NEWBURY — A joint hearing held by the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board last week is an indicator that plans to construct a $6.5 million stand-alone police station near the fire station on Morgan Avenue continue to move forward.
The police station construction committee hopes to put the project out to bid before the end of summer.
About 40 people attended the hearing, including selectmen, public safety officials, abutters and other concerned residents.
The meeting was scheduled to discuss an application before the Conservation Committee for a notice of intent to build the 9,590-square-foot facility as well as a site plan review of the proposal by planners — the first steps in the process to receive approval from local officials.
Led by Chairman Doug Packer, who also serves as the town’s conservation agent, the commission had questions for the designers regarding an invasive plant on the site known as Japanese knotweed that could potentially damage the building’s foundation.
The impact of runoff on the watershed, drainage and ways to mitigate impervious surfaces for proper drainage, and the elevation of the parking area were other concerns commissioners raised.
“They are not complicated issues,” Packer noted.
Chair Rachel McManus and the rest of the planners focused their review on issues regarding a proposed communication tower for the facility, buffering to keep light pollution from the station from spreading to neighboring properties, types and placement of trees used for screening purposes near the property line, and the use of wood paneling instead of chain link for the fencing on top of a retaining wall.
McManus cited several waivers the town was seeking for the project pertaining to traffic review, environmental impact review, a community assessment analysis and drainage analysis.
After reviewing the peer engineering report, the two boards agreed they wanted to hear more about plans for sidewalks, granite curbing, snow storage, a retaining wall, sewer lines crossing over the water main, and potential erosion at the base of the retaining wall from stormwater runoff along with other drainage analysis.
McManus said the issues raised in the peer report should be “relatively easy” to explain or revise.
During the public comment portion of the hearing, resident Fred Thurlow said he was very concerned about drainage given the amount of impervious surface on the plan.
“We’re sitting on what used to be water in the 1950s,” he said from his seat at Firemen Memorial Hall, adjacent to the lot on which the new station would be built.
The meeting was shifted to the hall because the elevator at the town offices on Kent Way was inoperable and would provide limited access for some people in wheelchairs or with other mobility challenges if the hearings were held on the second floor of that building.
Thurlow also questioned the number and type of lighting fixtures and whether a proposed dumpster would be fenced. Officials said it would be.
“I don’t like your parking layout,” Thurlow told the design and construction team. The plan goes too far back on the lot and has an unnecessary landscaped plot designed in the middle of the lot, he said.
Thurlow also called the Planning Board’s parking requirements “totally unreasonable.”
Correspondence from the fire chief indicated the sprinkler connections and turning radius for the ambulance looked good. A letter submitted by resident Jim Moran raising concerns about the placement of the building on the site was read into the record but not discussed.
The two boards agreed to continue their hearings separately in the future.
The Conservation Commission will resume its review of the project Tuesday at 7 p.m. while Planning Board members will continue their discussion Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. Both meetings will be at Firemen Memorial Hall, 3 Morgan Ave.
The committee’s budget estimates $4.8 million for the base bid; $350,000 for alternate bids; $900,000 for architectural and owner’s project manager services; $450,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment; and $250,000 for contingencies.
Construction committee meetings are typically held on the first and third Fridays of the month at 7 a.m. in the Town Offices, 12 Kent Way.