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Representatives for Cumberland Farms' plans for Commercial Street appear before the Zoning Board on Thursday.
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This schematic shows the actual size and location of the convenience store, pumps and curb cuts.

Cumberland Farms to Consider Adams Site Concerns

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Neighbors and abuttors of the property fill the meeting room at Town Hall. 

ADAMS, Mass. —  After hearing a flood of concerns from the Zoning Board of Appeals and residents, Cumberland Farms representatives asked to extend the public hearing to alter their plans.

The convenience store chain is looking to construct a new Cumberland Farms at Al's Service Center on Commercial Street, just south of its older, smaller location.

At the end of a two-hour meeting Thursday night, Cumberland Farms representative Thomas Reidy thanked the board and the dozens of residents for airing their concerns about the proposed 95 Commercial St. gas station and asked for the opportunity to go back to the drawing board. 

"I think we have heard a lot this evening and I think we have a lot to think about," he said. "I think we really need to take a harder look at the project and take a look at what the neighbors, the board and the town has brought up and talk to Cumberland Farms to see what we can do if anything."

The hearing to review three variance requests was postponed late last month by request of Cumberland Farms. Although there was no business conducted during this May 23 meeting, many residents still attended to voice their concern over the project.

Cumberland Farms is proposing the construction of a gas station and convenience store. The facility would sit on three parcels one of which contains Al's Service Center. Two homes along with the service center would be demolished.

Cumberland Farms needs variances to redevelop the property, create two curb cuts and permission to operate 24 hours in an R-4 zone.

Chairman Peter West started off the discussion by stating the board very likely may not reach a decision that night and that it will try to work toward a compromise with Cumberland Farms.

"My goal would be to hear everything and really look at and it get input and then figure out a compromise that works for everyone," West said. "Will it be perfect? No. Is anything perfect? No ... and I would like to balance that."

West said his first major concern was traffic and asked if Cumberland Farms conducted a traffic study.

Reidy said they have conducted the study but have yet to submit it because typically it would come into play during the Planning Board hearing. He turned the podium over to the company's traffic engineer Paul Furgal.

After running a traffic study against state Department of Transportation numbers, Furgal said the expectation is a minimal increase in traffic and delays. He said the average is nearly 40 extra cars in the morning and 46 additional cars in the afternoon.

West had concerns about a bus stop in the area and general safety with more cars exiting and entering the gas station.

Furgal said crash data is far below state averages for similar traffic situations and the projection is that with the improvements, it will actually be safer with clearer lines of sight exiting on to Commercial Street.

West was concerned about the curb cut on Prospect Street, on the property's north side, with so many residents parking on the side of the road.

"That street is a nightmare today and it is really a one-lane road used as a two-lane," he said. "There are so many cars that are parked on that road you can't get two cars to pass through. This is really bothersome form my perspective."  

Board member Brian Tenczar asked if it was possible to eliminate the curb cut and simply keep traffic out of the neighborhood.

The board was told most of the traffic will be using the Commercial Street entrance and the second entrance is needed for tanker trucks to be able to navigate the parking lot.

Even though West was told that the truck drivers are skilled, and Cumberland Farms has verified that a tractor-trailer could make the turn on to Prospect Street, West said he didn't believe it.

"You can't get a car through there never mind a truck," he said. "I'd like to see it because I can't get my car through there half of the time. That is a real problem."

Reidy said the feedback was helpful and that they can look at other options and possibly return to the board with a different plan.

"We will take a look and I will challenge the engineers and we can see if there is another way," he said. "Cumberland Farms is a convenience store and if they are not safe and convenient they are not going to make any money, so I think they want the layout to work as well as you do."

West went on to say he also has heard concerns about the store being open 24 hours.

"It has been forever a service station of yesteryear and it has turned into a towing business," he said. "Yeah they are open 24 hours, but this is Mayberry and they may not tow in the middle of the night for three or four nights versus a 24-hour gas station."

Reidy said although it would be more profitable to be open 24 hours, Cumberland Farms may be open to limiting hours from 5 a.m. to midnight and putting limitations on night operations.

Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan asked the commission to inquire about the three actual variances Cumberland Farms was requesting and West asked what hardships, besides a loss in profit, Cumberland Farms faced that would satisfy the variances.

Reidy said he agreed 24-hour operation could be considered a matter of financial profit but that without the other two variances, the project simply could not move forward. He added that the service station is currently a non-conforming use and if allowed to go forward the site would be cleaned up and remediated. He said this would be a financial benefit to the town and otherwise the area would likely sit as is.

Tenczar said he felt they were creating their own hardships.

"It seems like you are on the border of self-imposed hardship here," he said. "One of the three sites have the right to be used commercially, the other two do not."

Cesan asked the board to consider if the existing use is obsolete by modern standards and asked them if a modern service station could exist on the property.

"I don't think it can. You need to think about the requirements for zoning setbacks, underground storage tanks, environmental requirements," she said. "I think that is the nature of the hardship. Can today a modern service station be placed on such a small property?"

The board then opened the floor up to the public and residents and abutters aired their concerns about smells, increased traffic, and the loss of views.

The company says it will clean up and improve the corner lot now occupied by a service center; neighbors are worried about noise, smells, traffic and disturbances. This image is a rendering of what the station might look like. 

Resident Steve Dadak asked that the three parcels be looked at separately and cited the town's zoning bylaws. He made the case that allowing the use would be illegal in an R-4 district and felt the current non-conforming use did not qualify.

"Anything besides a no vote will set a precedent that they don't need to follow zoning law," he said. "It is clearly an illegal use of an R-4 district. A couple illegal parked cars in an R-4 district does not allow them to undermine our zoning laws and turning it into a 24-hour gas station will be a great detriment to the public good."

Resident and tractor-trailer driver Wayne Piaggi had more specific concerns about how the big trucks will traverse the tight neighborhood.

"This is a logistical nightmare ... it is going to be quite a show," he said. "I drive in Manhattan and a location like this -- we are going to think about it when we leave in the morning just because it is going to be a headache."

Resident Dave Roberts said his property value is slated to decrease 40 percent if the Cumberland Farms is built and he had concerns about garbage and crime.

The only voice in favor of the new facility was James Leitch, who lives next to the current Cumberland Farms. He said when a truck delivers gas, traffic needs to be stopped. He added the curb is cut along the entirety of that property and that gas station is even closer to a school.

"To me, this is a thousand times better than what we currently have, and I think if they are talking about the negative the negative is 100-fold down the street," he said. "To have this would eliminate these problems."

The board will reconvene later this month on July 24.

Tags: ZBA,   cumberland farms,   

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