Rivers Edge plans has critics, needs changes

Pepperell Planning Board officials find holes in proposed senior living facility

A rendering of what Rivers Edge Senior Living will look like if built on Mill Street

PEPPERELL – Doug and Michelle Wright sat through nearly two hours of recommendations and grievances against their plans for Rivers Edge Senior Living on Mill Street from members of the Planning Board and neighboring residents Monday night at the Senior Center.

The Wrights were present for a public hearing the board held for their plans to build three structures and a parking lot on a four-acre parcel located on 42 to 46 Mill Street near Nissitissit River.

The husband-and-wife are looking to construct three structures in three different phases, with the first phase involving the construction of a 21,000 square-foot apartment building and the next two phases involving building two more structures being 22,428 square-feet each.

The building set for phase one would consist of 12 one-bedroom apartments and four studio apartments. The building set for phase two would consist of 16 one-bedroom apartments and six two-bedroom apartments. The building set for phase three would consist of 16 one-bedroom apartments, six two-bedroom apartments and two studio apartments.

Before the public had a chance to offer its two cents on the plans, Planning Board Chair Richard McHugh Jr. and Planning Board Clerk Paul Lonergan Jr. read off comments and concerns from multiple town departments who had seen submitted plans for Rivers Edge.

Lonergan read off notes offered by the Conservation Commission, who asked the Wrights to include a planting plan detailing the buffer zone of the lot, additional soil testing, the location of groundwater table testing and a construction general permit from the Environmental Protection Agency. The commission further requested that the plans should be updated with their notes in mind one week before it continues its own public hearing on the matter on Sept. 17.

Lonergan then read notes made by Pepperell Fire Chief Brian Borneman, who offered concerns about the road layout to the facility. He specifically cited concerns about how emergency officials could access the building and the access road to the building itself, calling it “inadequate” and that it should be extended. He added that the facility’s construction and safeguarding plans should be submitted to the fire department before any construction is started.

McHugh then took over, reading notes offered by Department of Public Works Director Kenneth Kalinowski. The director noted “numerous omissions” in the plans for Rivers Edge, including multiple trees and shrubs in the plans that were not labeled. Kalinowski’s also saw no location for storage of excess snow or trash, along with no sidewalks or crosswalks for pedestrians to maneuver between the facility and neighboring locations. He also suggested that “vehicular consideration” should be given to drivers who frequent Mill Street.

Lisa Davis, advisor to the Planning Board, also suggested the plans should specify the locations of the loading areas, dumpster and all firefighting utilities Rivers Edge will offer. She also noted how the submitted plans had no traffic information or walking paths on the layout.

“It’s time for us to engage in conversation over these comments,” McHugh said after reading off the numerous lists. “I’d like to see some concept that we have some sort of community involvement. You should provide some way for people to walk out the front door and take a stroll.”

Accompanying the Wrights at the hearing was engineer Steven Marsden of Marsden Engineering out of Lunenburg. Marsden said that the State Department of Environmental Protection requested a “more detailed” look at the work to be done since the site is so close to the Nissitissit River. While he hadn’t made any changes to plans before the hearing so he could take in all of the board’s concerns, Marsden said he recently added some planting details of the lot and will add the specific seed mix in the plans.

“We wanted to find out what your concerns were,” Marsden said. “We will be going through each note and incorporating that into our detailed narrative plans before the next meeting.”

Though Marsden’s comments acknowledged concerns from town departments, local residents had their own concerns about the proposal. Bill Bickmore, a resident of Groton Street, offered sentiments echoed by other residents: how the structure would look compared to other buildings in town.

“This looks huge to me and does not fit in my neighborhood,” Bickmore said. “It doesn’t remind me of Pepperell at all. I’m nervous about having it in my backyard.”

Nan Quintin, who lives directly across Nissitissit River, had issues with the location of the facility being near two road intersections that are frequently clogged with traffic.

“I can’t possible understand why you’d want to build this here,” she said.

Quintin’s husband, Peter, said he’s been at his house on Groton Street for 36 years and referred to his view of the river as the “only really good thing” about the location of his home.

“If they build this thing, I’m gonna be seeing a really neat river with a hotel on the other side,” he said. “I’m not gonna like it.”

“I knew that the Groton Street neighbors were opposed and I was not surprised those across the street were opposed too,” Doug Wright said after the meeting. “We’re going to do everything we can to make the facility attractive.”

The public hearing was continued to Oct. 7.