DGR Meeting 12-14-20
Members present: Chairman David Bartley, Vice Chairman Mike Sullivan, Peter Tallman, Gladys Lebron-Martinez, Howard Greaney
Other councilors present: Joe McGiverin, Jim Leahy, Linda Vacon, Terry Murphy
Chairman Bartley called the meeting to order at 6:30pm
Chairman Bartley: stated that minutes from previous meeting are not available. Also noted that item 2 would stay on the table, adding that public hearing would have to be opened and continued to a date certain.
Councilor Tallman: made motion to take item 3 off the table and open the public hearing, seconded by Councilor Greaney. All in favor.
Chairman Bartley: Read 3: Special Permit Applications of Holyoke Landing LLC for a Drive-Thru Facility (Fast Casual Restaurant/Fast-Food 7.1.6) and a Drive-Thru Facility (Bank – Drive-Up Teller/ATM 7.1.6) at Lower Westfield Rd. (Map 117 Block 00 Parcel 005).
Chairman Bartley: asked if there was a department head in attendance and noted that correspondence from City Engineer had been received and would be read. Acknowledged Kevin Solli, engineer in attendance to represent the petitioner. Also noted that items from the Planning Board would be read.
Solli: Noted he is a licensed engineer with Solli Engineering. Shared presentation. Noted that project had been addressed before the committee before. Described location and surrounding area, background of location. Stated they are proposing 3 buildings: 2300 sq. ft, fast food building, 6750 sq. ft. multitenant building with drive thru, and 17500 sq. ft. building multitenant, noting an endcap tenant with a bank drive thru. Observed that they had received approval in September, with approval for 3 special permits for drive throughs. Noted that in working to secure tenants, they needed to swap the bank and restaurant drive thru locations, requiring new special permit applications.
Chairman Bartley: asked for clarification on the use of building 2.
Solli: stated it would be fast food.
Chairman Bartley: asked about planned use of building 3.
Solli: stated it would include a financial institution with a drive thru.
Chairman Bartley: asked about planned use of building 1.
Solli: stated it would include a coffee shop with a drive thru.
Chairman Bartley: noted that building 1 would stay the same. In looking at Engineer’s statement, noted that in letter dated July 17, 2020, there were concerns raised about distance from drive thru to exit of lot.
Solli: noted that this comment had to do with location when building 2 was going to be a bank and suggested that the swap eliminates that concern.
Chairman Bartley: Noted that there were Planning Board letters received, dated December 1st and 3rd. Asked if Solli had received them.
Solli: stated they had received them and had responded to the December 3rd letter. Also noted getting comments on December 8th. Also noted there would be a hearing with the Planning Board the next night. Stated they had an initial presentation and had received some minor staff comments. Also noted that in last DGR meeting, concerns had been raised about the merging of traffic between vehicles coming from 91 and those coming from Whiting Farms Rd. Proposed providing signage to drivers coming from 91 to advise drivers on proper lane to enter property.
Chairman Bartley: asked about proposed signage.
Solli: suggested it would state “use left lane for Holyoke Landing.”
Chairman Bartley: asked for clarification that the sign is to alert motorists where to be to visit Holyoke Landing.
Solli: confirmed it is.
Councilor Tallman: inquired about space between building 2 and entrance into lot of neighboring property.
Solli: noted that they are acquiring open space behind adjacent property, (referring to property with former Pier 1 Imports), and that it would eliminate connecting access space to Lower Westfield Rd. Answering question, noted that neighboring property would retain surplus parking.
Councilor Tallman: asked for clarification as to whether first entrance nearest Holyoke Mall would also be an exit.
Solli: stated it would only be an entrance.
Councilor Tallman: asked if there would be signage.
Solli: stated there would be signage, and that design would discourage exiting.
Councilor Tallman: observed that with someone attempting to visit property form 91 would need to travel across 3 or 4 lanes.
Solli: stated that advanced signage would make clear the leftmost lane would be the appropriate lane to visit the property.
