PEPPERELL — A number of residents saw traffic safety concerns with the intersection of Bayberry Road and Heald Street as reason enough for the Zoning Board of Appeals to refuse a comprehensive permit for the 44-unit affordable housing Bayberry Estates proposal at the Aug. 22 continued public hearing.
In response, the zoning board hired an independent consultant to perform a study paid for by the $38,000 application fee from Bayberry Enterprise Realty Trust.
Heald Street resident and professional engineer James Van Gilder argued that since the plan calls for widening Bayberry Road, why then does the traffic study conclude that increased traffic caused by the development is “imperceptible and insignificant.”
Van Gilder argued the study was done using accepted residential zone criteria, but the west Pepperell site is a rural area which actually generates more traffic because of the location. Safe site distances at an intersection are considered to be over 200 feet, but the view at the Bayberry/Heald intersection is about 80 feet.
“Barring a big dig scenario, there is no way the roads in this area, former paths leading to farms, can be brought into compliance,” said Van Gilder.
Bayberry Road resident Michael Andreason told the crowd that 40B legislation cannot override public safety issues and urged the zoning board to “please pay attention to traffic because if it isn’t done right someone could get really hurt.”
Residents had taken their own site measurements at the intersection of Bayberry Road and Heald Street from a three-and-a-half-foot height, he said, the maximum allowed for roadside shrubbery.
“We found that an automobile coming out of Bayberry Road could not see even the roof of a car coming up Heald Street before 135 feet,” he said. “A pickup truck was practically invisible until then. The zoning board and the town has a responsibility to protect its citizens.”
Construction vehicles generally start work early, said Ian St. George, of the same address. He asked how many would be involved and how many school buses — considered to be trucks for highway study purposes — would be present.
Jimmy Yennaco, of Bayberry Road, said his street is a prime route to the transfer station on weekends, and the traffic study should have been done on a Saturday.
He also pointed out Heald Street is a prime access road for high-school-age drivers to and from the school who often drive faster than allowed and have less experience.
“I drive the (Heald Street) bend 365 days per year. It is one of the most dangerous areas in Pepperell,” said Heald Street resident Francine Clements. “A phase two was spoken of at the first meeting. That would make things worse.”
There is no safe turnaround by Heald Pond for recreational users, said Heald Street resident Sally Snow, and high school track runners are not easy for a driver to see along Heald Street.
“I wonder how when talking about traffic you can avoid this 17-foot-wide area,” said Heald Street resident Tony Reno. “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see (the danger).”
As one person after another stepped to the microphone without being recognized by board Chairman Thomas McGrath, zoning board member Christine Morrissey said speakers should keep comments to “new topics.”
An unidentified voice from the audience said, “you’re only one person and there are 150 of us. Let him say what he wants to say.”
After studying a map he obtained “for a dollar in the trailer by Rown Hall” — referring to the Conservation Commission offices — for a half hour before speaking, newcomer Fred Moorehouse, of Park Street, drew applause when he deduced that drainage from the proposed development flows directly in the protected conservation area around Heald Pond.
“Obviously there has been a concerted effort to protect this land,” he said.
Chestnut Street resident David Urban addressed what he termed “non-standard” drainage measures in the development whose calculations seem slanted in favor of the project. For example, he said street sweeping is required once a month to meet runoff standards.
“Good luck,” he said. “Catch basins need cleaning once a year, but now retention ponds also. Who will do that? A weekly litter patrol is necessary. Good luck on that, too. The street will eventually be the town’s and cost us money.
“I believe they have undersized all the retention ponds and done the same with 500-gallon dry wells at each building,” he said.
Joseph Fagone, of West Street, said he is more concerned about the consequences of the second phase of development, which the developer said last year could be as many as 200 houses.
“I wouldn’t come down Heald, I’d come down West Street,” Fagone said. “Please, give me some speed bumps on West.”
Answering a question about the number of waivers being sought, town counsel Ned Richardson said in a 40B development the zoning board is acting for all town permitting processes.
“The project, in my opinion, did not come in 100 percent and Mr. Deschenes has pointed out he is in the process of addressing that,” Richardson said. “No 40B project comes in 100 percent complete. It’s a moving target. The applicant is required to provide data, and he has been responsive.
“We’re not going to hire, say, an environmental consultant from the $38,000 application fee until we see the environmental data,” said Richardson. “All reports will be public record.”