Board OKs site plan for 43-unit housing development in Athol 

  • Fitchburg developer Bill Krikorian (left, at center) and engineer Bill Hannigan meeting with Athol’s Board of Planning and Community Development. The pair were providing details on Krikorian’s proposed 43-unt housing development for downtown Athol. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • Engineer Bill Hannigan explains the site plan for a 43-unit downtown housing development to Athol's Board of Planning and Community Development. The development is proposed by Fitchburg developer Bill Krikorian. To Hannigan's left is Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • Fitchburg developer Bill Krikorian (left) and engineer Bill Hannican (center) speaking with Athol’s Board of Planning and Community Development about Krikorian’s plans for a 43-unit housing development for downtown Athol. Also pictured, Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 9/8/2023 7:00:00 AM
Modified: 9/8/2023 7:00:05 AM

ATHOL — The Board of Planning and Community Development approved a site plan for a proposed 43-unit downtown housing development after wrapping up a public hearing Tuesday night.

Fitchburg developer Bill Krikorian has plans to build the structure on the site of the municipal garage, which was closed to the public several years ago due to safety concerns. The board approve the site plan as presented, along with several waivers and the addition of conditions that must be met by the developer before a building permit is granted. The vote was 5-0 with one abstention.

Project engineer Bill Hannigan showed the board a revised plan which, he said, answered some of the questions raised by board members during the first installment of the hearing on Aug. 2. One of those issues was accommodation for dumpsters for the residents of the building, as well as the aesthetic impact of the trash receptacles.

Hannigan said the dumpster pad would hold two 10-yard dumpsters which would be surrounded by a six-foot-high, solid wall, vinyl fence. The bins, he said in response to a question from board member Jacky Doherty, will not be under a roof or cover.

“Depending on the company that does the trash removal,” he said, “where they bring their trash will depend upon what we are able to do regarding recycling bins and trash bins. It might be we have the two trash bins and then a recycling bin inside that same area.”

Asked by board member Marc Morgan who would determine the frequency of trash pickup and making sure the area doesn’t become a mess, Hannigan said, “There’s going to be an on-site management company who will be handling all that stuff. Basically, there will be someone who’s in charge of plowing, snow removal, landscaping, just day-to-day stuff that comes up in the building — a door that’s not closing right — whatever it is, there will be someone there to take care of that.”

Hannigan did ask for, and ultimately received, a waiver from the requirement that a traffic study be done.

“We are asking for a waiver for the full analysis,” he said. “We’re trying to apply information, just to kind of get a gauge of where we are relative to the requirement of 50 trips per hour, or 250 trips per day, as the trigger for a full traffic study.”

The information is being pulled from a publication from the Institute of Transportation Engineers, he said.

Hannigan added that it is difficult to estimate the number trips to and from the site generated by the businesses that may occupy the two storefronts on the first floor of the building.

“Is it a convenience store? Is it a dentist’s office? Is it an architect’s office? I still don’t believe were going to get above 50 trips per hour, because we’re at about 20 with the residential part (of the development),” he said. “But that’s part of the analysis we’re looking at.”

The waiver for a full traffic analysis was granted with the condition that updated information on traffic estimates be provided before the building permit is granted.

The engineer also informed the board that plans call for improvements to the sidewalk running in front of the proposed building on South Street. Initial plans for providing a crosswalk spanning South Street have been dropped but, said Hannigan, “We are committed to building an access point somewhere along our frontage. We have agreed to work with the town on where they think an appropriate crosswalk location would be.”

Responding to a question from the public, Hannigan said a total of 48 parking spaces would be provided for the development: 35 outside and 13 at ground level in the building. The number of handicap spaces provided will comply with ADA (American with Disabilities Act) guidelines.

Asked by a reporter where he planned to set up a staging area to facilitate construction, Krikorian replied, “I discussed this a little bit with the town manager. I also discussed with Keith (McGuirk) of the EDIC (Economic Development and Industrial Corporation). And there are several properties in the area that will be suitable and adequate for that, we just haven’t decided which one will work best at this time. That’s one of the bridges we have to cross when we get to it.”

Referring to an Aug. 16 article in the Athol Daily News, board member Rick Hayden said, “Access to this building, the parking lot, is going through various properties owned by various people. You’re going to have to reach agreement on that.”

Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith said town officials have plans to reach out to the various abutters in order to work out a formal right-of-way agreement ensuring access into and out of the parking area, which is accessed from Exchange Street.

“What if one of the abutters doesn’t want to do it?” Hayden asked. “Could that not stop this project?”

“My understanding,” said Hannigan, “is that most of the people have been accepting of the (proposal); just more or less ‘show me what you want to do.’”

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