Councilor Tallman: noted current confusion with people visiting Holyoke Crossing and Holyoke Mall.
Solli: noted it would be a driver awareness issue.
Councilor Tallman: asked if there is a wide enough walkway for pedestrians.
Solli: stated they had put a lot of focus on pedestrian connectivity, and that they have a plan for bike racks.
Councilor Tallman: asked about enough space being available for delivery trucks to maneuver.
Solli: noted that truck turning figures had been provided with application, with the expectation that design and markings would offer adequate spacing.
Councilor Vacon: observed that concerns expressed at previous meeting had been addressed with the swap. Appreciated the update and revisions.
Councilor McGiverin: noted the swap makes sense for better traffic flow. Observed there may need to be a yield sign coming from 91, noting that coming from Whiting Farms Road would require turning right to get into Holyoke Crossing while vehicles coming from 91 would need to merge left. Suggested that Engineer should help address that. Asked is property would have enough parking.
Solli: Stated there would be, and noted they are requesting parking relief from Planning Board. Observed that in looking at data, current code stipulating number of spaces requires more than property should require.
Chairman Bartley: asked about many spaces there is planned to be, and what the relief is that is being requested.
Solli: stated a total 0f 181 spaces, and that town zoning regulations would require 190. Providing data to Planning Board showing parking rates for different uses, and that they would have adequate parking for this type of development.
Chairman Bartley: asked about proposed drive thru hours for building 1.
Solli: stated that for building 1, they are requesting 5am-11pm Monday through Saturday, and 6am-9pm on Sundays, for building 2 they are requesting 6am-11pm, and for building 3 they are requesting 7am-7pm. Also noted the ATM would be available 24 hours.
Chairman Bartley: asked if the ATM is a drive up.
Solli: confirmed it is.
Chairman Bartley: noted that would have to be specificied in the permit. Asked if 7am-7pm is 7 days.
Solli: clarified it would be Monday-Saturday.
Chairman Bartley: Noted that it is a public hearing. Clarified rules for public hearing and getting acknowledged. Stated that comments should be 1 to 2 minutes, and that statements should be directed to him as the Chair. Observed that no members of the public or department heads were in attendance to ask questions.
Councilor Sullivan: made motion to close the public hearing, seconded by Councilor Tallman. All vote in favor.
Chairman Bartley: made motion to add conditions that hours of drive thru for building 3 be 7am-7pm Monday through Saturday for the teller window and the drive up for ATM be 24 hours, 7 days a week. Second half of the motion as a condition is for building 1 would be 5am-11pm Monday through Saturday, 6am-9pm on Sunday. Motion seconded by Tallman.
All in favor.
Councilor Greaney: made motion to approve as amended, seconded by Councilor Tallman seconded. All vote in favor.
Councilor Tallman: made motion to take item 4 off the table and open public hearing, seconded by Councilor Lebron-Martinez. All in favor.
Chairman Bartley: Read 4: Special Permit Application of Valley Opportunity Council Inc. for an extension of pre-existing nonconforming structure at 348 Chestnut St/48-52 Franklin St. (Map 009 Block 06 Parcel 005). Acknowledged Stephen Huntley, Executive Director of Valley Opportunity Council (VOC), in attendance.
Huntley: stated intent to redevelop the property from bodega space. Stated that when property was taken over in 1990’s, stipulations has been made that business could not sell tobacco or lottery products. Noted that though they agreed with stipulations, it created a disadvantage. They determined that the property is better suited to be converted to two-bedroom unit instead of bodega. Noted that changes in neighborhood mean that more is available within walking distance to area residents.
Chairman Bartley: asked for clarification of plan to convert to two-bedroom unit.
Huntley: noted that it is vacant commercial space that had been a bodega.
Huntley: stated that Ellen Freyman and Alex Jansen are in attendance to add to discussion. Also added that they can present pictures of area for reference.
Jansen: presented pictures of location. Stated the intent of proposal, with a blueprint of the intended design.
