Select Board Reviews Proposed Chapin Avenue Improvements

Reading, MA — Attorney Chris Latham, representing ACG Real Estate Reading, LLC, presented plans to the Select Board on Tuesday for improvements to the west end of Chapin Avenue, which would be done in conjunction with their proposed development of 531 Main Street, the site of the former Reading Chronicle Building.

The site plan review for the project was approved by the Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) on February 8.

Render of Preposed 531 Main Street

Latham described improvements which he believes will provide “greater pedestrian safety” on Chapin Avenue. These include concrete sidewalks with granite curbing on both sides of the street that tie into the sidewalks on Main Street, ADA compliant access points to the sidewalk, formalized parking spaces adjacent to the new building, a leveled area of sidewalk on the northwest corner of the new building to allow for potential future outdoor dining opportunities, and the installation of public bike racks. Latham also mentioned that during CPDC’s public hearings, abutters preferred that Chapin Avenue remain a two-way street.

Plans for 531 Main Street

Select Board chair Karen Herrick asked about the two mature trees on the property. Latham said that it would be cost-prohibitive to transplant the trees but that one existing street tree will be relocated, and one new street tree will be added to the area. There is also a landscaped area provided for the sidewalk improvements. The Select Board plans to hold a public hearing on the changes on July 20 before reaching a decision.

The Select Board also reviewed a draft version of the Town Manager’s goals for the coming year. Town Manager Robert LeLacheur proposed twelve broad areas for his goals, three of which were discussed by the board on Tuesday. These include goals in the areas of sustainability, seniors, and social justice. A deeper discussion on goals is planned for the July 20 Select Board meeting.

During his report, LeLacheur shared that, after a survey of the available areas at Camp Curtis Guild, it was determined that there is not enough buildable land for a new Department of Public Works (DPW) garage on the site. He reported that plans for relocation or improvement to the existing DPW site would have to look for space elsewhere.

The Select Board voted to appoint several individuals to various volunteer boards and committees in town using a consent agenda. Discussion arose over the appointment of one individual to the Climate Advisory Committee, known to several board members, to post regarding town political issues on social media using an anonymous screen name. Member Carlo Bacci expressed concerns over the message being sent to others about the appropriateness of the individual were to become a town official. Member Anne Landry responded to Chris Haley’s expressed concern regarding inadvertent open meeting law violations stemming from the use of a false name on social media by reminding the Board that all new Town committee members will receive guidance on the open meeting law and will be required to take ethics training. The board voted 3-2 to appoint the person to the committee. Bacci and member Christopher Haley were the dissenting votes.

The Select Board also appointed seven members to a new Parking Advisory and Recommendations Committee. This group, composed of a mixture of residents and downtown business owners, will be tasked with suggesting ideas to improve the parking situation in the downtown area. The group will be joined by one member of the Select Board and one member of the CPDC.

After discussion, the Select Board voted 5-0 to allow for continued remote participation in their meetings for as long as permissible. LeLacheur indicated that the legislature extended the ability for municipalities to continue to use virtual meetings through April of 2022. The board also decided to plan for their next meeting on July 20 to be held in a hybrid model in the Reading Public Library. This method will accommodate the members who wish to meet in person and those for whom virtual attendance is preferred. 

The public will be invited to join the members who are meeting in person at the library and join via a Zoom link. Those presenting to the board will be offered the same courtesy. According to LeLacheur, the technology used for hybrid meetings has been tested by the staff at a few of their meetings and appears to work well. As always, RCTV will air complete coverage of all Select Board public meetings.

The Select Board adjourned to executive session at 10:25 pm.

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