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Disagreement reigns over parking for 188 Ayer Road

By Jon Bishop

HARVARD — Bruce Ringwall, president of Goldsmith, Prest, and Ringwall, Inc., a civil engineering, land planning and land surveying firm, appeared before the Planning Board on Monday to discuss a site plan for Samantha Realty Trust, of 188 Ayer Road.

“I’m told that their parking lot is overflowing,” he said. “They want to get as many extra parking spaces as they can get,” noting that there are “not a lot of options there.”

There are handicap spaces in front and in back, and the lot needs to have fifty percent open space on it, he said.

The plan would bring a net gain of nine spaces, he said. It would expand the parking lot, a move that would be done within the allowed zoning. The building in question hosts a Dunkin Donuts and Dolce Catering.

Town Planner Bill Scanlan asked if they had considered expanding lots in the back of the building, but Ringwall said that wouldn’t work.

“There is no other space to put any spaces back there,” he said.

Planning Board Chairman Kara Minar took issue with the proposal. She said that the entrance to the building is tight and that there should be arrows directing traffic.

“There is confusion when you exit,” she said, calling the area congested and a “confused parking lot.” It needs natural flow, she said.

But Ringwall noted that, when the project was permitted, there was no issue with parking in the front. In response to Minar, he said that people are going to back up in different directions. It happens in a parking lot. All they’re trying to do is make the site nicer, he said.

Minar said she wants a site review done with a consulting engineer, which she said is a standard part of the process.

“We’re not trying to unduly delay this,” she said.

Ringwall said that they had provided all of the proper documents and information, thus rendering a review unnecessary.

Member Joe Hutchinson agreed with Minar.

“I’d like to get an engineer in here,” he said. “I think an expert opinion would be useful.”

And Town Planner Scanlan said that it wouldn’t be a difficult engineering analysis.

Ringwall, however, said that a review would cause delays.

“Two weeks would probably put (the project) off to next year,” he said.

The Planning Board decided to defer the site review to a consulting engineer, who would then provide the board with a report. Minar said they would take another look at the plan at their next meeting on Nov. 3.

The goal is to make sure they have a full understanding of the project, she said.

“I just think it’s good to have another set of eyes on the plan,” she said.

Regarding the Economic Development Zone along Ayer Road, Minar said that, in looking to develop it, they should be sensitive to the neighbors and the abutters.

“Hopefully, we can set frameworks that know what developments should expect and what the town wants,” she said.

She encouraged the public to attend Economic Development meetings.

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