Freyman: noted that the purpose of addressing preexisting nonconforming is due to increasing density of the number of units per acre, with a minimal impact on neighborhood. Clarified that VOC submitted application as the managers of the building, adding that conversation is part of a larger rehab of the building. Requested that the permit be used in the name of Voces de Esperanza as the new property owner.
Chairman Bartley: asked Alex to identify himself.
Jansen: stated he is Director of Operations for VOC.
Freyman: stated she is from law office of Shatz, Schwartz, and Fentin.
Huntley: Executive Director of VOC.
Councilor Murphy: expressed support for project. Noted the property is well managed and maintained. Observed that the change was a natural fit for the neighborhood.
Councilor McGiverin: expressed support for the special permit. Noted confidence in the work of VOC. Asked about the legal address of the location.
Freyman: clarified it to be 348 Chestnut Street, with an additional address 48-52 Franklin.
Councilor McGiverin: asked for clarification of purpose for the nonconforming aspect of permit. Suggested that bodega in a residential property was the initial reason. Inquired about converting to residential being considered nonconforming.
Freyman: clarified that the use is conforming, and that increase in the number of units per acre is reason for nonconforming definition.
Councilor McGiverin: suggested that a request for variance would have been the appropriate request.
Councilor Tallman: stated appreciation for investment. Asked if the unit is in the basement.
Jansen: stated that unit is at street level.
Councilor Tallman: asked if the entire building is being renovated and if there are residents currently in apartments.
Huntley: stated that building is full occupied. Noted that they are working on getting funds and hoped to begin renovations in a year.
Chairman Bartley: made motion that permit would be in the name of Voces de Esperanza limited partnership, seconded by Tallman. All in favor.
Councilor Sullivan: made motion to close public hearing, seconded by Councilor Tallman. All In favor.
Councilor Murphy: asked if the tenants would have to move during renovations.
Huntley: stated they would be temporarily, and would be moved back in.
Councilor Murphy: asked if it would be one at a time.
Huntley: stated that to be the plan and expressed the hope that vacancies would made renovations easier to manage.
Councilor Greaney: make motion to approve project as amended, seconded by Councilor Sullivan. All in favor.
Councilor Tallman: made motion to suspend the riles to take 5A and 5B as a package, seconded by Greaney. All in favor.
Chairman Bartley: read 5A and 5B.
5A: James Fitzgerald: Open Meeting Law Complaint
5B: Crystal Barnes: Legal Department opinion regarding a section of the OML complaint filed by James Fitzgerald
Chairman Bartley: Noted that 5A and 5B don’t have any people in attendance to speak. Explained that item refers to a complaint from a resident who was looking for relief under MGL Chapter 40A Section 5, to change zone of an abutter. Noted that the request went through the process of the Planning Board and the Ordinance Committee. Item was voted out of Ordinance, with a 3-2 denial. Noted that it was meant to be on the August 4th City Council agenda but did not make it on. Clarified that through City Council rules, an item can be pulled out of committee with a 2/3rds vote. At that meeting, it was discussed and denied with a vote of 11-1. The petitioner than filed an open meeting law (OML) complaint. Observed that the allegation included libelous statements, alleging there was a personal role and animus requiring personal recusal in the matter. After a request for a legal opinion, it was found to be acceptable for Bartley to chair. Admin confirmed that petitioner had notice and Zoom link info for this meeting. Noted that Ordinance as well as Planning Board had denied the petition. Legal opinion is that this is not the right forum. OML was not violated by City Council on August 4th. Noted that the petitioner will have a chance to address at the full City Council meeting on the next evening.
Councilor Sullivan: made motion order that the order is complied with and direct the law department respond to Attorney General’s office, seconded by Greaney.
Councilor Vacon: speak to validate the timeline and sequence of events that were outlines. States she attended various meetings, and that council did abide by procedural requirements and rules afforded to city council.
Chairman Bartley: noted that many abutters spoke during Ordinance public hearing, but this particular property owner was not in attendance. Also noted that the Planning Board kept the public hearing open.
All in favor.
Councilor Tallman: motion to take 6 and 7 off the table as a package, seconded by Councilor Sullivan. All in favor.
