By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING — A Hill St. resident whose property abuts the new high school building appeared before the Secondary Schools Building Committee last week to request a landscape buffer to screen the school from her backyard view.
Alison Carlson, 15 Hill St., said she’s had an ongoing list of concerns about the project and three years ago she was promised some landscaping and buffering by the former project manager. Carlson said she has notes from meetings when SSBC members said it was their intent to provide a landscape buffer. “At this point I feel we’re spinning our wheels and I would like to know where we’re going to go with this.”
SSBC Chairman Chuck Carucci said the only thing that would work for Carlson’s property are 200 ft. tall trees and the SSBC can’t promise or provide that. Carlson said she was promised a row of arborvitae in an email from the former project manager and there was a lot of back and forth between Carlson, Carucci and SSBC member Sean Delaney about an email from the former project manager that allegedly promised screening. Carlson said she’s sent the email to members “a million times” and felt they were “playing games with her.” Delaney repeatedly said he’s never seen the communication and asked her to send it to him one more time so the issue can be addressed.
“You guys all know what was out there, you know what was committed to me,” and there are meeting transcripts that say the members promised her a buffer, said Carlson. “I really feel like it’s dragging on needlessly.” Carucci said he’s never personally seen the email. He didn’t understand what good arborvitae would do for Carlson, because of the location of her property. “They would have to be 200 feet tall,” he said.
Carlson said she’s not trying to disguise the building, she just wants a barrier, while Carucci said new trees would never hide the lights, especially in the winter when the leaves are off the trees. In the summer, there’s plenty of foliage available, Carucci said.
Delaney said there’s no landscaping that can be done in the middle of December anyway and asked Carlson to send him the email she was referring to “one more time.”
Carlson had attended the previous SSBC meeting to complain about the light from one of the new school’s stairwells, which is left on all night. Carucci said he thought the stairwell lights have to stay on all night because of safety issues, but Carlson said that’s not certain. Superintendent of Buildings Wayne Hardacker said he wasn’t sure what the regulations require and he’s looking into it.
Carlson said lights aren’t the only issue, the view of the school is another. But Carucci responded that her house overlooks the existing high school right now. But Carlson denied that, saying the old high school isn’t a problem.
Carlson said in the beginning of the project she was promised “flowers and roses”, that the building wouldn’t her property, and dust was a constant problem during the construction. Carucci said it was, unfortunately, a construction zone and he could not see how they could solve her problem.
“I don’t know how we’re going to resolve it, but I can tell you right now you’re not getting 200 ft. trees, or 30 ft. trees,” Carucci said.
Carlson invited him to come to her home and see for himself. She asked for arborvitae and white pine to be planted, something to provide a buffer, but Carucci said it’s an issue of finances and the committee doesn’t have the money.
“Don’t put me at the bottom of the list,” Carlson retorted.
Delaney said if there is an email from the previous project manager promising new trees as a buffer, it would have to be addressed, but he didn’t say it would be the committee to pay for them.