Adrianna Meder, chairman, (center) conducts business at the planning commission meeting on May 23, with council members Tory Roberts and Brett Limer. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
All seven members of Gardner’s Planning Commission were in attendance for their May 23 meeting. The commission considered a revised site plan for an equipment rental business and discussed proposed text amendments to the Gardner Land Development code.

Request for expansion of gravel lot
The commission considered a revised site plan for property at 556-558 West Main Street.
The structure on the property is divided between two businesses. The larger of the two is an equipment rental company.
The revision is a request to expand the previously approved gravel outdoor storage area to accommodate additional outdoor storage, a display area and a fire lane.
The current area occupies 2,348 square foot of space on the east end of the rectangular building. The addition runs the entire length of the north side of the building, adding 16,308 square foot.
Staff comments stated that gravel was placed over untreated ground.
Brad Austin, commission member, wanted to know if the soil had been compacted prior to adding gravel.
“… because without that compaction, it’s not a fire lane,” said Austin.
He said a fire lane has to be all weather access, and if the soil wasn’t compacted, the ground would get soft in wet weather and heavy fire trucks could get stuck in the mud.
Larry Powell, business and economic development director, said the fire lane had been compacted, but the rest of the storage area was not, and that FD#1 had inspected the site expansion.
Austin asked if the company had a plan to maintain the gravel area, to assure the city it wouldn’t become a mud pit or spread in area over time as new gravel was added.
Staff said there was no plan submitted and asked Austin what type of plan he’d like to see.
Other members thought the property owners would take care of the property themselves.
“They’ve put a lot of money in this project already. The improvements look incredible,” said Tory Roberts, council member.
She said they wouldn’t want to be taking their equipment in and out of the display area if the ground was in bad condition.
“I feel like they can control it themselves,” Roberts said.
Adrianna Meder, chairman, agreed and added, “It seems like there’s already a plan in place to monitor this from the public works, city side.”
Austin said, “I do wish they had made the improvements they had talked about making and received approval for.”
Austin’s main objection was that this was not faithful to code.
“The way that I understand the intent of our code is we’re trying to avoid increasing gravel areas, and this obviously does increase the gravel area,” said Austin.
“I feel like we’re going down a kind of slippery slope of setting precedents of more gravel. If that’s not the direction the city wants to go, then we need to be cautious about what we allow without a plan in place,” said Austin.
Tim Brady, council member, made a motion to approve the revised site plan. The motion passed by a 6-1 vote, with Austin opposed.

Proposed LDC Text Amendments
Commission also reviewed proposed text changes to two sections of the Gardner Land Development Code (LDC).
Kelly Drake-Woodward, chief planner, gave the staff presentation.
Staff wanted to review and explain proposed changes and hear commission feedback.
No action was expected or taken – this was review and information provided in preparation for the public hearing at the next meeting.
Text amendment TA-16-10 pertains to transportation and public utility uses.
Text amendment TA-16-13 pertains to outdoor sales, commercial storage, outdoor storage and food and beverage uses.

Adding item to agenda
At the start of the meeting, commission was asked to approve adding an item to the agenda.
The requested item was review of a proposed text amendment to code regarding screening of air conditioners.
Roberts asked why the item needed to be added and why it couldn’t go through the normal process, to be brought to commission at the next meeting.
Woodward said, “Our intent is not that we would discuss it tonight, just that you would initiate it, so that we can start working on it and bring it to you at the next meeting where we would publish that it was going to be considered.”
Woodward said commission could wait another month if they wanted to.
“I just don’t like it when we throw just throw something on like this,” said Roberts.
Motion to add the item to the agenda was made by Brett Limer, council member, and passed by a 6-1 vote, with Roberts as the nay vote.
All of the proposed code amendments discussed will be considered by commission at the June 27 meeting.