MARBLEHEAD — Hundreds of people filled the auditorium of Marblehead High School Monday night for a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting.
The main topic on the agenda, the reason everyone gave up their time to be there, was a special permit request to allow developers to create The Mariner, a planned assisted-living facility for 265 Pleasant St.
However, from the start, the stage was set for what kind of meeting it was going to be. Alternate ZBA board member Jim Rudolph said that given that the first two steps of the meeting would be presentation from the developers’ experts and time for the board members to ask questions, there was no guarantee there would be time for public comments and there would likely be no vote by the meeting’s end.
By 9:15, the presentation stage still hadn’t finished, so what the residents got for their time was a lot of information.
Different experts from the team compiled by developers Pleasant Street LLC discussed the architecture of the building, the issues of stormwater drainage and traffic, landscaping plans and lighting plans.
Paul Lynch, attorney for Pleasant Street LLC, introduced Al Crepeau, representing the project’s chosen architecture firm EGA.
“What really drove the design direction we took was realizing what we had to work with,” said Crepeau. “We looked at hopefully maintaining the appeal and presence of the property, maybe even enhancing it.”
He noted that the team has decided to change the fact that cars are parked in front of the property, creating an unattractive street view, by having parking behind the building. Another point he raised was that they have designed the building to feel more like an assemblage of residence-scaled components rather than a single, massive structure.
The service connection housing the generator, dumpster and operations area, Crepeau went on to explain, will be tucked away behind a wall so that it can’t be seen from the street or from abutting properties.
Something else he highlighted in several ways (and which came up in other presentations) was that the proposal intends to preserve as much of the existing landscape, so the building is being built to fit into the hillside as it is today.
Chris Nowak, the engineer from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., addressed the troublesome issue of stormwater management. They plan to expand the drainage system, which Nowak said will better control runoff and limit runoff into adjacent properties. They will have a perimeter curb around the site to push the runoff into catch basins, which will contain treatment systems. They will then connect their systems into the existing Pleasant Street drainage system.
After a few questions from the ZBA, Vinod Kalikiri, senior traffic engineer of VHB, discussed the second issue neighbors and abutters have raised against the proposal — traffic.
He asserted that the team has conducted thorough traffic studies of the site area for a year and a half — going as far as to look at the town’s own 2010 study, talking to police and the town Planning Board to “make sure they had a good handle on the traffic flow and how the project can work with the existing settings.”
One of his key points was that the traffic created by the project will not be high density and will not be at peak hours, in part because employees will be coming and going in shifts that don’t align with typical peak traffic hours. They also plan to incorporate changes the town is interested in making in terms of traffic safety at the site.
At the end of Kalikari’s portion, people began to leave.
By 9:15, it was clear the public would not get to weigh in. But that didn’t stop everyone from speaking out in frustration when Rudolph and board members began to talk about voting to continue the meeting.
A voice from the crowd demanded the public have a chance to speak, after everyone had waited so long. Yet over the cries of outrage and frustration, the board voted to adjourn the meeting and continue it Nov. 23, at which time they hope the town will have had a chance for a peer review — for the town’s experts to assess traffic and other concerns.
People objected to that even more loudly because the selected date is during Thanksgiving week.
The board briefly discussed an alternative but ultimately decided that the 23rd would be the day, at 7:30 p.m.
Staff writer Amanda Ostuni can be reached at 978-338-2660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.