Fence divides two boards

WESTFIELD – Good fences not only make for good neighbors, they can make pretty good dams, a fact that is pitting the Conservation Commission against the Planning Board, with the applicant, McDonald’s USA, LLC, in the middle of the issue.
The Planning Board voted in December to approved several permits requested by McDonald’s USA, LLC, to demolish and rebuild its restaurant at 299 East Main Street. The board voted 6-0 to approve the site and stormwater management plan after closing the public hearing opened for the restaurant petition at its Oct. 16 session.
Lucien M. DiStefano of Bohler Engineering of Southborough presented details of new modifications added to the original plan. The two outstanding issues of concern included a request from the abutting property owners to erect a fence along the eastern property line and a (detention) basin at the rear of the property requested by the city’s DPW (Department of Public Works) and Engineering (Department).
The board spent nearly an hour discussing the fence along the east and south property lines during the public hearing at which no members of the public were present. The fence issue was raised by the owners of the abutting properties who said that the fence is needed to keep litter generated by the fast-food restaurant on its own property.
George Abdow said that the litter is pushed onto the property of the former Abdow’s and Bickford’s restaurants property by a western wind and that a fence is needed to prevent the migration. However, members of the Planning Board asked if the migration issue was not litter, but rather McDonald’s customers who park on Abdow’s property and walk into the restaurant.
The issues related to the fence installation include its height, any openings in the fence line, its setback from East Main Street and a safety concern related to lines of sight which could be reduced. The Planning Board included erection of a fence as a condition of the project permits.
At its meeting Tuesday, DiStefano, presented The Conservation Commission details of the project as approved by the Planning Board, including a vinyl-clad chain-link fence along the eastern and southern boundaries of the restaurant’s property.
‘We’ve done everything we can to make the site better,” DiStefano said.
Commissioner James R. Murphy said “I agree.  My issue is the fence, which in static water is one thing but if there is flow, especially high velocity flow, it’s a another thing,”
“I don’t want to see a fence in a flood prone area.  Why have a fence that will impede the flow of water?” Murphy said.
Commissioner Henry Bannish agreed with Murphy.
“I don’t think there should be a fence there at all, especially like that,” Bannish said. “That is unacceptable.”
Murphy said that trash migration “is housekeeping between the two property owners and should never have been part of the discussion.”
“I am opposed to any fence, to stop people (from parking on Abdow’s property and walking into McDonald’s) is not our job,” Murphy said. “Our job is to stop any impediment to the flow of water.”
The commission then voted to approve an order of conditions for the project, including language prohibiting a fence of any kind.
City Planner Jay Vinskey said this week that McDonald’s USA will have to request the Planning Board to change the conditions of the site plan approved in December.
“They have an approved plan, so they can proceed with construction, but they will have to request the Planning Board to reconsider its conditions,” Vinskey said. “The Planning Board didn’t want a chain link fence, but the board and the Conservation Commission have different concerns.”

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