Monday, March 21, 2011

Live reporting - Downtown Commercial Zoning workshop

The room is collecting folks, there should be a good gathering tonight for the workshop. Over 20 total in the room thus far.


Bryan Taberner and Beth Dahlstrom leading meeting. Bryan will provide an overview then address an issue at a time to see if consensus can be reached before moving on. Not here to propose any way as the right way. What we come up with is what we determine is to be good for Franklin.

Downtown Proposed DC Zoning 3/21/11

sign bylaw would address areas distinctly, downtown different than the other C1 zoned areas.
zoning district would have its own requirements, there may be common items but it should be easier to change a single item where necessary.
proposed 7 amendments at Nov 17, 2010 meeting
came back in Dec with a phased approach

Phase 1 was proposed with four specific bylaw changes

Downtown is a unique area - Is a new Downtown Commercial Zoning District needed?

Stephen Pisini - raised issue of the proposal leaving out some of the uses that are already present, i.e. MBTA, government buildings, Dean College, etc. and the proposal requirements are rather restrictive to use.

Bryan - let's separate the creation of a downtown district unique and separate from the other proposal requirements. There is funding available for transit oriented development.

Jeff Nutting - one of the motivations of this goes back to the history of the Marini project. There is no mixed used development by right. There are no parking requirements. The uncertainty of  a two year process is inhibiting potential development. Do I like it the way it is? If I were to redevelopment my property, would I be willing to go with a two year process with so much uncertainty?

Announcement of audio recording by Franklin Matters
Round of introductions, many property owners
Calabrese and Halligan from the Planning Board; Pfeffer from Town Council; Roche, Building Commissioner

Franklin putting $7 million plus into improving the downtown area

currently don't have the right to put residential and commercial in the same building, Marini had to get a special permit. Would like to try and make that more easily understood and possible.

Should by-right mixed use development be allowed in Downtown core?

There is a misunderstanding around confirming or non-conforming. The zoning would allow continuation of pre-existing. Everything currently in downtown is allowed and would be allowed. Should there be more gas stations? More is the key word - no, there shouldn't be more. Should the existing ones remain and upgrade as required, yes.


The second presentation with the examples of other downtown design features can be viewed here

DC Presentation Examples 3/21/11


Some folks can not deal with this proposal one item at a time as they are stuck on the full proposal details which are not being addressed at this point. A better facilitator could make the presentation more easily understood.


Downtown is worthy of being a separate district but there should be a more liberal allowance for what can be brought in than suggested.

Revisiting the arguments for the proposal (with specifics still to be determined) rather than eliciting the suggestions or questions from the property owners.

Jeff bringing Bryan back to the task at hand

Clarification on where this stands with the Town Council? The proposal was not officially submitted to the Council. The Council asked for the workshop to be held to gather and build some consensus before bring the proposal back to them.

Dimensional requirements - minimum lot dimension
keeping the current C1 zoning with the one change of depth from zero to 50.

Dimensional requirements - setbacks
possible to use a setback for first floor only to create room to move on the ground

What if one of the property owners rebuilt and put the 5 ft setback on the ground floor? Wouldn't that create some irregular look?

Is it fair to say that we are not meeting ADA and MA building requirements as it exists?

Wider sidewalks are actually a good thing, but there isn't sufficient parking.

If you don't want to build to the 5 ft setback, you can get a variance.

Some of the setback issues are misunderstood. There is a restriction today if they were to rebuild to have a 20 ft setback, with the proposal they could have a 5 ft setback. They actually can get a larger building with the proposal by right than they would by variance.

Rear setback not being changed, primarily for fire department access (where buildings are not being built next to each other). These setbacks are used for building access for other reasons, dumpsters, etc. Building codes do change, you don't always get to build exactly the same building that you had. Fire codes need to be addressed.

After discussion, keep the zero for side setback.

When you get to the coverage issues, the 5 ft side setback would help.

Dimensional Requirements - Coverage
proposing 80% for structure and structure plus paving 90%
biggest issue is with holding and treating the water due to EPA regulations

Realistically a developer would not be able to make a compelling case by reducing building area. increasing set backs, build at higher cost and have less square foot available for rent. Only if the building increases in height, or a couple of parcels are combined to make it more viable.

Clarifications on if these proposals were put through these changes would be 'by right' would special permit still be available - key word would be 'relief'.

no consensus on coverage requirements

Proposed Dimensional Requirements - Height
3-dimensional design diagram help make the case on what the downtown looks like today
what the downtown would look like with 4 floors 40 foot with today
what the downtown would look like with 5 stories 60 foot with the special permit proposal

public was not happy with 4 story never mind by 5 story during the meetings for the Marini project


Proposed Parking Requirements

current requirements don't call for any parking

the proposed requirements would call for:
residential - 1.5 parking spaces per housing unit
non-residential - 3.5 parking spaces per 1,000 sf of gross floor area

if it is a change of use, and residential is proposed, then the parking requirements would come into play

keeping it simple, you could go higher on parking but for by-right proposal, this gives us more than we have today and fosters the transit oriented development

Discussion on the central area, the 67 parcels would be carved out of C1 and put into the new DC zone

It is the issue of by-right mixed development. Folks are not understanding the term and how it is being used.
It is actually the other way around, you could provide a minimal amount of parking for residential and not have to provide for the business.

The setback for the 4th floor is to help create some sunlight coming down to the street.
If you want sun go to Florida!

All this info will be gathered and sent out. The summary of tonight would come forward as a new proposal before Planning Board and Town Council for review and approvals.

Distribute within 2 weeks.

The meeting closes

Franklin, MA

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