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SOUTHWICK — During a Planning Board public hearing on a proposal to build a 58,800-square-foot self-storage facility on College Highway, board members made it clear they think the building is too big for the lot.

“We’ve been telling you since the beginning your building is way too big,” said board member David Sutton to two developers, Ellen and Jim Boyle, who approached the town last April about building a self-storage facility at 662A College Hwy.

When the Boyles originally submitted plans to the Conservation Commission and Planning Board, they had proposed building two separate buildings on the 3.16-acre lot.

However, because a large portion of the property is considered wetlands, the plans were redrawn to include installing a culvert over a wet portion of the property that will provide an access road into the facility, and the two buildings were merged into one and moved to the rear of the property, which is on College Highway to the south of O’Reilly Auto Parts.

Christopher Chamberlain, a professional engineer with the Northampton-based Berkshire Design Group, explained at the Feb. 6 meeting what the daily operations will look like if the 24-hour-a-day facility opens. He said there would be manager onsite full-time, and during peak times of use, there would be an average of 8.5 people at the facility at any one time.

All the board members expressed concern about the number of users and storage units — there are more than 300 — versus the number of doors that would allow access to the building.

Board member Jessica Thornton said she was concerned that customers might have to walk at least 180 feet from their unit to one of the only two access doors on each side of the facility. She also said she was “not convinced this design fits the location.”

Board members David Sutton and Dave Spina also asked why a fence around the facility was not included in the plans. Joe Boyle said because of the terrain around the facility, it was believed that was enough of an obstacle for anyone who might want to get to the facility, adding that Fire Department Chief Richard Stefanowicz said it wasn’t needed.

Agreeing with Thornton, board Chair Michael Doherty called it “too big of a building and too much paved surface in the area … I don’t think it’s working.”

Joe Boyle said he had invested $500,00 in the plan and land.

“I’m trying to work for you guys. If you’re telling me, you just don’t like it, please tell us what would make it acceptable,” he said.

Doherty replied that it isn’t the Planning Board’s role to help design a project.

Ellen Boyle then asked if they needed to go back to the drawing board or that they could keep coming back month after month to meet the board’s expectations one at a time.

“I find it reasonable to give us suggestions to go by,” she said.

“It’s not up to us to design your property,” Sutton responded, adding that the Boyles can keep coming back to seek board approval.

“If it’s too big, shrink it down,” Sutton said, and if the board thinks its needs more doors, add more doors.

Ellen Boyle offered to take back the plan and make some changes.

“Go ahead. I’d like to see them,” Sutton answered.

As the hearing wrapped up, it was decided that the Boyles and their consultants would work with Town Planner Jon Goddard informally to draft a plan that might meet the board’s expectations.

The public hearing on the project will be reconvened on Feb. 27 at Town Hall.

cclark@thereminder.com | + posts