Planning Commission Meeting – April 18, 2018

PLANNING COMMISSION

APRIL 18, 2018

Chairman Jeffrey Grotsky, called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. In attendance were Commission members David Bowering, Darrell Craig, Morgan Ellis, Robert Fordi, Jane Richman and Paul Showalter, Kees de Mooy, Zoning Administrator, Jennifer Mulligan, Town Clerk and guests.

MINUTES OF PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING

Mr. Grotsky asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the meeting of February 21, 2018. Mr. Showalter moved to approve the minutes as presented, was seconded by Mr. Craig and carried unanimously.

There was no meeting held in March, 2018.

PRELIMINARY SITE PLAN – SEMANS-GRISWOLD ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER

Mr. Reid Raudenbush of Washington College and Mr. Kevin Shearon of DMS & Associates were present for the application. Mr. Raudenbush stated that the Semans-Griswold Environmental Hall will be built on the Brownfield site that was formerly known as Alger Oil and Crop Production Services on South Cross Street.  He said that the building would include laboratory, classroom and faculty offices dedicated to the study of the environment.  He said that this will be a two phase project designed for a “Living Building Challenge” certification, which is a net zero energy building.  The building will generate all of the energy it uses plus 5%.  He said that this was a careful design with geothermal heating and cooling and solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of the building.  The orientation of the building was also aligned to get the most energy out of the solar panels.

Mr. Shearon gave a PowerPoint presentation of the site, showing before and after photos of the remediation and the layout of the proposed Phase 1 and 2 of the environmental center. He said that there were topographic challenges in working with both sites due to fill during remediation.

Mr. Shearon stated that the waterfront campus consists of the existing boathouse, the boathouse presently under construction, the Amory and the 3½ acres that makes up the area where the environmental center will be constructed, which runs from Cross Street extended to the water.

Mr. Shearon stated that the decision was made to install geothermal wells for the new environmental center as well as the two boathouses and was currently under construction.

Mr. Shearon stated that the site was considered buffer-modified and can be built within 25’ of the shoreline, but the Critical Area code makes buffer planting mandatory within 100’ of the shoreline. He said that buffer plantings will be done at the boathouse, but the environmental building was placed outside the buffer because it is supposed to be an environmentally friendly building and is consistent with Living Building certification.

Mr. Shearon stated that there was a pocket of wetlands between this property and the Armory which they would avoid altogether. There will be access from Cross Street with a parking area, but the driveway and parking lot materials have not been decided upon.  There will be pedestrian connections from Cross Street as part of the overall trail system leading to the boathouse, pavilion and to Wilmer Park built with a gravel lock system that is permeable, which has a binder to keep stone in place.  The waterfront side will have a mown path through meadow areas.

Mr. Shearon stated that lighting plans were part of the submittal but the fixtures have not been chosen. He said that the plans submitted showed LED bollards lining the public walkways, but they may change them to pedestrian scale pole lights.

Mr. Shearon stated that landscaping will be campus-like with trees between the boathouse and the Environmental Center with patches of native grasses and meadows.

A rendering of the proposed building was shown. Mr. Shearon stated that the building will be elevated above the floodplain.  He said that the floodplain was at 6’ and the building would be approximately 9’ above the floodplain and built with a closed foundation.  He said relative to the grade, the building would be 1’ above grade on one end to 4’ to 5’ above grade on the other.

Mr. Fordi asked what Phase 2 would include. Mr. Raudenbush stated that Phase 2 will also have laboratories, classrooms and faculty offices.  He said that budgetary constraints are the reason for phasing the project.

Ms. Ellis asked where the public path would land, noting that she did not think it should dead-end into the road. Mr. Shearon stated that they wanted to loop to Cross Street but there was no sidewalk and it was not clear what was going to happen at the Armory just yet, noting that eventually the path could connect to Stepne.  Mr. Fordi stated that it might be a better idea to link to the new driveway rather than dead-ending it.

Ms. Ellis asked if the Living Buildings certification only accounted for things that were directly related to the building or everything on the site. Mr. Raudenbush stated that everything that was part of this particular project would be accounted for in the Living Buildings certification, so every light fixture on the building and on the path had to be accounted for in their solar panel calculations.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that one aspect of this building was called a “flow-through river system” where a water line would be connected to the building and along the dock into the Chester River so that water can be pumped for samples from the river to the lab, then discharged back to the river.  He said that they had to account for the pump and everything else in this building when figuring out the energy needs of the site.

Mr. Showalter asked if constructing on the Brownfield site would lead to increased contamination. Mr. Shearon stated that the remediation was an extensive project and MDE has approved the site for construction.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that there were also monitoring wells on the site which may still be being sampled today, noting that he thought the testing was over a 5-year period.  Mr. Shearon stated that the construction will minimize earth movement because there is arsenic in the ground.

Mr. Showalter asked how large the building will be. Mr. Raudenbush stated that it will be 1,500 sq.ft. smaller than the new  boathouse.  Mr. Shearon stated that it was probably the same length but narrower in width, and would be approximately 10,000 sq.ft. total.

Ms. Ellis asked what the ovals shown next to the building represented. Mr. Shearon stated that they were tubs for sampling, similar to the lab at Cromwell Hall.

