. Vincentson stated that in redoing the driveway the root system of the tree would be so severely damaged that it would inevitably die. However. she noted, her client would be willing to plant a similar, albeit less mature, tree.

The board granted site approval and all variances to the applicant with the following conditions: a similar tree, 8 to 10 leer in stature, replace the felled sycamore; the front door be changed from double to single; a curb cut be placed in the front drive to aid the handicapped; appropriate shrubbery be planted to shield the handicap lift from view; and a timer be placed on the exterior lighting system with lights to be shut oft after 9 p.m.

The board granted site approval and variances to the Journeyman Title Agency Inc., of 918 South Avenue. The applicant also sought a waiver for the curbing, striping and paving of the driveway required by the town Land Use Ordinance. The applicant stated that at the current time paving the driveway would cause undo hardship. Approvals of site plan, variances and waivers were granted with the condition the driveway be paved curbed and striped within a time period not to exceed two years.

Also carried over to the April 7th meeting were the following applications: Kelley and Lawson, minor subdivision Edgar Road; and the estate of Roasalie Pleninger, minor subdivision 315 Jefferson Avenue.

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