CPDC Approves Birch Meadow Plans

Reading, MA — The Community Planning and Development Commission (CPDC) voted 4-0 to approve the minor site plan review for phase one of the Birch Meadow master plan on Monday. Phase one of the Birch Meadow master plan includes plans to construct a parking lot with fifty-five striped spaces at the site of the former Imagination Station, build a restroom facility and lacrosse wall in the center of the park, and an improved walkway in the “spine” of the park which will connect Birch Meadow Drive with Reading Memorial High School.

Phase one construction will be funded using an allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Previously, CPDC had expressed concern regarding the proximity of the parking lot curb cut to the crosswalk at Coolidge Middle School. Activitas Project Manager Stephen Crisafulli explained that the curb cut will be posted as an exit only and will include a gate that will be closed during school drop-off and pick-up operations. This option was developed after Crisafulli met with staff members from both Coolidge and Birch Meadow Elementary School. CPDC member John Weston continued to express concerns over how the gate will be managed as well as how the area for game day bus drop-off will be regulated, though Weston acknowledged that these issues were beyond the scope of the minor site plan review. CPDC chair Heather Clish also asked Crisafulli to confirm that the proposed lighting for the project is “dark skies” compliant.

Community Development Director Andrew MacNichol reported that the Housing Production Plan was approved by the Select Board on January 24 and was submitted to the Department of Housing and Community Development prior to the deadline. The Housing Production Plan helps guide the process the town will follow to continue encouraging affordable housing production in town.

Clish praised the quality of the work that produced the plan and encouraged residents to read the data it includes. “It’s worth the read to see what challenges and potential ways to address the matter are,” Clish commented. “We have a lot [of work] to do to get where we want to be,” MacNichol added.

CPDC voted 4-0 to adopt the plan.

CPDC Quorum Issues

CPDC member Tony D’Arezzo asked the two Select Board members who were watching the meeting to note that the Commission is down to only three of a possible five full members, potentially creating quorum problems in the near future. MacNichol added that unless the legislature acts, members’ ability to meet in a hybrid format will no longer be available after the end of March. D’Arezzo, who is an associate member, offered to become a full member if the recruiting of an associate member is deemed more likely.

CPDC continued the public hearing for 25 Haven Street to March 13 at 9:00 pm at the developer’s request and met in executive session to discuss litigation regarding 459 Main Street. CPDC adjourned at 9:20 pm.

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