Ms. Ellis stated that she would like to see sample materials at the next meeting for the building. Mr. Showalter asked the size of the solar panels.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that he thought they were 3’ x 5’.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that he would bring sample materials but all materials also had to meet the Living Building Challenge requirements.  He said that there were not many Living Building designations and they were being careful in all aspects of design and build construction with different consultants analyzing the project for this rigid standard.

Mr. Showalter asked if there were any buildings in Maryland that were Living Building certified. Mr. Raudenbush stated that he thought there were buildings in Accokeek and at Horn Point.

Mr. Fordi asked if there was any planning for the Armory at this time. Mr. Raudenbush stated that there was not.  He said that people have looked at the building, both College and private builders, but a proposal has not been generated.

Mr. Craig asked if this was also a subdivision request. Mr. Shearon stated that the lot line adjustment was approved by the Planning Commission but it had not been recorded.  He said that the recordation will take place before construction.

Mr. Craig asked if storm water management will be individual for each phase of development. Mr. Shearon stated that storm water would be individual for each site.  The geothermal wells would be shared and if Washington College ever sold there would be cross-easement agreements drawn up before a sale could occur.

Mr. Craig asked about Phase 2. Mr. Shearon stated that to date Phase 2 is just a placeholder and the actual location on the site may change.

Mr. Craig asked if there were floor plan details and how many people would be using the building, due to the fact that there were only 29 parking spaces proposed. Mr. Raudenbush stated that there was a floor plan, which included a large classroom meeting space with a deck around it, offices on the waterside of the building, and lab spaces and classrooms on the other side of the building.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that the lab and class sizes are small, no more than 16 students.  Ms. Ellis stated that a larger issue was Washington College’s overall transportation plan with alternatives to get students out of their cars.  Mr. Bowering asked how many students would be served in this building during a typical day.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that he thought there would be an average occupancy during the day between 24 and 30 people.

Mr. Bowering asked about internal lighting. Mr. Raudenbush stated that the internal lighting would be LED.  He said that because all of the power would be from solar, they would be strict about leaving anything turned on when it did not need to be, including the heating and cooling systems.  Mr. Fordi stated that this area was a quiet, dark space and he would encourage keeping the lighting down at night as it would send a beacon over the water.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that the lighting would be kept down while at the same time providing security, noting that it was a delicate balance.  Mr. Shearon stated that they were picking fixtures that are dimmable but when motion is sensed they will brighten.

Ms. Richman asked if the parking included Phase 2. Mr. Shearon stated that parking was only figured for Phase 1.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that parking could also be added closer to Cross Street.

Mr. Raudenbush stated that he thought the Rail-Trail would be used quite a bit more by students going from the main campus to the waterfront campus because it stopped right at the Wilmer Park. He said that bicycle usage may go up.  Mr. Grotsky stated that bike racks should be added to the plans.

Mr. Raudenbush stated that there was discussion of using shuttles back and forth between facilities but no decision has been made. Ms. Ellis stated that those options would be good to hear about as there were many ways to transport students other than having each student driving a car and having to expand parking in Town.  She said that there were ways to encourage behavior change and for this particular campus it was incredibly important to keep in mind.

Mr. Craig asked how the geothermal system was designed. Mr. Raudenbush stated that the geothermal wells were close-looped and encapsulated.  Mr. Craig asked if there would be any drilling in the arsenic areas.  Mr. Shearon stated that there was no exchange of fluid underground.  The northern edge of the new boathouse is where the arsenic cap stops.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that if any arsenic contaminated soil had to be excavated during construction, it was contained and taken off site, noting that the site was being disturbed as little as possible.

Mr. Craig asked about storm water management and plans for the roof runoff. Mr. Shearon stated that they were looking at a natural grass swale draining toward the building and permeable pavers on all or part of the parking spaces.  There was discussion of downspouts, no downspouts, or chains for the building which would guide storm water, noting that some runoff will likely be able to be diverted to the meadow areas.  Those items would be addressed further at the next meeting when the plans were more fully developed.  Mr. Shearon stated that Mr. Seidel would like to see a raingarden or bio retention area incorporated into the site as part of learning experience.  Mr. Craig asked if there were any recharge abilities this close to the river.  Mr. Shearon stated that there was not much, noting that the area is clay soil.

Mr. Showalter asked about the timing of the project. Mr. Raudenbush stated that they were hoping to begin construction in October, 2018.  He said that they were on a 12 month timeframe, noting that the College would try to have the building open in the fall of 2019.

Mr. Fordi stated that he thought this was a fantastic investment for the College and the waterfront. The Commission agreed.  Mr. Raudenbush stated that the College invested $2 million to clean the site up and it was part of their strategic plan to position facilities in the waterfront area.

Mr. Craig stated that there was a lot to do to get to a final approval and said that lighting, parking, paths, materials, and storm water management all had to be addressed before that would happen. Mr. Raudenbush stated that they will appear again before requesting final approval just to update the Commission and see if they were headed in the right direction.  Mr. Grotsky stated that would be appreciated by the Commission.

Mr. Fordi moved to approve preliminary site plan as presented, was seconded by Mr. Showalter and carried unanimously.

Mr. de Mooy stated that the Comprehensive Plan shows sidewalks along Cross Street extended and would have to be addressed because it will eventually connect to the Armory site.

There being no further business, Mr. Showalter moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:35 p.m., was seconded by Ms. Ellis and carried unanimously.

Submitted by:                                                 Approved by:

Jennifer Mulligan                                            Jeffrey Grotsky

Stenographer                                                   Chair

Share
true