Chairman Bartley: read item 6 and 7.
6: CPA FY21 Project Funding Recommendation.
7: That the honorable Holyoke City Council approve a grant in the amount of $250,000 to Wayfinders. Said grant is for Housing and will be matched by CDBG in order to access a 16.4-million-dollar state grant. Voted on by CPAC 5 Yeas – 1 No – 1 Abstain – 2 Absent
Councilor Sullivan: Noted that the approval came from CPA 5-1 with one member abstaining. Major highlight, Observed that a major highlight is that the $250K investment may leverage a $16.4 million state grant. Noted that the property will pay real estate taxes to city. Clarified that the first 8 months enable applicant to apply for state and federal funds beginning in January 2021, with a plan to find out by July or August. An extra 4-6 months can be extended to participate in second round of grant applications. CPA may offer extension without needing to return to City Council. No funding is disbursed until all necessary approval are acquired. If additional funds are not secured or approvals not met, funds would become unencumbered again. Noted that Leedara Zola is in attendance to answer questions.
Chairman Bartley: made motion to allow public to address, seconded by Sullivan. All in favor.
Zola: stated she is a senior project manager with Wayfinders. Noted that this item is part of Library Commons phase 2 project, involving four sites near Library Commons 1. Discussed site size and plan for units. Presented PowerPoint of site plan and neighborhood. Noted that for Library Commons 1, they had received over 2500 applications for 38 units. Stated they are looking for local match that enables application to be more competitive for state and federal funding. Stated they are targeting home and/or CDBG funds for the match. Noted that the total amount being sought would be $150K from home/CDBG funds and $250K from CPA (Community Preservation Act) funds.
Councilor Vacon: asked if the funds from CPA alone would be enough to leverage state grant funding, absent home/CDBG funds.
Zola: stated she doesn’t have a definitive answer, as there are many variables that go into those decisions. Also noted that both sources would allow them to be the most competitive.
Councilor Tallman: asked how much of the buildings on Chestnut and Essex are complete.
Zola: stated that for Library Commons 1, the nurses building scheduled to be complete in a couple weeks, with a plan to move tenants into building in January.
Councilor Tallman: asked about building location, proximity to library.
Zola: stated it to be on the corner of Chestnut and Essex.
Councilor Tallman: asked if renovation had started, or if it is part of this plan.
Zola: stated that it is part of the plan, that the building still had to be made safe, and that it is not yet ready for construction.
Councilor Murphy: stated appreciation for Wayfinders’ positive impact on neighborhood. Noted a need to address vacant lots. Asked if it will be two stories.
Zola: noted it would be 12 units.
Councilor Murphy: noted that the corner of Appleton and Elm has been a poorly maintained vacant lot. Stated support for the project. Asked about definition of affordability of units.
Zola: stated that of 41 units, 18 would be at or below 30% of area median income, with the remaining 23 at or below 60% of area median income.
Councilor Murphy: inquired about calculations of affordability using hypothetical gauge of gross income.
Zola: noted that affordable is defined as paying 30% of gross income. Noted that part of application is also applying for section 8, Mass vouchers.
Councilor Murphy: stated an interest in assuring that the neighborhood is economically and ethnically diverse.
Councilor McGiverin: expressed appreciation for the project. Asked if the $250K would go directly to construction.
Zola: confirmed that is earmarked for construction. Noted it could go to architectural and engineering costs.
Councilor McGiverin: asked to clarify that funds wouldn’t pay for administrative costs.
Zola: confirmed it would not.
Councilor McGiverin: asked if funds could be drawn before rest of funding comes in.
Zola: confirmed that is how it works, noting it would be helpful if it were sooner.
Councilor McGiverin: asked if Wayfinders would remain property owners.
Zola: stated they would not, and that there would be another entity created an LLC, and they would pay for property taxes.
Councilor McGiverin: asked to confirm taxes would be based on assessed value.
Zola: confirmed it would.
Councilor Lebron-Martinez: noted support but that she could not vote because her daughter works for Wayfinders.
