The developer of a proposed 12,000-square-foot market at Millbrook Tarry said he is committed to the project despite objections from some neighbors.
Speaking at the Concord office of his architect, Dewing Schmid Kearns Architects + Planners (DKS), Jim White said on April 19 that his property is an “eyesore in Concord Center, and I want to improve it.”
Seated in a conference room with DKS President Thomas Kearns, White said he has been working with the town on the project for years, calling Millbrook Tarry the last major piece of undeveloped land in Concord Center.
“I have been at it for years,” White said, “and I want to make the site more attractive for the town.”
Some neighbors are fighting the idea, primarily because of concerns about parking and traffic.
David Brownell, who has lived on Bow Street for 52 years, is one.
“The building is way too big for this space,” Brownell said.
“He owns the property,” Brownell said of White, “and he should develop it, but this isn’t downtown Boston where buildings are two feet away from something else.”
Millbrook Tarry is a mixed-use development that already includes office space, a bank, a café and a Rite Aid pharmacy.
The market would replace up to 52 parking spots in front of the Rite Aid. White’s daughter, Elizabeth Akehurst-Moore, would co-own the market, and has said it would have a big kitchen and bakery that serves prepared meals to go, modeled after the food at the Trails End Café, which Akehurst-Moore owns at Millbrook Tarry.
The Concord Planning Board did not make a recommendation on the project at its April 12 meeting, and in an email response to questions from The Concord Journal, board member Brooke Whiting Cash wrote the board is concerned about the volume of parking relief requested by White and the precedent this would set.
“There is quite a bit of precedent town-wide for granting the relief we request,” Kearns said.
Cash mentioned concerns about an October 2015 report from a consultant - hired and paid for by White and completed by Bayside Engineering, Inc. - that may not have accurately reflected the demand for parking and the amount of traffic at the site.
“One concern expressed by the board and members of the public was questioning whether Trails End had really gotten into 'full swing' by October when the study was done, and that the growing popularity of the restaurant and bar appears to have significantly increased parking demand over the past 6-9 months,” Cash wrote.
Kearns said White’s development team continues to consult with its experts on parking and traffic, adding, "We revisited with our parking expert and confirmed that the October study dates are valid study dates of the current condition (at Millbrook Tarry).”
White paid for a “peer review” to look at the traffic and parking study completed by Bayside Engineering Group. The town hired the consultant that did the peer review, and it was presented to the Planning Board at its April 12 meeting.
“There was significant discussion about the peer review of the traffic study, other items related to parking and traffic, and public concerns regarding these issues,” Cash wrote.
“The peer review asked for confirmation of several items," she continued. "The applicant seemed frustrated by the drawn out process of review, response and request for additional information coming in several iterations. Despite relative agreement by the peer reviewer on the computation of parking, the board remained concerned about various comments from town departments related to traffic/circulation/parking issues.”
Kristin Johnson lives on nearby Lang Street, and said she is concerned that removing parking spots at Millbrook Tarry for a market would cause spillover parking on her street, making it too narrow for fire trucks to get through if there is an emergency.
Johnson said she supports the idea of a market, but when it comes to parking and traffic concerns, “(White) has to address things differently.”
Kearns said the town bears some of the responsibility for looking at ways to mitigate neighborhood concerns, including posting no-parking signs on Johnson’s street.
“Our traffic and parking expert evaluated streets and reported no impact,” Kearns said. “As part of Concord’s long-range plan for parking, we encourage the town to look at fair and balanced ways to manage parking concerns by appropriate measures, such as no-parking signs on neighborhood streets.”
The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) has the final authority on granting a special permit and site plan approval for the project, and it’s expected to discuss the project at its April 21 meeting.
According to Cash, the Planning Board discussed having Town Planner Elizabeth Hughes draft a letter to outline any unresolved concerns, adding that the board doesn’t have to have all issues resolved in order to make a recommendation to the ZBA on the project, which could happen at its next meeting on May 10.
White said it’s not totally clear from the last Planning Board meeting what happens next, but “It’s clear that the Planning Board supports this project, in terms of the design and use of the building.”
“The Planning Board is considering a recommendation at its May 10 meeting," White continued, "and I hope I will be receiving a draft of that recommendation in advance so all of us can come up and recommend a major step forward to support a market for the town in a manner that the town would like to see developed.”
—Follow Henry Schwan on Twitter @henrycojo.
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