An illustration of what the convenience store will look like.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday approved plans for a 5,800-square-foot Cumberland Farms with eight pumps on Ashland Street.
The approval paves the way for the city to finalize the purchase-and-sales agreement with Cumberland Farms for the one-acre parcel that was the City Yard for more than a century.
Cumberland Farms last October offered $575,000 for the Ashland Street property, one of six the city put up for sale at the time. The offer was $100,000 more than the appraisal. The Department of Public Works moved out the older complex last year and into the former anodizing plant the city purchased at Hodges Cross Road.
Representatives for Cumberland Farms presented the plans on Monday night. In addition to the convenience store and four pumping stations with two pumps each, the plans include 30 parking spaces, exterior seating for about a dozen, 6-foot vinyl fencing on the north and south ends to provide screening for the adjacent residential neighbors, and a lighting plan designed to highlight where needed — the pumps and walkways — without spilling over.
The store will also have three 30-foot curb cuts and the developer is proposing a crosswalk at Blackinton Street.
The project is expected to generate about 100 more trips a day during the peak morning and afternoon hours.
Erin Fredette of McMahon Associates said the traffic impact study had looked at Blackinton, Porter and Ashland traffic as well as considering further projects along that corridor and then worked to find the worst-case scenario. The level of service of "C" was typically considered acceptable, she said.
When asked if the traffic study considered the closing of the current Cumberland's, Fredette said it did not.
"We didn't take any credit for other stores closing ... even with not taking that, we find the numbers acceptable," she said, adding that the college also was in session when the study was done. The store was likely to have a "negligible impact on traffic."
The potential for customers to block the entrances waiting for pumps was a concern along with traffic. Planner Lisa Blackmer said backups have been a problem at the Cumberland Farms on the Mohawk Trail. "It just seems to get really congested," she said.
James Bernadino of Bohler Engineering said the Ashland Street facility will be configured differently and will have "double dives," or two fueling stations on each pump. There will also be more room to move to another pump if the gas tank is on a different side or there's a line.
"There's adequate area to circumnavigate the site to get to another pump ... they will not have internal conflicts because of that," he said. "We do have area for storage for addition queuing."
However, Bernadino did not expect lines to be a problem. "Cumberland Farms doesn't want their customers to wait, they want them in and out and into the convenience store," he said.
He also said the company is working with the Berkshire Scenic Railway on moving water and electrical utilities that now run through the old Department of Public Works to the rail line. Bernadino believed that they are a close to an agreement that also will give the railway access to the new Cumberland Farms.
James Bernadino explains the layout of the project.
"We are going to be giving them relocated services and a sidewalk with a gated access to the property under the control of the railway," he said. "We believe our neighbor to the west is going to be a good neighbor."
The project will also have a more advanced stormwater drainage system designed to create less flow and higher-quality water treatment.
"We have developed a comprehensive stormwater system," said James Bernadino of Bohler Engineering. "We are reducing the impervious substrate by almost a quarter of an acre. ... we've implemented a series of catch basins to remove sediment before it's discharged to an existing drainage connection."
Attorney Thomas Reidy, of Bacon Wilson Attorneys at Law in Westfield, representing Cumberland, assured the board and two Ashland Street neighbors that the older store would be decommissioned, the tanks removed and issues addressed.
"They generally tend to like to divest themselves," he said although it was possible the site could be leased to a non-competitor — which would mean no gas station or convenience store.
"I know what Gibbs did when they left the community," said Chairman Michael Leary. "I trust Cumberland Farms will be a more responsible owner."
Gibbs had removed all traces of its gas station on State Road but then put a fence up around the property and let it go wild.
The old City Yard will also be cleaned up. Bernadino said a comprehensive assessment has been completed for the property.
"We have a very vast documentation of what's on the site," he said and that any remediation would be addressed during construction.
The city's agreement with Cumberland Farms is that it will share 50 percent of any cleanup costs up to $287,500, or half the purchase price. Mayor Thomas Bernard last week said he was aware the report had been completed but not what was in it. He expected talks with Cumberland Farms to begin once it received its special permit.
The Planning Board unanimously approved the plans with the condition that it mute audio at its pumps except to communicate with customers between 9 p.m. and 6 p.m. Commissioner Paul Senecal had raised that issue as a possible annoyance in the residential area.
The board also approved two Berkshire Yoga Center and Movement Matters to operate at 60 Roberts Ave., the Norad Mill; and continued applications for At Home LLC at 60 Roberts Ave. because the owner was not there and for Black Loom, the restaurant planned in conjunction with the Tourists hotel, until a parking plan could be submitted. The board also swiftly approved signs for the new park at River and Marshal and A-OK Barbecue.
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