Chairman Bartley: noted that abstaining from vote also requires abstention from discussion. Advised her to make statement at full council meeting.
Zola: noted she had looked up area media incomes, and offered to discuss those numbers.
Zola: stated that a household making 30% median incomes is about $25K and making 60% is a little over $50K. Noted that rent for a two bedroom for 30% would be $576 and for 60% would be roughly $1,100.
Chairman Bartley: asked for clarification of CPA’s position on timeline.
Councilor Sullivan: stated they are asking for a 14-month commitment. Noted that the first 8 months would allow for applicant to go through first round of grant applications, with the opportunity for the CPC to allow them to apply for grants again by adding the extra 4-6 months.
Zola: not the second round would be in Fall of 2021.
Councilor Sullivan: clarified that extension would allow applicant to go to CPC again without needing additional approval from City Council.
Chairman Bartley: stated that the clock should start January 1st, 2021, running through March 1st, 2022.
Councilor Sullivan: noted one of the funding conditions requires applicant to go back to CPA after 8 months if grant funds are not yet secured.
Zola: observed this to be understood.
Councilor Sullivan: described seven funding conditions:
- The CPA commitment of $250,000 for this project would be for an 8 month period only. The 8 month commitment would enable the applicant to apply for the state and federal funds in January 2021, and potentially receive an award by the summer of 2021;
- If the applicant does not receive state funding by the summer of 2021 to proceed with the project, the applicant may request an extension from the CPC for an additional 4-6 months to participate in additional grant application rounds;
- CPA funds for this project will not be drawn out until all the necessary funding commitments for the full construction have been obtained, and if they are not obtained by Sep. 1, 2021 and no request for a 4-6 month extension is put forward and accepted by the CPC, this grant will automatically terminate and the funds allocated for this project will no longer be reserved for this purpose;
- If a request for an extension is put forward prior to the Sept. 1, 2021, the CPC will have the option of granting or denying said extension without any requirement to put this recommendation before the City Council a second time;
- All construction work for this project must be completed by December 31, 2023. Applicant may request an extension of this date from CPC and CPC will have the option of granting or denying said extension without any requirement to put this recommendation before the City Council a second time;
- No disbursements of funds may occur until the project in its entirety has received all necessary permitting and approvals for all relevant municipal, state, and federal authorities;
- Other conditions may apply, as deemed necessary and as fully set forth within the final grant agreement with the City.
Chairman Bartley: seconded motion to attach the conditions.
Councilor Greaney: asked about the balance in the CPA fund.
Councilor Sullivan: stated he was unsure, but likely around $1.2 million. With this and another one tomorrow night, that will reduce it by around $425K. Noted that with one item in limbo, $50K is coming back to the fund.
Chairman Bartley: asked Admin to inquire with the CPA as far as the balance in the CPA fund as of December 1st. Where are we in terms of financing of four categories? Made motion to ask Admin to get info from CPAs admin. Seconded by Councilor Tallman. All vote in favor.
Chairman Bartley: noted the motion is to recommend awarding the funds, with the conditions. 4 in favor, 1 abstention (Lebron-Martinez).
Chairman Bartley: stated a need to set next meeting date in January. Asked for confirmation that everyone is okay with January 25th. All confirmed date is good.
Councilor Tallman: made motion to take item 2 off table and open public hearing, seconded by Councilor Greaney. All in favor.
Councilor Sullivan: asked for clarification of item 6.
Chairman Bartley: stated that item goes with number 7. On item 2, read letter regarding request for continuance for public hearing to be researched for time to address comments and requested revisions from engineer and planning department.
Councilor Tallman: motion to table item 2 and continue public hearing until January 25th at 6:30pm, seconded by Councilor Greaney. All in favor.
Councilor Sullivan: made motion that item 6 is complied with, seconded by Councilor Tallman. All in favor.
Councilor Tallman: made motion to adjourn, seconded by Councilor Lebron-Martinez. All in favor.
Meeting adjourned at 8:30pm.