Adams Zoning Board Grants Final Cumberland Farms Continuance
ADAMS, Mass. — The Zoning Board of Appeals has granted Cumberland Farms its final continuance and demanded that the company's representatives attend its October meeting.
A fed-up Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously voted Tuesday to hold a final hearing with Cumberland Farms on Oct. 2 even though the gas station asked for a Dec. 11 extension.
"I think it is a clear message," Chairman Peter West said. "We are willing to talk, but enough is enough. You need to be here."
Cumberland Farms wants to demolish Al's Service Center at 95 Commercial St. as well as two other structures, all owned by Carol Ostrowski, and build a gas station/convenience store just south of its older location that will be closed.
The Zoning Board of Appeals has held multiple meetings on the subject; however, Cumberland Farms most recently attended a June meeting where it met stiff resistance from abutters and questions from the board.
Cumberland Farms asked for an extension to consider these concerns in July and asked for another extension to Aug. 14. The company wrote to the ZBA that it wanted to hold a community meeting with the neighbors.
However, according to the few neighbors present at Tuesday's meeting, this community forum never happened.
Abutter Steve Dadak said he did receive a call from an outside firm a few weeks ago and was asked questions about the project. He said the person was reluctant to meet with the neighbors.
Dadak said he laid out the neighbors' concerns that he said are steadfast.
"I would like to think that I am trying to protect their property values and the character of the neighborhood," he said. "I am watching my neighbors try to sell their homes for less than what they paid for them … and this delay has already caused two tenants to move out and a sale to collapse."
He added that he believes Cumberland Farms is trying to run the clock out and wear down the "resolve of the neighborhood."
The board was especially irritated that Cumberland Farms never held the community meeting for which the continuance was given.
"This guy not showing up tells me that he didn't feel like driving over the mountain tonight and I am not happy that they never reached out to set up a public meeting," West said. "It is not difficult to do, and they have made no effort."
The board members felt as though Cumberland Farms was wasting the neighborhood's time, the town's time and their own.
"We scheduled an appointment for today and that leaves other petitioners with their requests put off to another date," board member Francie Anne Riley said. "It annoys me, and I understand things are still in flux … but if they are still going to speak with interested parties perhaps we should wait until they do this."
West agreed and said he even scheduled a trip around Tuesday's meeting.
The board toyed with the idea of not approving the extension which would, in essence, deny the three variances Cumberland Farms is seeking.
This would mean Cumberland Farms could not apply for this project for two years. It could submit a different application or plan or seek out a new location.
Building Commissioner Don Torrico advised against this and said the applicant needs to be present to be asked to formally withdraw the application without prejudice.
"I don't want the board to do something that could come back and get them in trouble," he said.
West felt as though the letter stood in as the formal request and was enough.
"I guess I can't understand why counsel isn't here. Quite frankly this is a formal request, so I see this as counsel standing here," he said. "Based on that fact I think we can make our decision."
The commission also briefly dove into its own bylaws but could not find anything on repetitive requests for continuances.
Without town counsel present, which West said the town promised the board, the board wanted to stay away from its own legal interpretations.
The board agreed that the only option was to allow a continuance but that the requested December date was too far out and unfair to the neighbors.
"People are being asked to stand still … and I feel that the decision we make will not only affect our time but the people waiting to move forward with their lives," Riley said.
The board agreed to extend the date to early October but specifically dictated in the motion that it would be a final hearing and that representation was required.
Dadak said no matter what date the board picked the neighborhood would be there.
"I have been to every meeting and the neighbors have taken their time to come to these meetings," he said. "We will be at every meeting and we have given up vacation and time with our families because this is important."
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