TRURO — Plans for a new dept. of public works headquarters, which were put on a back burner in 2020, are heating up.
On Feb. 8, the select board got an update on possible locations for the building from Jeffrey Alberti, the chief operating officer of Weston & Sampson, the engineering firm hired by the town to conduct a needs assessment for the facility in 2019. Alberti last came before the board in December 2020 recommending a 32,487-square-foot facility his firm estimated would cost $20 million. The board experienced sticker shock and the project was sidelined.
This time, Alberti went through an analysis of the possible locations for such a building, including the current DPW site by town hall, the transfer station, and a state-owned lot on Route 6. The only spot that met all the standards for size, however, was the one that has been suggested before: a town-owned wooded area at 344 Route 6, right next to the town’s public safety facility.
This idea, however, was met with ardent opposition from the residents of the 75-house Cranberry Hill Homeowners Association, located behind that lot. On Jan. 24, Laurie Lee, the association’s president who lives on Fishermans Road, presented a petition to the select board urging it to leave that woodland area alone. That area, the petition states, should “remain as is, to forever serve as a natural buffer from the impacts of the facility.” The petition cited a “1992 commitment made to Truro residents.”
By the time the select board received Lee’s petition it had 200 signatures.
But the board, after reviewing decades-old town meeting flyers and zoning documents, wasn’t convinced any such commitment had been made. If anything, remarked chair Bob Weinstein, “there has been a lot of what I call ‘fake news’ in the community.”
In 1992, the building committee set out to design a new station for Truro’s fire, rescue, and police depts. To match the surrounding Cape-flavored architecture, the design featured a pitched roof. To accommodate large fire trucks, that roof hit 40 feet at its highest point — well over the town’s height limit of 30 feet.
The town needed a special permit from the zoning board of appeals to exceed the limit. After much controversy, the ZBA said yes.
The Cranberry Hill Homeowners Association petition focuses on a 1992 building committee document that summarized the request for the public safety facility special permit. It stated, “The area is buffered from the adjoining zone, by large sight area and extensive trees.”
Now, three decades later, 200 residents are urging the select board to “honor its obligations by upholding past commitments of town leaders and place the public safety buffer site into fully protected status.”
The “wooded buffer,” the petition says, had been a “legal condition” of the permit.
But after reviewing the ZBA’s decision in the case, Town Planner Barbara Carboni disagreed. This issue, she pointed out, was addressed by KP Law in 2015, which drew a similar conclusion. “The special permit imposed no condition requiring the maintenance of a buffer,” she told the select board.
Mentions of a buffer, she added, served merely a “descriptive” purpose.
No decisions were made on Feb. 8 regarding the location of a new DPW building. The 344 Route 6 property hasn’t been ruled out, but Weinstein revealed that “a new location, which was not even in consideration earlier,” may be proposed.
Weinstein said the town has asked Weston & Sampson to survey the Walsh property and evaluate whether a DPW facility might fit there. That property comprises 69.9 acres, including about 40 acres of developable land, that the town purchased for $5.1 million in 2019. The land lies behind Truro Central School.
“I think that within the next week, we should have some preliminary information on that,” Alberti told the select board.