Pond fight all over again?

Posted 8/26/21

By JOHN HOWELL Massasoit Terrace residents know better than to defy Mother Nature, but when it comes to saving Sand Pond there's no backing down. Taking heed of Hurricane Henri, the Save Sand Pond team postponed Sunday's pond palooza, an aquatic and

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Pond fight all over again?


Massasoit Terrace residents know better than to defy Mother Nature, but when it comes to saving Sand Pond there’s no backing down.

Taking heed of Hurricane Henri, the Save Sand Pond team postponed Sunday’s pond palooza, an aquatic and beachside gathering to rally the community and raise funds in their four-year battle to stop a portion of Pond Plaza on Post Road from being developed into a 630-unit self-storage facility.

Regardless of the weather, and unless there is a cancellation or postponement, Save the Pond will turn out for the Monday, Aug. 30, Zoning Board of Review meeting at 6 p.m. in the community room of police headquarters when PRW Holding LLC’s request for a parking exemption starts all over again.

That’s right – after three hearings and 12 hours of testimony, ending with the vote to grant the developers a special use permit, the board is going to go through the process a second time. That’s because on the basis of the Save Sand Pond appeal of the board ruling, Superior Court Associate Justice Jeffery Lanphear remanded the case to the board.

In his decision, Lanphear wrote that the board “acted within its authority in granting the special use permit but exceed its authority in making its ruling on parking.”

At the time, then City Planner Bruce Keiser argued the case would have to be heard from the start because the composition of the board has changed with the resignation of Beverly Sturdahl. John Mancini, attorney for the developer, reasoned that wouldn’t be necessary since transcripts of the hearings are available and a new appointee to the board could easily be brought up to speed.

Because the zoning board acts in a review capacity similar to a jury in a trial, the decision fell on the side of rehearing the petition rather than narrowing the hearing to the issue of parking. The court overturned the board’s action on the basis that it could not grant more than a 50 percent relief from the city codes. Ironically, the developer did not initially seek such extensive relief, but agreed to board efforts to enhance storm water runoff and landscaping screening from neighbors at the sacrifice of parking.

A rerun came as a surprise to David Bouchard, who lives on the pond and has been a stalwart leader in the fight against the self-storage units. Bouchard learned of the Aug. 30th meeting from a Beacon legal advertisement.

“How many times do you have to win this … it’s double, triple jeopardy,” Bouchard said Thursday. Bouchard doubts the organization will have legal representation at the board meeting because of the associated cost, but notes in prior hearings both he and Alisha Richardson were qualified as expert witnesses.

“It’s worth fighting for,” Bouchard said of the pond. A good thing to have come out of the extended battle, he said, is the unification of the neighborhood and events like the pond palooza and the Halloween party.

“It caught us all off guard,” Richardson said of the revival of the petition and Zoning Board of Review hearing. She questions whether there will be adequate parking at the police station the night of the hearing. She’s also in agreement the community is stronger for having contested the development.

“There’s such camaraderie between neighbors,” she said.

Save Sand Pond have won their battles, the first coming in September 2017 when, despite a favorable recommendation from the planning staff, the Planning Board ruled the development was incompatible with the neighborhood. Residents argued the 38-foot high self-storage facility was too large, a scar on the neighborhood; could be the source of stored chemicals, such as fertilizers, that could be accidentally released into the pond; and wasn’t needed because there are plenty of self-storage facilities nearby.

PRW Holding appealed the decision to the Zoning Board of Review, setting the stage for three nights of hearings and board approval. Even though Save Sand Pond filed an appeal of the Zoning Board of Review action, the developer moved ahead for preliminary plan approval from the Planning Board. After two nights of hearings, the Planning Board found the development inconsistent with the neighborhood.

In voting to deny approval, board chairman Philip Slocum said, “It all comes down to the size and scale.” He said he may have supported a smaller self-storage facility, but as planned the site doesn’t support it.

Dan Geagan of the Planning Department said the application is basically unchanged with no alterations to the size of the proposed self-storage facility.

Mancini, who represents the developer, did not return a call.

As for the pond palooza, that’s now planned for this Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

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