Essex Site plan OK'd for public safety building 

The site plan overview for Essex's upcoming public safety building. Last week, the project passed the Planning Board's site plan review.

ESSEX — Now that the design development phase for Essex's new public safety building is nearly complete, selectmen and the Town Building Committee are seeking approvals for the project from various town committees.

The Planning Board last week reviewed and approved the site plan for the combined police and fire station building at 11 John Wise Ave. and the neighboring lot at 0 Spring St. In addition, the board offered a list of suggestions, including a call for more signage as visibility from John Wise Avenue, Route 133, may be a challenge.

Another suggestion was to include a buzzer next to the lower-floor, back-door entrance, where the police station will be located, in case a person needs immediate assistance. Unlike the first-floor Fire Department, where the chief's office is located right next to the main lobby, the police station area is two rooms away from the back entrance doors.  

The board also had some questions. For one, they sought more information on how brightly the building will be lit outdoors. 

The day prior to the Planning Board meeting, selectmen and Town Building Committee members met with the Conservation Commission. Since the project is being built within 100 feet of wetland, the commission needs to approve the project. Its final decision is due to be made Tuesday, Aug. 20.

In May, the Historic Commission determined the barn on the neighboring lot, at 11 John Wise Ave., which was purchased by the town in February, should be preserved and not destroyed. The Town Building Committee is looking to incorporate the barn's timber frame into the new building. The planned window designs on the north side of the building's training room are consistent with the windows on the existing barn structure.

The project's site plan has gone through numerous changes. Mock-ups made earlier this year had fire engines leaving from the left side of the building. Now, engines will pull out onto Route 133 on the right side, through the 11 John Wise Ave. plot. 

"We worked hard to give what the town needed," said Jeffrey Davis of Johnson Roberts Associates Inc. at the the Planning Board meeting, "and keep it as tight and as manageable as possible." 

The project is on track to go out to bid in the fall, late September at the earliest.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.