MONSON — Parking and vehicle access became the primary point of contention as the Monson Planning Board presided over a public hearing at the Feb. 20 meeting where questions were raised concerning a site plan approval request to make use of a vacant structure as a child care facility.

John Masuck, with Westfield-based R Levesque Associates, a landscape architectural and civil engineering firm, presented initial plans and diagramming for the site at 17 Palmer Rd. Masuck appeared on behalf of the proponents, Ryan and Lindsay Richard.

The couple currently operates a home daycare center in Monson with a maximum capacity of 10 children.

Masuck, who described the proposed business as, “essentially a turnkey operation” told board members that the 51,000 square foot parcel would be making use of eight to 10 thousand square feet due to significant wetland and riverfront impacts to the site.

Parking space striping, dumpster placement and the reconstruction of a rear deck were among the additions planned for the site along with a fenced play area against the wetland area.

“There’s really no expansion of the rear of the property,” he said.

Masuck said the Richards would present the proposals to the Zoning Board and the Conservation Commission in regard to the property and adjacent wetlands.
Speaking before the board, Lindsey Richard said the planned hours of operation for the facility would be Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. She also told the board that the maximum capacity would be set at 40 students while Masuck identified the number of available parking spaces at nine.

Board Chair Craig Sweitzer inquired about the plans for parking as well as pick up and drop access during the day.

“How’s the traffic flow going to work for dropping off, picking up and things like that,” he asked.

Masuck acknowledged the parking constraints with the number of spaces and turning space for vehicles.

“That’s all we could muster,” he said, while pointing to the parking lot area of the diagram.

Board members raised questions about vehicles backing up and turning around while picking up and dropping children off on the premises as well as the impact and presence of school buses potentially stopping to let children off at the facility.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t room for a dedicated drop off lane given the size of the existing parking,” Masuck said, “And there’s no, obviously as I mentioned, there’s no way to expand it unfortunately.”

Lindsey Richard said as many as five parking spaces would be utilized by staff members but that she may look for assistance from a café adjacent to the planned facility.

“I was thinking of talking with [The] Mug ‘N’ Muffin next door to see if maybe we could work something out or something where we can park a little bit there, we’re not sure yet so that’s kind of like the idea,” she said.

Sweitzer asked what might be considered the perfect type of traffic pattern and parking accessibility to allow for the pick up and drop off process.
“Do you have a plan to show how you’re going to deal with that,” he asked.
In response, Masuck referred back to the original parking plan and area of the diagram as it was presented.

After a further discussion of potential drop off times and safe traffic movement, Sweitzer requested more information from the Richards and Masuck.

“Can you come up with any plan to allay our fear of parking and safe discharge?” he asked. “We want to see this building used, we would love to see it be successful, we would more so want to see that it’s done safely.”

Masuck suggested dedicated employee parking furthest away from the building and further designating spaces as drop off and turn around only as a possible solution.

“We’re hamstrung with what’s out there,” he said.

Board members with Sweitzer concurring, expressed concern at the plan as presented and encouraged the proponents to work on a solution and suggested they present an updated site plan proposal at the March 19 meeting.

“We would love to see your project go forward but there’s some weaknesses in relation to that particular issue,” Sweitzer said.

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