Planning Board roundup: International Marathon Center special permit OK’d

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Editor’s note: Check back Tuesday for a recap of the Planning Board’s discussion about its solar articles for Town Meeting.

The proposed International Marathon Center, planned for a spot on town-owned land at 53 East Main Street, took another step forward Monday when the Planning Board voted unanimously to approve a special permit.

The board had been tasked with determining whether the proposal conforms to the special permit criteria within the open space mixed use development (OSMUD) district.

As such, the board determined that “the proposed cultural use of the proposed International Marathon Center is in harmony with the general purpose and intent of this [zoning] chapter. The use special permit will be consistent with and is subject to all provisions of the master plan special permit applicable to the OSMUD district as a whole, and that the proposed use will not be detrimental to the neighborhood or the town.”

Said board member Fran DeYoung: “It looks like it absolutely adheres to both of the decision criteria, and I’m excited for this project to move forward.”

The project already had the support of zoning enforcement office Charles Kadlik, who wrote in a letter dated Oct. 21, 2020, to 26.2 Foundation executive director Tim Kilduff: “It is my opinion that the International Marathon Center is a cultural use, and the mission related activities and events to help support the financial sustainability of your organization would be considered accessory to the permitted cultural use.”

The 26.2 Foundation is leading the project, which includes a 25,000 square foot museum, meeting rooms, a cafe, a gift shop and outdoor recreational space.

Wilson Street solar project discussion continued

Grasshopper Energy, which plans to construct a 2.4 megawatt solar array off Wilson Street, requested a modification to the special permit that was granted by the board in March 2019.

Chris King from Atlantic Design Engineers, on behalf of the applicant, said the footprint has not changed and no additional clearing is to take place, but the access road inside the project has been relocated to the northern edge to “maximize the efficiency of the remaining footprint.” Additionally, a stormwater basin was relocated and revised.

Also, the plan now calls for more panels, packed more tightly together. This led to a discussion on how it would affect the vegetation beneath the panels. Because there is not much space between the panels, the ground will not get as much sunlight. The ground can’t be dirt, because that would affect the stormwater runoff.

Mitch Maslanka from Goddard Consulting, working for the applicant, said there were shade-tolerant and drought-tolerant species that could be planted in topsoil beneath the panels, using slender bush clover as an example.

Phil Paradis from BETA, the town’s engineering consultant, said he was not aware of any fully shade-tolerant ground cover, and BETA’s landscape architect “was very skeptical that these things could grow in no sunlight.”

The public hearing was continued to the March 15 Planning Board meeting.

Cornell’s expansion approved

The board voted unanimously to approve the minor project site plan for the permanent outdoor expansion of Cornell’s Irish Pub, following a recommendation of approval from the Design Review Board.

The expansion already has the support of the Select Board.