UPDATE: Rochester Farms proposal withdrawn due to neighbor complaints

By Andrea Ray | Jul 25, 2017
Photo by: Andrea Ray The site of the proposed Rochester Farms on Marion Road.

Rochester — The proposed 60-acre farm and farmers market on a Marion Road property in Rochester dubbed Rochester Farms may be no longer.

Rochester Planning Board Chair Arnie Johnson explained at the board’s Tuesday meeting that Craig Canning, who had applied to construct two 6,200 square foot buildings on four acres of the property -- one for food processing, and the other to function as a farmers market -- is considering halting the project.

Canning received a permit to sell commercially in a residential area on July 13, and was prepared to secure a site plan review approval from the Planning Board.

It is unclear why the proposal may be withdrawn. The project was on the board’s agenda on Tuesday, but Canning was not present, nor were two of the seven Planning Board members. Instead, Johnson announced that Canning seeking to withdraw the project's site plan review application. Due to the missing Planning Board members, the withdrawal request was formally continued until the board's August 7 meeting.

Several abutters of Canning's Marion Road property were in attendance.

KC Cutler, a Rochester native living in Washington, DC, wondered if the site had been given appropriate scrutiny.

"It seems like other projects have undergone more intense scrutiny. This is a commercial project the size of Plumb Corner," he stated.

But Johnson explained that the project has “undergone intense scrutiny.”

“There were already a lot of changes made before it was even unveiled to the public,” he said, before warning the abutters that Canning “is weighing all of his options with the property right now, and they aren't pretty."

Canning offered an explanation of the withdrawal request in a letter to the town, dated July 24. In it, he wrote, "I would like to respectfully withdraw my application for Rochester Farms on Marion Road...unfortunately there are a few neighbor issues such as; 223 Marion Road, they asked me to move the project 25' to the west, which I was happy to do, but they are still not satisfied, and 269 Marion Road, they take great exception to the size of the farmers market as it is "not in keeping with the community" yet it is less than half the size of the plastic white dome they built in their yard across the street."

He added, "Keeping this property as a farm is something I wished to do, but dealing with a few disgruntled neighbors forever is not a path I wish to take. I am going to take some time to evaluate all of my options (solar, housing, agriculture & farmers market) and then decide on the best opportunity for the future of the property."

Ginette Castro of 269 Marion Road worried that she had been misunderstood in previous meetings.

"Those of us who were critical of the proposal...loved the agriculture, and just wanted to help shape a great project," she said.

Johnson shook his head. “Well, you have two weeks to get him to change his mind.”

Board member Gary Florindo remained unhappy with critics of the project.

"If I were you, I would call him right now and beg him to put that farmers market in," he said. "This project does not need to be the Taj Mahal some people think it should be. Farming doesn't bring in a lot of money. This was a building he could maintain."

Florindo continued: "This was an agricultural project going in, and we had people saying they didn't like it. I couldn’t believe it. This project would’ve been [in the character of] Rochester. If someone complains about a project like this again, I will get up and walk out and you can have my seat, because I'm really just done with this."

The board closed discussion when Town Counsel Blair Bailey reminded Johnson that the board had already voted to continue the discussion to August 7, and Canning himself was not available to discuss his plans.



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