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Planners and developers consider changes to proposed mall |

Karen Johnson of Charter Realty and Robert Osterhoudt of Creighton Manning Engineering appeared before the board at a workshop meeting and discussed changes to the proposed parking lot green space and the front of the store.

Planning Board Chairman Daniel Benoit said he was concerned about the developers’ parking design and asked if more planted islands could be added. He said this green space would break up the land and make it aesthetically pleasing.

“There’s no reason why we can’t make it as attractive as possible,” he said.

Benoit suggested at a previous meeting that the land be “paved” with some sort of permeable surface.

Johnson rejected the idea, saying the surfaces did not hold up well to winter snows and salting and sanding practices and could be very expensive.

The lot originally had six rows of parking spaces with islands and trees topping each row.

Osterhoudt said fragmented parking would be less attractive to retailers than open parking.

“If you start dividing the parking lot, it affects the flow of the store,” Osterhoudt said.

Board member Ed Forrester said plantings that screen the land from the road would be acceptable and stressed that the developers were building a commercial area and “not garden apartments.”

Planning board member Tony Puorro agreed that too many islands would create a maintenance and tilling nightmare and suggested that a few islands, rather than a barrier planted along the length of the land, could constitute a ” happy medium.

Osterhoudt said the idea would seem to break the pack. He said honey locusts of about 15 feet were among the trees that would be planted on the land.

Johnson accepted the change.

The council expressed concerns about possible traffic congestion on M Simmons Road, where an avenue leading to the complex has been proposed.

Osterhoudt said a traffic study for the entire project, which also includes other retail spaces, will be presented later. The developers presented only the first phase of the project, its grocery store, to the planning committee.

Johnson said the traffic study would take into account the length of lines in the driveway and on nearby roads.

She said the store would attract customers within an average 15-minute drive, but board members said shoppers from farther away could drive to the store. Board members said those customers were being considered for the traffic study.

The board also took issue with the proposed building’s facade, which will be a synthetic stucco-like material and feature an off-center entrance.

Board members asked if glass could be incorporated into the facade and if peaked roofs could be added to both ends of the store. The design has an otherwise flat roof.

Johnson said she and Osterhoudt might bring the building’s architect to the next meeting to discuss the building’s exterior walls and roof. However, she said one end of the building plan cannot be changed at this time because it may be adjacent to another building as the project progresses.

“Until we know what this building is going to look like in terms of function, I really don’t want to commit to any sort of final element,” she said.

The board of directors will speak again with the developers and their architect at a meeting scheduled for April 7.

Johnson and Osterhoudt said they will present a report on threatened and endangered species at that meeting, but the stormwater management report and traffic study won’t be ready yet.

To reach reporter Susan Campriello, call (518) 943-2100, ext. 21. 3333, or email [email protected]