Selectmen to Recommend Fire Station at Town Meeting
The Board of Selectmen heard from various neighbors concerned about the project.
After heated discussion with neighboring residents, selectmen last night decided to recommend the approval of the fire station proposal at Town Meeting.
A number of residents spoke against the fire station during the meeting's open session.
Resident Gary Sousa said the town was rushing with the idea of a fire station.
"I've never seen a fire station look more slammed in, the parking out here ... there's no way it'll work ... we’re spending $8 million on this," he said. "And the fire chief didn’t look too warm and fuzzy about it eiter. You've got to look back and say, in 25 years, we got it right. We nailed it."
Joane Besonen said she was concerned about selling her home with the fire station across the street.
"If and when that station comes here and is attached the town hall, will any one of you want to come and live across the street? Would you consider Billerica Road of 250-plus feet of building ... a nice place to live?"
Kevin Ross told selectmen his concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
"This project was pushed extremely fast," he told selectmen. " ... You didn't give us our due process to hear our side of it ... you sheltered us from our Town Meeting reps. I'm asking you to delay this vote by 60 days. Ask us again about Wilson Street. Ask us for what we really need - a dream fire station, not a half (thought-out) thing next to my house."
Selectman Jon Kurland said public meetings on the issue have been held sine February, and the issue has been in the media since then, as well.
Kurland said when the Wilson Street fire station was on the table, selectmen received a petition with dozens of signatures from neighbors opposed to the project. Kurland said even some of the same neighbors are now opposed to the Billerica Road project.
"The bottom line is, this has been an open project," he said.
When it came time to discuss making the recommendation for Town Meeting, Lane said he wanted to clarify a few things after "things were getting distorted."
"If approved at Town Meeting, there is still an entire planning process that needs to be vetted," said Lane, who said it would probably take six months to put plans together and then the building would go through the desgin and planning process, like any other project.
"It has to meet lighting and landscaping requirements and curb cuts, the whole she-bang and at that point it’s a public hearing. Everyone can come forward and offer input," said Lane. "It seems to be glazed over that this is a long process ... it's not being slammed into place. The town meeting vote is the first piece of it and then it needs to go to land use and it could be a year and half before shovel hits the ground."
Should the fire station pass at Town Meeting, a building committee would be immediately formed, said Town Manager Paul Cohen. Many board members said they would prefer if neighbors to the proposed station were involved in that committee.
Kurland said the current fire station is living on borrowed time.
"I would love for it to be at Wilson and Chelmsford, that would have been my first choice. The problem is it was voted down twice by citizens and we’re running out of time," he said.