PZC Asks for More Information About Firehouse

The Planning and Zoning Commission has continued its public hearing on a proposed new firehouse until December 12 so additional information can be gathered.

During Tuesday night’s hearing, architectural and site plan presentations were made by David Stein, a principal at Silver Petrucelli and Associates, and Will Walter, an engineer with Alfred Benesch & Company.

The new facility, located on the same Shepard Street lot where the existing firehouse sits, would be pushed to the west side of the parcel so the existing structure can be used during the nine to 10 months of construction. The older building would then be demolished. Click here for links to the application and other information.

The fire department is currently crammed into a building too small to adequately shelter its seven large vehicles.

Stein said firehouses “are public safety buildings and need and functionality ties into their scale,” adding that the trick is to blend them into the architectural landscape of the community.

He noted that firehouses derive from the barns initially used for storage, but that the vehicles have “grown immensely in both size and complexity” necessitating bigger and more complex firehouses.

In keeping with the residential nature of its location on the edge of the village center and opposite a row of houses, efforts were made to minimize this visual impact. Board-and-batten walls would be dark red in color atop a stone base. A white tower—a traditional element in municipal buildings of this type, Stein said—would allow infiltration of light into the building.

The firehouse would be positioned so the lowest elevation is perpendicular to the road, with three bay doors in front and three to the side, giving the firefighters flexibility in determining how to store trucks.

Meeting rooms would be positioned at the back and have “lots of glass,” providing light and solar heat. “We try to find the right balance of scale and color and use,” Stein concluded. 

The meeting room, primarily planned for training, could also be used for assemblies. A commercial kitchen would be suitable for public food preparation.

Stein said lighting would be “dark sky compatible,” with light fixtures being directed downward and away from residences. They would be activated by motion sensors, and required lighting around doors would be on the level of ATM machines. “We would implement a lighting management plan that can be adjusted,” he said. “There is no need to consume energy at 2:00 a.m.” 

The orientation of the building also minimizes light pollution, with the meeting rooms at the rear.

Assistant Fire Chief Matt Ludwig said some lighting is necessary for security, but that the planned lighting would be less obtrusive that the current firehouse.

Will Walter said a tight site with challenging topography created difficulties for the site plan, as did its location next to City Meadow, a wetland extensively landscaped for public use. An underground storm water collection system would prevent excessive runoff and protect the City Meadow wetlands.

Three-quarters of an acre of town-owned City Meadows land would have to be transferred for the firehouse, also town-owned. The town is in the process of merging the lots it owns to meet lot requirements.

Four parking areas are designated for City Meadow users but would also be available for firehouse parking when needed. 

The commission asked for additional information on such things as excavation, turning the trucks and the specifics of building materials. 

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