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Hudson -- The city's plan to build a new school bus garage and salt storage facility on a site west of Hudson Drive, just south of the split from Darrow Road, was approved Sept. 26 by the city's planning commission. The two facilities currently are downtown.
The planning commission approved conditional use and the site plan application for the project with a vote of 5-1. Planning commission member Gregory Anglewicz voted "no" on both items.
Planning commission member Mark Stratis was not at the meeting.
Assistant City Engineer Chris Papp said the Hudson Drive property was purchased by the city in around 2000.
"From the beginning, the thought was to put public facilities on this property," he said.
Assistant City Manager Frank Comeriato said part of the site determination was that the proposed facilities should be built on property that was already owned by the city.
He said the city looked at several properties before deciding on the Hudson Drive location, adding that the other sites were not large enough.
To buffer the adjacent residential development on Barlow Road north of the proposed site, the city proposed a 50-foot setback from the shared property line to the vehicular parking, a 75-foot setback to the bus parking and a 125-foot setback to the maintenance building.
The bus parking areas are located about 600 feet from the adjacent residential structures.
Enhanced landscaping and fencing in excess of what is required in the city code has been proposed to buffer the Barlow Road homes. Proposed smaller shrubs will be replaced with additional evergreen trees.
City officials believe the combination of the proposed setbacks, landscape plan and the existing woodlands will address potential adverse impacts related to noise and lighting.
"We are trying to create buffers wherever we can to try to minimize [noise]," Papp said.
He admitted there will be "a number of trees" that will have to be cut down to complete the project.
Barlow Road residents told city officials they are concerned about the noise created by more than 60 school buses that would be near their houses.
Shannon Casey of Barlow Road said she believes the sound will reach their homes.
"The idea of a bus garage that would start as early as 6 a.m. with 65 buses doing their pre-trip checks -- they honk their horns, idle [the buses] and do break checks ... We'll hear the noise. Sound rolls across those properties like water."
She said she doesn't believe a 50-foot buffer with trees will be enough to address the noise problems.
Casey said as a long-time resident, the city putting the bus garage next to her house "feels like a slap in the face."
Sue Williams of Barlow Road said noise is "definitely a concern."
She said she recently witnessed the buses prepare for their daily routes at the current bus garage.
"There is a lot of noise," she said.
Larry Kolb of Barlow Road said the noise of the school bus beepers going off as they're backing up, as described by city officials, would be "overwhelming." He suggested a plan for the new bus garage where buses wouldn't have to back up.
Papp responded, "We can look at that. My guess is the [amount of space required] would increase significantly to try to do that."
Papp told the audience the city is committed to try to prevent as much noise as possible. He said city officials are talking about hiring a noise consultant to advise them as they develop the site further.
"When we do projects, we listen to what the public says," Papp said. "We try to be good neighbors. We built buffers for the [bus garage] facilities where they exist now. I haven't heard that we've gotten any complaints regarding noise."
Chuck Schilling, supervisor of facility services for the school district, agreed, saying he doesn't recall any noise complaints at the current bus facility.
Casey and Williams said they are also concerned about the impact on the well water.
"A lot of us on Barlow have wells," Williams said.
Papp told them the city "will make sure that all of our drainage is being treated [properly]."
Papp told residents the city will use "the latest light fixtures to try to minimize lighting" being overbearing.
There was no discussion at the meeting about the salt storage facility.
The application was for proposed construction of a 15,000-square-foot salt storage building with paved areas and a 12,000-square-foot bus maintenance building with 67 bus parking spaces and 118 vehicular parking spaces.
The development is proposed with a single access point along Hudson Drive about 700 feet south of the intersection at Darrow Road.