P&Z Commission Approves Firehouse Plans

Tuesday night the Planning and Zoning Commission approved two applications to construct a new firehouse on Shepard Road after imposing a number of conditions on the project.

The first application considered was for a lot line change to enlarge the firehouse property and the second was the proposal for the building and the grounds around the firehouse.

The conditions for the building site dictate that lights on all signs must be angled downward to reduce light pollution, that the transformer and generator be located at the rear of the lot, that the generator be tested during the day and that the generator and transformer be shielded from view and their sound muffled.

Additionally, the parking area on Shepard Road is to be reserved for City Meadow except during emergencies, access to City Meadow must be unfettered; three old trees on the eastern lot line must be removed and replaced, the air conditioner compressor must be located as far from the front of the property as feasible and be screened, a final set of plans must be submitted and the Zoning Enforcement Officer must receive timely reports about construction sequence, sedimentation control, site inspection and the like. 

Finally, the number of lights on the railing along the boardwalk leading to City Meadow must be cut in half,the Kelvin rating on exterior lighting cannot exceed 4,000 and within six months of the project’s completionthe fire department must create and submit a lighting use plan.

Approval of the firehouse plan came only after approval of the lot line application, stripping some land from City Meadow. Some of the conditions for this application mirrored those imposed on the construction plan. They are that the Shepard Road parking space be reserved for City Meadow, that appropriate signage designate the City Meadow parking lot, that the transformer and generator be located at the rear of the firehouse lot, that there shall be a handicap parking space and that a map clearly show the boundaries of the lot lines be filed with the land records.

Commission members debated at some length four conditions member Jordan Stern suggested: that two light poles earmarked for the front of the property be removed, that the brightness of the pole lights be lowered from 7,000 to 5,000 lumens, that the number of lights along the boardwalk be cut in half and that the Kelvin rating of exterior lights be set at 4,000.

Stern contended that the lighting plan as presented exceeded best practices standards cited by both the town’s consulting engineer and the engineers who created the plan. He suggested that the level of lighting could prove detrimental to neighboring property owners.

Commission member Christopher Schaut put forward another solution. He suggested that the fire department be given six months after completion of the building to live with the lot and to determine how much light is needed and when. The department would then have to present a lighting plan with times when lights could be dimmed or turned off.

Member Wiley Wood agreed. “It’s the use they make of them,” he said. “If they are used when necessary and toned down when not needed, I don’t see a problem.”

P&Z Chairman Tom Fahsbender cautioned that the commission was approving a firehouse, “not a residence or retail store.” 

“We should take the recommendations from the people who design firehouses and the people who use them,” he said. “It’s important that the conditions we put down don’t get in the way of safe operation.”  He said he liked Schaut’s proposal because it allowed flexibility. “The situation on the ground will determine what is helpful,” he concluded.

In the end, the commission incorporated two of Stern’s conditions, but rejected removing two light poles and limiting lumens to 5,000.

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