MANSFIELD — Controversy over the plans of a private school to expand into a residential neighborhood continues as a measure to limit the size of such facilities was postponed at Thursday’s special town meeting, to the chagrin of neighbors.
Several dozen of the more than 200 residents who turned out to the meeting at the high school stormed out in protest, irked the planning board successfully recommended the proposed zoning change be passed over for further review.
The article would have limited the size of educational/daycare facilities in residential zones to 2,500 square feet.
The private Hands-on Montessori School on Creedon Street is planning a building on Knight Way, which neighbors have been fighting for years.
“It doesn’t do what we need it to do,” planning board member Diana Bren said. “We see unintended consequences. We want to create a more effective article.”
Planning board members and town counsel were also concerned with legal challenges to the bylaw.
Residents argued for the proposal to be taken up for consideration.
“We have had multiple weeks, multiple months to review this,” Joseph Mullen of Knight Way said. “This needs to be voted on.”
Another neighbor, Eric Keyes, also pushed for a vote.
“This has caused a lot of problems for our neighborhood,” Keyes said. “It seems like a move to delay and cause more demolition in the neighborhood.”
Work approved by the planning board, including the leveling of trees, has already started on the school.
Bryan Saffelle of Knight Way said he grew up in the neighborhood and never had to worry about getting hit by a car. “Every other house has a bunch of young kids coming in,” Saffelle said, adding the road is only 20 feet wide.
The resident contended the school plans will destroy the neighborhood.
William Belknap of Central Street doesn’t live in the Knight Way neighborhood but explained he has a daycare he said is just 4 feet from his backyard.
“We have lights shining into our property,” Belknap said. “I’d love to see a law like this put in place.”
Town Moderator Kostas Loukos told voters that once a sponsor of a town meeting article requests it to be passed over, that action has to happen.
A similar article went before the annual town meeting last spring but was proposed by a resident and wasn’t supported. Planning board members said then they wanted to address such issues with a bylaw of their own.
Another zoning change on the 23-article agenda revised how the height of buildings is measured.
Planning board members and director of planning and development Shaun Burke explained a main intent is to encourage creative architecture on the tops of buildings.
Planning board members said they didn’t want a lot of flat-roofed buildings downtown.
Downtown buildings can still be 45 feet high, with five feet more height to screen HVAC systems and allow for architectural features. A special permit would be required for more height.
In other business, voters supported seeking state approval to allow the town to keep up to nine liquor licenses which are expiring Nov. 7.
The extra licenses were approved in 2014 for economic development, with a seven-year expiration date. None have been issued, and the request to the state would give the town another seven years.
Two of the licenses are earmarked for Mansfield Crossing, four for the downtown, one for the former Chocolate Factory area, and two for Erin’s Center plaza.
“The town has awarded licenses, they haven’t been in these particular places,” Town Manager Kevin Dumas said. “We’re now at a point we do have an opportunity for these places.”
There is an interest in liquor licenses for two of the four areas, Dumas added.
There were $1.6 million in building and equipment items known as capital items approved, including $1.2 million for the town and $350,000 for schools.
On the town side, the items include $300,000 for design of a new senior center planned at the former police station building, a $250,000 front end loader for the DPW, $100,000 for a fence for the town hall parking lot, $150,000 for a plan for Mansfield Green recycling center, and $75,000 for a plan for Memorial Park.
For the schools, $200,000 is for ventilator replacements, $100,000 for generator replacement, and $50,000 for light upgrades.
Also, residents backed $75,000 for design work for new boilers and a new hot water system at the high school — a project the state has committed to funding a little over half the total costs. The boilers are 32 years old.