BELCHERTOWN — Applicants met with the Planning Board on Jan. 23 to continue to present their proposed plans for Phase 1 “A” and 1 “B” of the Carriage Grove property.

The redevelopment of the Belchertown State School property, dubbed the Carriage Grove project by MassDevelopment, is intended to bring new mixed-use developments to the former site of the infamous institution for the disabled.

Phase 1 “A” would focus on creating a 108 unit, multi-family apartment complex and Phase 1 “B” would focus on the reuse of two existing administration buildings into a museum and café/food market.

Issues that were brought up during the first presentation on Nov. 28, 2023, included the need for a formal waiver for the parking requirement, approval from the water district and Conservation Commission, a copy of the easement plan, the number of dumpsters that would be on the site, snow storage, the amount of affordable housing and easier access to townhouse buildings two and three.
After an hour-long discussion and the applicant showing progress toward meeting the Planning Board’s past conditions of the project, the board was able to shorten the list to a few items.

The applicants received approval from the water district and Conservation Commission as well as adding more dumpsters and snow storage.

Tighe & Bond, the engineering firm contracted by the town, approved the project as well.

The conditions that the Planning Board agreed that still were not met included reaching out to the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority about adding bus stops, a copy of the maintenance and operation plan, a form of the easement plan, the potential change to the exterior design of certain buildings and a written confirmation that the plan will have a minimum of 10% affordable housing.

When Planning Board Chair Daniel Beaudette asked each voting member if they were on board with approving the project with a list of the remaining conditions, Planning Board Vice Chair Michael Hoffler said he was not ready.

Hoffler said, “I want to see what was dropped off at the beginning of this meeting that hasn’t been uncurled yet. I don’t know if there are substantial issues, but I am not prepared to sign off tonight on plans that were handed to us three minutes before we started. It’s like handing me a contract and saying don’t look at the first 10 pages, it’s still the same as what we talked about just sign your name. I can’t, I doubt I’ll see anything, but I want a chance to look at it.”

Even though the board was verbally in favor of conditionally approving the project 4-1, Beaudette added that he “puts a lot of stock in having unanimity amongst the board,” leading to the public hearing being continued.

The Planning Board agreed to continue the public hearing to Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m.

Beaudette added, “There are things that I have asked for that weren’t taken care of and that is rather disappointing. Things get handed in at the last minute and you can’t expect that you can hand things in at the 11th hour, and they are going to be adequately reviewed.”

As the applicants were getting ready to leave the room with their plans, Beaudette advised them to come well prepared next time.

He said, “It would behoove you to come back to things that we have asked for. If there is a misunderstanding, I would talk to the town planner before you come back so we don’t have another discussion where we have a disagreement.”

Before the Planning Board moved to continue the public hearing, the applicants asked for conditional approval so that they can apply for funding.

Hofler responded, “This is addressed to the entire project. You have been working on this for a number of years and it’s very important for Belchertown to have a well-designed, well-constructed instituted residential portion in order to support the entire development of the state school. This is only the second time you have sat down with us to do a presentation. You canceled more meetings with us than you’ve attended so to say right now to us that you need this in a hurry, I certainly can’t approve just yet.”

tgarnet@thereminder.com | + posts