Published in the July 21, 2016 edition
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Hallmark Health can proceed with its planned two-story medical office building at 888 Main St. in Greenwood (the old Subaru of Wakefield site) after the Zoning Board of Appeals last night voted to grant a requested Special Permit and variance.
The planned facility will house primary care physicians as well as a walk-in clinic. X-ray and lab collection facilities are also expected to be available on site.
The project has met with significant resistance from neighbors, whose principal concerns are related to the blasting that will take place. There is considerable ledge on the site and the plan is to remove some of it order to create 22 additional parking spaces in the rear lot of the medical building. The project team has said that they expect to do between one and three blasts a day over a 20-day period. The applicant has agreed that any blasting will take place only on weekdays (Monday through Friday) between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Jean Nicholson of 6 Forest St. reminded the ZBA that she had submitted a petition with over 200 signatures requesting that Hallmark consider an alternative to blasting to remove the ledge. She said that the well-being of the neighbors should be just as important as the 22 parking spaces gained.
ZBA chairman David Hatfield pointed out that the board was not voting specifically on blasting but on a project that as proposed would include some blasting. He noted that blasting is a highly regulated procedure and the contractor would be doing pre-site surveys of nearby properties and would be required to rectify any damage that is caused to properties by the blasting.
Representing Hallmark, Attorney Brian McGrail pointed out that Hallmark had agreed to do a pre-blast condition survey of all structures, buildings and facilities within 250 feet from the limit of the blasting work as required by law. In addition, he said that Hallmark would go further than required and would survey any structure further away if the property owner so requests.
James Confalone of New Hampshire said that he was the brother of Jean Nicholson and wished to speak on behalf of her and the neighbors. He maintained that with the blasting and rock crushing planned on the site, “It’s almost like you’re turning it into a quarry.”
He asked the board if there was a way that the project could be scaled back so that the additional parking spaces would not be needed and blasting could be avoided.
“They (the neighbors) don’t want blasting,” Confalone said. “If there’s a way you can scale it back you satisfy everybody.”
McGrail pointed out that blasting is allowed under state law and there would not be a large amount of blasting on the site.
ZBA member Chip Tarbell noted that modern blasting is highly controlled and state-regulated.
“There are a lot of uninformed people who hear ‘blasting’ and they get very nervous,” he observed. He said that the blasting contractor would take all the necessary precautions.
“We’ve covered this at multiple meetings,” he said, adding that he had looked at the addresses on the petition and only about three people lived close enough to be affected.
Robin Horgan of 7 Forest St. said that in addition to blasting she had problems with the overall safety of the site, claiming that once the project was completed and the medical facility opened there would be more traffic in the area. She also asked that the project be scaled back to minimize safety concerns and traffic.
Hatfield pointed out that a traffic study had been done and it showed that the planned facility would have no significant impact on traffic.
“We’ve been through this,” he said. “It’s been discussed. There’s been public testimony.”
Tarbell noted that the board has been hearing testimony about the project since April and had reviewed all of the information from the Traffic Advisory Committee as well as the petitioner and had listened to the neighbors’ concerns.
He insisted that the project being proposed was not particularly big considering the 30,000 square-foot size of the site. He added that given the parking problems already in Greenwood he would not want to see any fewer spaces as part of the Hallmark project.
ZBA member Thomas Lucey agreed.
“When you look at the intensity of what could go there, this is on the low end,” he said.
The ZBA votes to grant the Special Permit and the variance were unanimous and are subject to 18 conditions that the ZBA imposed on the project. Voting members were Hatfield, Tarbell, James McBain, Kim Hackett and Ami Wall.
Work on the site will begin in the next several weeks. The entire project is expected to be completed in a year.