Planning Board Shares Concerns Over Billerica Road Fire Station Site Plan
The site plan materials presented to the board on Wednesday night drew numerous questions on issues ranging from parking to surrounding traffic flow to how it looks.
Debate over whether or not there will be new Fire Department headquarters ended last year, but it appears debate over how it will look is continuing on.
The Chelmsford Planning Board heard site plan concepts on the upcoming facility, which will be located adjacent to Town Hall on Billerica Road.
While much smaller than the initial proposals pitched to voters in 2007 and 2011, the facility will add 15,000 new square feet of space and 5,000 square feet of renovated space to what will become in essence a joint facility for fire and Town Hall employees.
The proposed facility will also add 12 new parking spaces in addition to 77 existing parking spaces attached to Town Hall, with 23 of the total parking spaces remaining on the upper level of the complex near Billerica Road.
This drew concern from Planning Board member Sue Carter due to issues relating to lighting and convenience on the current parking area in Town Hall’s lower lot, particularly in regard to convenience of those hoping to get to public meetings at Town Hall from the lower lot.
Carter was also concerned with vehicles that would have to leave the lower level as well.
“Many of us leaving Town Hall (upper parking lot now) will go through the center because there’s a light, but on the lower level, you can’t go that way because there isn’t a left hand turn sign,” said Carter. “
Heading onto Chelmsford Street was also a concern when it came to fire trucks exiting from the facility onto Wilson Street, with concerns from residents like Mel Ciulla over traffic during morning peak times coming head to head with worries about turning radius if Wilson Street remained as a two-way street.
“The only way a fire truck is going to get down there without land taking is to make it a one way street,” said Ciulla, who lives at the corner of Billerica and Wilson.
Fire Chief Michael Curran told the board later in the meeting that the best route for trucks heading down Wilson Street would be to put red lights at the ends of the street on Chelmsford Street and Billerica Road while having larger trucks take a wider turn at the intersection of Billerica and Wilson.
Architecturally, there were also concerns among board members, specifically Bob Joyce, who would prefer that the new facility appear more like the fire departments in Ayer, Hudson, MA, or even Chelmsford’s Police Department in terms of its signage.
“It kind of reminds me of CVS the first time it came in. That was awful and this is awful,” said Joyce. “I don’t want to build a fire station just to build a fire station, and this looks much like the fire station we have except that it has five bays instead of three.”
Carter also had concerns with the architectural style that it would not blend with Town Hall like the addition to the Adams Library was able to adapt with original portions of that building.
However, Janet Slemenda of HKT Architects noted that there were key differences that needed to be taken into account in terms of functionality and age.
“I think it’s important to remember this is a different scale building and a modern building,” said Slemenda.
Other key portions of the site plan included a new stop light arching above Billerica Road that would be tied into the light at the corner of Billerica and Golden Cove roads, a crosswalk just past Perham Road on Billerica Road and fencing and trees buffering the new building with neighbors to the east on Billerica Road, just to name a few.
However, board member Ann McGuigan reminded the rest of the board that the project is currently in site plan review, and that the changes the board can mandate are limited.
Review of the site plan will be continued at the board's next meeting on Feb. 13