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Planning Board approves new Bay Path graduate building

Date: 9/19/2013

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW – The Planning Board unanimously approved the site plan for a new building for Bay Path College at its Sept. 10 meeting.

James Martin, an attorney from the firm of Robinson Donovan representing Bay Path College as well as its contractors, presented a proposal that involved the construction of a two-story academic building that would house approximately 274 graduate students, as well as 20 faculty and staff members at the corner of Denslow and Shaker roads.

“It’s a great opportunity for the college and the town,” he said.

Martin explained that the site was originally part of the East Land Development Trust, and was home to the Sunshine Arts Studio factory, which is now Sullivan Paper.

“That other parcel [on which the building would be constructed] on the corner has been undeveloped and vacant for more than 25 years,” he said.

Bay Path College would take ownership of the property, Martin said.

Reports regarding drainage, traffic and police service read into the record reflected opinions that while there may be increases in demand, none of those increases would be great or would have a significant impact on the community.

Martin explained that the building was needed because of the rapid growth in Bay Path’s graduate program, specifically occupational therapy and physicians assistant programs.

“They are both very highly in demand programs,” he said. “These are students who have already matriculated through their undergraduate programs, so they’re very serious and dedicated students who are on a career track in the allied health fields.”

Round tables as well as discussions with the Conservation Commission have already taken place and necessary approvals from that entity were obtained, Martin added. Robert Levesque, the architect for the project, said there is one area of isolated wetlands that they were able to work around when developing the plan.

Levesque said the building would be 56,000 square-feet with the majority of the parking in the rear, with the exception of a small visitor’s lot, for a total of 296 parking spaces.

Resident Robert Adams said that while he didn’t have a problem with the project as a whole, he had serious concerns about the traffic out of Denslow and Pease roads that is generated and it should be further explored.

“Between 6:30 and 9 a.m. the traffic is awful. To come out of Pease Road, it takes you 11 minutes,” he said. “We need traffic plans here to control the traffic. I know you’ve got a police report, but they’ll be the first to cry when they’ve got to go down there for five or six accidents a week. Traffic lights need to be looked at, at either Denslow and Shaker or Pease and Shaker … There’s nothing we can do about traffic, but we can do things to make it a little safer and a little better.”

Representatives of Bay Path College said while there might be a slight increase in traffic back-ups during peak hours, overall, the building would have little impact on the daily traffic flow. However, they said if the class schedule proves to have an unforeseen impact, the college could modify its classroom hours to help alleviate those issues.

Planning Board Member Ralph Page recalled from the round table discussions that East Longmeadow Police Sgt. Richard Bates said installing a traffic signal would be detrimental to the traffic flow in that area.

Former state Sen. and Clerk of Courts Brian Lees, an East Longmeadow resident, sent a letter to the Planning Board in support of the plan.

“Having worked with representatives from Bay Path College on a variety of issues, I have always respected and admired their input, professionalism and straight forward approach,” he said. “Having Bay Path and part of its academic institution located in East Longmeadow will only benefit our town. They will not only be an asset in many ways, but a good neighbor and provide potential employment opportunities.”