National Dev. pledges MarketStreet berm improvement

Nov 9, 2017 by

Published in the November 8, 2017 edition

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — National Development has pledged to make landscaping improvements on the berm located between Walnut Street and MarketStreet Lynnfield, MarketStreet Advisory Committee (MSAC) member Brian Charville told his fellow committee members recently.

The Berm Subcommittee, compromised of Charville, MSAC Vice Chairwoman Paula Parziale and MSAC member Taidgh McClory, released a report on the berm and outlined two recommendations.

As part of the discovery process, the MSAC held a public hearing on the berm in September. During the public hearing, residents complained about how the berm was not properly maintained and that its landscaping needed to be addressed.

Design standards

Charville said the Berm Subcommittee reviewed the town’s Zoning Bylaws and the development’s design standards included in the Planned Village Development District (PVDD) as part of the discovery process. He said the design standards note that landscaping “shall be selected to minimize water usage and to satisfy functional objectives such as screening.” He also noted the berm was designed to serve as a buffer between the outdoor mall and the residential neighborhoods along Walnut Street.

Section 5.1 of the design standards states the berm’s design “should minimize impacts to adjacent properties on Walnut Street by providing a raised buffer with year-round, vegetated screening and other site planning features.” Additionally, section 5.1 of the design standards states “screening should be designed to minimize both visual and audible impacts” from MarketStreet.

Charville said the design standards also stipulate the berm must be a combined 1,100 feet long and should be 10 feet above the adjacent parking area. The design standards also state, “the berm shall be landscaped with a combination of evergreen and deciduous plantings of varying canopy heights to provide a natural screening to the development.”

Berm review

As part of the discovery process, Charville said the Berm Subcommittee met with retired Planning and Land Use Assistant Kathy Randele, who provided the subcommittee with access to the original and revised site plan documents which had been submitted by National Development.

During the review process, Charville said the subcommittee determined the berm is 1,200 feet long and is approximately 10 feet above the parking lot.

“From the subcommittee’s perspective, the berm meets the length and height requirements of the design standards,” said Charville. “No one expressed concerns to the subcommittee that the berm is not as long or as high as required. The subcommittee’s principal concern after this portion of its work was whether the berm complied with the letter and spirit of the landscaping requirements.”

Interviews

In addition to reviewing the berm and holding a public hearing on it, Charville said the subcommittee met with Walnut Street resident David Moynihan and interviewed consultant Angus Jennings.

Charville and McClory met with Moynihan to discuss how the Walnut Street resident came up with the berm proposal after MarketStreet was first proposed. Charville said Moynihan said the berm needed “staggered, native vegetation” in order to “create a solid evergreen visual barrier atop the berm.”

Additionally, Charville said Moynihan told the subcommittee members dead vegetation needs to be removed, a watering plan needs to be implemented, and new vegetation that grows and thickens needs be planted.

During the subcommittee’s phone interview with Jennings, Charville said the former consultant recalled that the berm’s purposes were to address visual impact and noise. Charville said Jennings told the subcommittee that the berm would be comprised of old and new plantings.

“The goal was a mix of vegetation in order to have a year-round visual buffer,” said Charville.

Charville said Jennings believed National Development would maintain the berm’s vegetation frequently, which would make installing an irrigation system unnecessary.

National Development interview

Charville, Parziale and MSAC Chairwoman Jen Bayer interviewed National Development Senior Vice President Doug Straus on a conference call about the berm last month.

“(Straus) stated that the berm’s main purpose was to block headlights from cars at MarketStreet, with vegetation a secondary concern,” said Charville.

Selectman Dick Dalton, the selectmen’s liaison to the MSAC, served on the Planning Board when the berm was discussed. He said Straus’ claim about the headlights was incorrect.

“After reading the report, I was quite frankly taken back by Doug’s comments that the berm was only for the headlights,” said Dalton. “That was the furthest thing because I sat through excruciatingly long Planning Board meetings where we talked about the berm. Doug shouldn’t have even commented on it quite frankly because he wasn’t even involved at the time.”

In regards to vegetation, Charville said Straus told the MSAC members on the conference call that National Development has encountered several issues that prevented vegetation from growing, including drought conditions last year. He also said Lynn Water and Sewer has been emptying water from Reedy Meadow, and said Straus claimed that it “prevented National Development from drawing water from the meadow as permitted.”

Additionally, Charville said Straus informed the MSAC members that Leahy Landscaping, the company that maintains the berm, told National Development officials “that the berm is very windy and has poor soil, which causes evergreens and vegetation to dry out.” Charville said Leahy Landscaping recommended that National Development use smaller trees that are between six and eight feet tall “to give them a better chance of surviving.”

Additionally, Charville said Straus informed the MSAC members that 12 trees were scheduled to be delivered and planted by Leahy Landscaping last week.

“Assuming the replacement species does well over the winter, National Development will plant a significant number of trees in spring 2018,” said Charville. “(Straus) will continue to update the subcommittee on that work.”

Additionally, Charville said Straus told the MSAC members that “National Development acknowledges its responsibility with respect to the berm and will adhere to that responsibility with upcoming plantings.”

“National Development specifically plans to plant additional trees in areas of concern noted by neighbors and other stakeholders,” said Charville. “(Straus) said that National Development recently revised projected budgets for MarketStreet to provide for a line item relating to removal and replacement of vegetation on the berm, a reflection of National Development’s commitment to addressing stakeholders’ berm concerns. National Development expects better results from the arborist’s recommended drought-tolerant species.”

Additionally, Charville said Straus told the MSAC members that National Development is committed “to do the right thing and honor its commitments and obligations with respect to the berm.”

“(Straus) said that National Development stands by the vegetation required by original designs,” said Charville. “He said National Development is not avoiding paying money, but does not want to burn money either.”

Recommendation

After concluding the discovery process, Charville said the Berm Subcommittee outlined two recommendations to the MSAC.

“In light of National Development’s commitment to make significant plantings this autumn and in spring 2018, and National Development’s acknowledgement of the continuing enforceability of berm vegetation requirements, National Development should be allowed until spring 2018 to remove dead vegetation and plant additional trees as promised,” said Charville.

In the event National Development does not make any additional plantings by the MSAC’s meeting in late April, Charville said the MSAC will advise the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Building Inspector Jack Roberto on the issue with the goal being “investigation and enforcement action.”

After Charville concluded giving an overview of the subcommittee’s report and recommendations, he informed the MSAC that Straus sent an email to Bayer on the day of the meeting, which threw the MSAC a curveball.

“It basically relined our memorandum,” said Charville. “Our memorandum was finished. I think it’s inappropriate that someone would try to change what a public body has already done.”

Charville said Straus informed Bayer that National Development would be planting new vegetation in “late spring or early summer.”

“I think it’s appropriate to stand by our recommendation,” said Charville. “If they are doing the plantings in June and July, then I imagine we would hear more about drought conditions and it not being planting season. We would be having this same conversation next October.”

MSAC member Wally McKenzie said he’s pleased berm maintenance is going to be incorporated into National Development’s budget, but said “progress to date has not been great.”

“There are 30 foot gaps between trees there and the design standards very specifically call out how far apart they are supposed to be,” said McKenzie. “The proof is going to be in the pudding.”

After the discussion concluded, the MSAC voted unanimously to accept to the Berm Subcommittee’s recommendations. 

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