Masten Circle warehouse project approved

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A warehouse and office space will be constructed on this property after approval was granted by council

City Council approved a request to construct a flex-style storage and office building on East Masten Circle. The request also included a request to waive a requirement for bicycle parking in the warehouse development. The property was previously owned by Atlantic Storage.

“This is a 2.39 acre property on the east side of Masten Circle which is limited industrial,” Eric Wahl, landscape architect with Pennoni and Associates, said. “The buildings will be built as a shell, but the plan shows six units for each building. Each unit has an entry door and a 12-foot wide punch door.”

Wahl continued, explaining that there would be a stormwater management system as well as deciduous and evergreen trees. Shade trees in parking lot islands would be pin oaks as they have a tap root that would not disrupt paving.

“A waiver has been requested from providing bicycle parking since there are no bike paths that connect to this area and no designated bike lanes on master plans have been routed to the location,” Wahl continued.

Councilman Jason James asked what the requirement was for bicycle racks and Wahl stated that the code language was that bicycle racks were “required or encouraged.”

“Your comment about no bicycle racks,” Councilman Mike Boyle said. “They’re beginning reconstruction on highway 113 that will include bicycle lanes. I think that the trend will be over time that there will be more people using bicycles. And a bicycle rack isn’t going to hurt anybody. You’ve got more than adequate parking and that will also aid people, but not everybody in this town can afford cars, unfortunately. I see a lot of people right now on bicycles.”

Wahl pointed out that council discussed safety issues on East Masten Circle the previous week related to heavy traffic and trucks near pedestrians as well as bicyclists. This was one of the reasons the developer felt bicycle racks were unsafe options. During the public comment portion of the meeting, one resident spoke in favor of keeping the bicycle racks.

“I have to agree with Mike,” Nina Pletcher said. “I think it’s unfortunate that you can’t put a bike rack out there. You can’t stop people from riding bikes just because big trucks are on the road. And while I see that it sounds like a safety issue, it’s probably not the responsibility of this organization to worry about safety for people who need to get to those locations to work and require them to wait. If biking is it, then they need a place to put it safely and stay until they get out of work.”

The first motion made by council approved the warehouse project but denied the request for the bicycle rack waiver.

“I vote no because I feel as though if there becomes a need for a place for bikes to be parked or whatever, I think the company would provide it as needed,” Councilwoman Wilson said. “But to start out with one, I don’t think that is something we dictate that they should do at that point.”

Councilman Todd Culotta also voted no for the motion.

“We are getting hung up on bike racks when there’s an opportunity to add more businesses and jobs,” Councilman Culotta said. “The whole point of the industrial park out there is to create jobs so I’m happy with what’s being proposed. I don’t think we need to get hung up on whether there is a bike rack or not. As Councilwoman Wilson said, if the businesses that lease those spaces feel the need to put a bike rack out there for their employees, they will do it.”

Councilman Baer stated that he voted to require the bike racks as he felt the city should encourage more biking.

“With our bicycle plan going into effect, we are encouraging bicycle use,” Councilman Boyle said. “As I also said, the construction is going to begin this week on 113, a major road near the circle and it is encouraging bicycle use, so it’s kind of important.”

The measure failed with a tie vote broken by Mayor Archie Campbell who voted against not granting the waiver. Other than Councilman Culotta and Councilwoman Wilson, Councilman James and Councilwoman Nirmala Samaroo also voted no while Councilmen Boyle, Baer, Dan Marabello and Andy Fulton voted yes. A second motion was made, this time allowing the waiver.

“I vote yes,” Councilman James said. “I think if there was an area or project for waiver of the bicycle rack, this would meet the criteria.”

Councilman Culotta agreed with Councilman James.

“I’m all for biking just as much as anybody here, but we don’t need to get hung up on this,” Councilman Culotta said. “If they need bike racks, they will put them in there.”

Councilman Boyle voted no on the request to waive the bicycle racks.

“I think basically if our bicycle master plan is to have any weight, we need to start implementing it and requiring more use of bicycles,” Councilman Boyle said.

Councilman Fulton agreed when he voted no for the measure.

“I don’t think it’s a big ask for a company putting in large warehouses to put in a bike rack,” Councilman Fulton said. “They are expecting employees to be able to go to work and they may not necessarily have to burn gas if there are local employees who use bicycles.”

The second motion passed after Mayor Campbell again broke a tie, voting to allow the bicycle rack waiver.

“The company is going to do that anyway if it is necessary,” Mayor Campbell said. “When they have employees who are biking, it will look bad if the company didn’t do that.”

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