P&Z Commission Closes Public Hearings

NORFOLK—The Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night closed three public hearings on various aspects of the new firehouse proposed for Shepard Road. The commission okayed a plan to excavate materials on the site but decided to discuss the facility plan and a proposed lot line change that would trim a 45-foot-wide strip of land off City Meadow at its March 12 meeting. 

The P&Z has been accumulating information about the firehouse proposal since November. The plan calls for the fire department to retain its current firehouse while a second, larger building is constructed on the western portion of the lot. 

The lot line change, which amends the City Meadow special permit, is needed to allow the building to be constructed on the tight lot, but it would also change the usage of the land. Some members wanted to further discuss allowing a generator and transformer on that parcel.

Included with the application is a map dating from 1988, provided by the Town Clerk, that shows the strip of land in question was proposed back then for use by the fire department. Riiska said he did not know what the reasoning was 36 years ago. “One could speculate,” he said, “but they put everyone on notice by filing this map that this parcel was proposed for use by the fire department.”

Later, however, the parcel was included in City Meadow when that special permit was granted in 2021. Riiska said the lot line change would, in effect, change that special permit. 

In response to a question about who would maintain the City Meadow parking area and the walkway across the strip of land leading to it, Riiska said all the land belongs to the town and it will maintain it.

Turning their attention to the proposed plan for the firehouse, commissioners had few remaining questions. Some discussion centered on lighting levels around the firehouse, with P&Z member Jordan Stern saying the lights around the Town Hall are 3,000 lumens, while some of the proposed lights at the firehouse are brighter at 7,000 lumens. He also questioned what the low-wattage lights on the proposed boardwalk would look like. 

Stern noted that there are existing light poles on the firehouse lot and asked if they would be removed when new ones are installed. Will Walter of Benesch, the engineer for the project, said streetlights will be left in place but those on the lot would be replaced by modern lighting. The firefighters will determine the amount of light they need on the lot when the construction is finished. “We won’t know what it will look like until they are using the lot,” he said.

The firefighters have argued that they intend to be good neighbors but stress that they need enough light so they are safe when working there or responding to fires.

Use of the siren on the firehouse was questioned and the firefighters said that it is sounded daily to test it because it is a public safety alarm. It cycles once, which takes about one minute. It is also used for fire calls, of which there were approximately 115 last year, amounting to about 120 aggregate minutes over the course of 12 months.

The final hearing, on excavation of earth products, lasted only minutes. Walter explained that the lot slopes so levels will have to be adjusted to create a flat surface for the floor of the firehouse. About 1,200 cubic yards of onsite soil will be pushed around and another 1,300 cubic yards of fill will be imported. Approximately 850 cubic yards of demolition debris will be removed when the old firehouse is dismantled.

He predicted that 20 to 25 truckloads would be needed to remove the material and that the excavation work would be relatively short. 

“The whole project will take up to a year,” he said, “but the site prep might be a month or two.”

About six to eight trucks could be expected to enter and exit the lot on any given day.

The excavation application was approved without demur. 

Commission Chairman Tom Fahsbender suggested that deliberations on the primary application—the site plan—be deferred for a month to allow members to think about potential conditions that might be imposed. 

A motion was made to approve the lot line change, but that was withdrawn because of concerns about whether its approval would include all the infrastructure provisions as well.  

—Newsletter Editor

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