Selectmen receive recommendations from Beal re-use committee

By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter

Shrewsbury – Members of the Beal Re-use Committee presented their recommendations to the Board of Selectmen at the board’s July 9 meeting. At issue is the disposition of the current Beal School building, once the new school is open.

Paul Campaniello spoke on behalf of the committee, and was accompanied by fellow committee members Keith Baldinger and Bob Cox.

“We believe that whatever the use for this site is chosen the Request for Proposal (RFP) process should generate the highest and best outcome for the town,” Campaniello stated.

He noted that the committee had held nine public meetings, two of which were public hearings and included the Planning Board and Historic District Commission.

“The critical recommendation for us is the impact to the Town Center. The redevelopment of that property should make a significant and positive impact to the appeal and the aesthetic of the Town Center,” Campaniello said.

Regarding the re-use of the building, developers should be allowed to explore the possibility for its adaptive reuse, the committee’s report noted. However, developers should also be allowed to propose total replacement of the building and redevelopment of the site.

Other comments included that the design should incorporate a more “New England style” town center look and feel; preserve the World War I Veterans Memorial in its current location or in a prominent location along Maple Avenue; and provide a public messaging system. The space between the façade of the building and the street should be designed for pedestrians and bicyclists (could include park space, walkways, bikeways, bike racks, street furnishings, etc.).   The ground‐floor uses facing Maple Avenue should be non‐residential and curb cuts on Maple Avenue should be minimized or prohibited.

Recommendations also include the provision for areas that are not designated for buildings and as easily accessible gathering places making the site a hub for activity in the Town Center with café seating and picnic areas.

The site shall include parking spaces that can be used as a shared resource for businesses in the Town Center.

The Committee recommends prohibiting the following: large retail single use, gas stations, motor vehicle repair or display, drive through, large scale manufacturing/industrial, storage facilities, and adult use or marijuana establishments of any type.

Maurice DePalo, Selectmen Chair, and a member of the Beal Re-use Committee noted that the zoning can’t be included in the RFP process. Once RFPs are evaluated as well as zoning that is conducive for development, then they would go to Town Meeting for any zoning changes.

“I just think that this entire opportunity is so monumental and we have this ability to really think about this Town Center and how it’s going to progress and grow for future generations – it’s such a unique opportunity,” said Selectman Beth Casavant.

Casavant made a motion to extend the charge of the Re-use Committee to continue through the RFP process. The Board approved this motion and acceptance of the recommendations unanimously.

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