An eight-building commercial development on land near the Bellingham line, involving a major extension and paving project for Spring Street, could start before summer - if the developer decides he can afford it, and Franklin officials approve the final plans, and the project meets state environmental measures.
Developer Paul Maggiore has proposed constructing the eight buildings on a 53.4-acre property off Spring Street, south of Route 140 and near the Forge Park industrial complex. Under his proposal, his company would likely retain ownership of two multitenant buildings and two office/retail buildings. The other four would be built according to the specifications of their eventual buyers, for manufacturing or warehouse operations, Maggiore said.
But in order to proceed, Maggiore must extend and pave Spring Street, a dirt road off Washington Street that now ends in a state forest, to connect with Route 140, a distance of roughly 2 miles. Maggiore estimates the paving could cost more than $2 million. He must also address $1.2 million in environmental mitigations identified by the state if he wishes to pursue the project.
"We're very serious about going forward; however, the costs of the roadway have escalated, and the costs of some of the mitigation measures are higher than we anticipated, so at this point it's borderline" whether the project will proceed, Maggiore said.
Maggiore said the "astronomical" cost of paving is due, in large part, to wetlands on the property and elevation issues that will require creating large retaining walls.
However, should it make financial sense, "we'd be working in the next month or so," Maggiore said.
The land, for which Maggiore has signed a purchase-and-sale agreement, has been rezoned over the years from residential to business to industrial, Town Administrator Jeffrey Nutting said. The property is undeveloped and forested except for one residential property, which would be knocked down under Maggiore's proposal.
Ian Bowles, secretary of the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, signed off on an environmental impact report Feb. 29 that found the project complies with state regulations.
However, the report identifies, and says Maggiore has agreed to, a long list of mitigation measures. Among the most expensive are building a left-turn lane at Spring Street from Route 140 westbound and widening Route 140 at the intersection; creating a buffer zone to protect the state forest land; building a sidewalk on the western side of Spring Street and the southern side of Route 140 to connect with existing sidewalk; installing individual lot wells for irrigation and storage tanks; providing a waste-water pump station; and partial construction of a recreation facility at nearby Beaver Pond.
The report also recommended advanced mitigation measures at the intersection of Route 140 and Maple Street in Bellingham, where the project would have a "substantial impact." Maggiore's traffic engineers estimate that the development would create 2,784 car trips daily.
Nutting called the site "a challenging piece of property" but said that Maggiore has completed other developments in Franklin and town officials look favorably on the project.
"We're hoping this all comes to pass: it would help our industrial base, create jobs, and have a low impact on the community. The ball's in his court," Nutting said of Maggiore. "He's been doing his due diligence and laying out a plan. We're waiting to hear from him if he's ready to go."
Franklin's Conservation Commission has reviewed Maggiore's plans and he spoke to the Town Council last fall about his vision for the property.
If Maggiore proceeds with the proposal, he must go through the site-plan approval process with the Planning Board.