Neighbors Speak Out Against South Main Development

Public Hearing, Special Permit, Stormwater and Site Plan Review Application 252, 258 and 262 Main St/10 Pinevale Ave

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Reading, MA — Residents from almost every home on Pinevale Avenue gathered at the Community Planning and Development (CPDC) meeting on Monday to speak in opposition to a proposed mixed-use development located from 252 to 262 Main Street and 10 Pinevale Avenue.

Attorney Chris Latham, speaking for developer BLV Reading, shared a proposal that would combine four contiguous lots to create a 1.05-acre parcel on which a four-story building would be constructed. The ground floor would consist of 8,100 square feet of retail space with forty residential units on the upper three floors. Latham added that four units would be set aside as affordable units.

Link to project plans

The proposed project is the result of an assemblage of four contiguous lots, totaling 1.059 Acres of primarily Business A zoned land with frontage along Main Street and Pinevale Ave referred to as 252 Main St, 258 Main St, 262 Main St, and 10 Pinevale Ave.

Latham continued, adding that the development would contain seventy-eight parking spaces and would reduce the number of curb cuts on Main Street from three to one. Additionally, a parking egress driveway would replace the home currently located at 10 Pinevale Avenue. Latham also noted that the proposed project would have the lowest per-acre density of any similar project in town. 

Latham reported that the property in question falls in the business A zoning area, has been designated as a priority development area, and is only a thirteen-minute walk from the depot. The proposed project complies with the mixed-use bylaw and meets or exceeds all dimensional and parking requirements.

According to Latham, the project would increase the diversity of housing stock in town and improve the streetscape of South Main Street. He also noted that its alignment with a side street matches other properties on South Main and is a use of the 2019 bylaw amendment allowing a 30-foot extension for business A properties on South Main Street.

“If there were ever a perfect fit for mixed-use development on South Main Street . . . this is it,” Latham proclaimed.

Latham also lauded the environmental aspects of the proposal, noting that the building will not use any fossil fuels, will have two public electric vehicle charging stations, combine open space into the plan, will be the first property of this type to support composting, and “at tremendous cost, stormwater has been designed to exceed the community’s stated goal of achieving the twenty-five-year mark with a 100% reduction of the 100-year mark.”

A seemingly unified Pinevale Avenue neighborhood presented numerous issues they have with the development, ranging from traffic and parking concerns, noise, light, the removal of mature trees, concern for the abutting wetlands, and safety for children and property with increased traffic, noting that Pinevale Avenue is a dead-end street. 

Abutter Joanna Wheat began stating that she “respectfully and forcefully opposes” the plans for the site. Jennifer Killeen shared that she is “nothing but infuriated” at the proposed demolition of 10 Pinevale Avenue. She also expressed concerns regarding overflow parking spilling out onto Pinevale Avenue, which she said would “change the character of our neighborhood.” Linda Mackensie detailed the issues she already has with the abutting Fantasia Building at 274 Main Street. “I want to save my neighbors from the same thing,” she added.

Lynn Farrell, owner of 2 Pinevale Avenue, which is on the corner of Pinevale Avenue and Main Street, spoke about the noise and imposition the new building would have on her property as well as the location of the new drive separating her property from the rest of the street, “Our house will be its own little entity,” Farrell explained. Maureen Hunt, tenant at 2 Pinevale Avenue, further explained that “twelve units will be looking into our house.”

Tricia McCarty recalled the discussion around the bylaw creating the extension zone, “I never thought the intent of the planning committee was to allow a developer to utilize the 30-foot extension to purchase a property, not on Main Street, to be incorporated into their Main Street property,” McCarty explained.

“We all want the development of Main Street to be amazing . . . but not at the cost of the cozy feel of our neighborhoods, and that starts at streets like Pinevale Avenue,” McCarty concluded.

CPDC chair John Weston ended the discussion by sharing with the developer that he has some of the same concerns as expressed by the neighbors. “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should,” Weston counseled as he encouraged the developer to consider changes to the proposal based on neighbor feedback.

CPDC continued the public hearing to January 8.

Continued Public Hearing, Site Plan Application & Special Permit 413 Main St, McDonald’s USA

CPDC also reopened the public hearing for McDonald’s restaurant at 413 Main Street. Project Engineer Dan Allen shared at CPDC’s October 16 meeting that the current 3,700 square-foot building, built in 1963, would be torn down and replaced with a modern 3,970 square-foot structure in the same location on the site. Allen explained that an underground culvert that runs through the property limits the options to rearrange the site. The new building would contain two drive-through windows with dual drive-through ordering points on the rear side of the building. The Play Place on the Main Street side of the property would be replaced with a recirculation lane, allowing vehicles to re-enter the parking lot on the south side after receiving their food without returning to Main Street.

After discussions with residents, Allen presented a plan with a few changes from the one submitted in October. He reminded CPDC that the second drive-through lane would improve operations, provide a better experience for customers, and move more of the queue for the drive-through off Main Street and onto the property. He also highlighted improved traffic patterns, allowing vehicles to exit onto Bolton Street before reengaging with Main Street. Regarding stormwater improvements to the site, “the proposed improvements are practical,” Allen stated.

Resident David Talbot shared his belief that answers regarding increased traffic at the site due to the double drive-through still need to be answered. He suggested that new technologies, such as the ordering app, could increase traffic even further. “I hope you deny the site plan,” Talbot added.

CPDC member Mark Wetzel shared some of Talbot’s concerns. “In my eyes, adding that amount of volume [to the intersection] is an issue we should be looking at,” Wetzel commented.

Weston suggested that people’s concerns were fueled by their experience with the Chick-fil-A restaurant in Woburn as their frame of reference. “This doesn’t feel right,” Weston added. He suggested that McDonald’s perform a sensitivity, or “what if” analysis for the site to present to the CPDC. “Help us understand; help us be confident that there isn’t something else to be done,” Weston concluded. The public hearing for 413 Main Street was continued to January 8.

CPDC adjourned at 10:45 pm.

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