The first three hearings scheduled for Monday, January 13 with the Plympton Planning Board all requested continuances to later dates. The remaining hearing was for CLE, LLC to seek site plan approval to construct two buildings at 0 Palmer Rd. to be used as retail/showroom spaces for cellular nodes.
Cellular nodes are small low-powered antennas, sometimes referred to as small cells, that provide coverage and capacity much like a cellular tower. These nodes, which are often placed on utility poles, streetlights, etc., are necessary to power 5G technology which handles large amounts of data at extremely fast speeds. According to CLE, LLC owner Kevin Farrell, who was present at Monday’s hearing, his customers include Crown Castle, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.
Farrell said that the nodes are manufactured at a fabrication shop on Wood St. in Middleboro. Since the facility is not conducive to displaying the nodes for potential clients, Farrell intends to use the proposed buildings on Palmer Rd. as a showroom and retail facility where customers can go to view and purchase the nodes.
CLE, LLC was represented Monday by their attorney Edward Conroy and by a representative of Webby Engineering. Farrell stressed that the proposed buildings would be strictly for business use and emphasized his belief that they fit well into the character of the area as it is a business district.
Planning Board member Paul D’Angelo recused himself from the Board as he knows Farrell. Chair Ann Sobolewski and Planning Board members Jennifer MacDonald, John Schmid, and Jay Cohen were all present. Conroy said that Farrell has been putting these nodes up throughout Boston and handed the Board photos of them.
Sobolewski said that the town’s technical review engineer was unable to review the plans due to a death in the family. He will, however, review the plans prior to the next hearing and provide feedback to the applicant.
The proposed buildings are 80 ft. x 90 ft. and are 7,200 sq. ft. each. The lot is 12 acres. Sobolewski asked what the rationale was for having two identical buildings to be used for the same purposes. The engineer explained that the town restricts retail spaces to be less than 10,000 sq. ft. in size. Additionally, there was a problem with the installation of sprinklers in a building over 7,500 sq. ft. According to Farrell there will only be one sign on one of the two buildings.
Farrell said there would be 6-8 employees, but they would not all be full-time or on-site. The initial plan would be to have two employees in each of the buildings.
Schmid had a number of technical questions for the engineer that appeared to reveal problems with the proposed plan that would need to be fixed before proceeding. Several questions from the Board regarded the aesthetics of the buildings themselves. Schmid asked if the green color depicted in the plans was really the intended color of the actual buildings and was told that it was but that it could be changed if the town preferred something else.
MacDonald also reminded them that there were some specific requirements such as 60 percent of the building consisting of windows. Sobolewski asked if they had any waivers for the parts of the plans that do not align with town requirements and was told that they did not.
The hearing was opened to public participation and abutter Siobhan Green took the opportunity to share her concerns. Green, who said that she has lived in her residence for 18 years, said that during that time there have been three owners of the property at 0 Palmer Rd. Green said that the previous owner dumped truckloads of dirt that have resulted in “ferocious” flooding to her property.
“I worry about people holding to their word because everybody that has bought the property has somehow lied or defied the town in one way or another in what they plan to do with it and how they plan to handle it,” Green explained. Green went on to describe a past incident where a number of trucks idled on the property as early as 3 a.m.
In examining the site plans, Green noted that it looked like several trees would have to be taken down that would appear to result in a full view from her property of the buildings to be constructed. “I am partial, of course, to the woods, that’s why I moved to Plympton…I like the rural beauty of it,” Green explained.
Sobolewski said that there are a lot of things that can be done to provide attractive screening. “One of the things that this Board has routinely, as John said, been focused on is appropriate landscaping especially when there is a residential abutter because your home is your biggest asset that is your value of your land and we’ve really taken that to heart. A lot of our applicants are very forthcoming and willing to meet with abutters and talk to them,” Sobolewski told Green.
Green also questioned the area of the property that she believed to be wetlands. CLE, LLC will have to come before the Conservation Commission because they are within 100 ft. of wetlands. They will also still need to go before the Board of Health as well.
A site walk has been scheduled for February 8 at 11:30 a.m. All abutters are invited to participate. A continuance of the hearing has also been scheduled for February 10 at 7:15 p.m.