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Batting cages could come to Ayer Road

Scott Patterson, owner of In the Batter’s Box, a batting cage business with facilities in Hudson and Littleton, is looking to open a similar business at 256 Ayer Road and to live on the property with his family. At the Planning Board’s June 1 meeting, Patterson and engineer Nick Pauling spoke about plans for the facility and improvements to the property. The Planning Board reviewed the business’s special permit request but did not reach a decision.

The land at 256 Ayer Road is on the east side of the road, slightly north of South Shaker Road, and directly across the street from Harvard Kennels and Harvard Chiropractic. It is currently the site of two buildings, a single-family residence closer to the road and a larger commercial building set farther back. Planning Board Vice Chair Justin Brown described the state of these two buildings before their purchase by Patterson as “dilapidated,” but Patterson assured him that significant renovations were already underway. The two buildings are separated by a semicircular driveway that connects to Ayer Road both north and south of the residential building.

Patterson says he intends to use the same business model in Harvard as the one he employs in Littleton. According to Pauling, the main use of the roughly 6,100-square-foot commercial building would be recreational baseball practice using two netted enclosures where one or two people can practice batting. The netting could also be retracted to form a sizable indoor area suitable for fielding practice. According to Patterson, there are currently no plans to include outdoor areas in the business’s operations, though they might be used for an informal game of catch. Patterson said he expects the business to normally support up to four or five simultaneous customers, but that it would occasionally run clinics where an entire team of 10 to 15 people would be present.

When asked how he felt about having his home share a property with his business, Patterson said it would be “like a dream.” He explained that the long hours of his current Littleton business keep him from his family, and that one of the primary draws of the Ayer Road property is that it would allow him to spend more time with his family during the day.

Pauling described the current driveway as “a sea of asphalt” before describing the changes Patterson intends to make to it. He plans to divide the driveway into two portions, with the smaller southern entrance serving as a private driveway for the residence and the larger northern entrance serving the business. He also intends to remove some of the paving from the northern entrance, reducing it to a width of 20 feet. According to Pauling, the planned changes will reduce the property’s impervious surface by approximately 1,000 square feet and its gravel surface by approximately 1,200 square feet. In addition to improving appearance and traffic flow, Pauling said this reduction should help the ground absorb rainwater.

While generally amenable to the proposal, Planning Board members did object to a few aspects of the plan.

Patterson’s plan includes five lined parking spaces directly in front of the commercial building, one of which would be a handicapped space. There would also be a gravel parking area to the north of the driveway wide enough to fit five adjacent cars and deep enough for two cars, for another 10 spaces. Board members expressed displeasure at this tandem parking arrangement, suggesting that inexperienced drivers (such as the teens often found on sports teams) would be unable to navigate it. After acknowledging that 10 total spaces should be enough for the business, and that it meets parking guidelines based on the square footage of the building, Patterson planned to reduce the number of gravel spaces to five.

Patterson also intends to add a garage to the south of the commercial building, which would be for his family’s private use. He said it would be built in a style that would look similar to the existing commercial building on the property. While the Planning Board agreed that the addition of this garage would be acceptable in principle, members requested that they be presented with a schematic of its precise design.

The Planning Board also requested a new set of site plans. The current application features a single image showing the transition between the old and new design of the property, but the board wants to see separate before-and-after designs.

Pauling explained that the current plans include a Department of Environmental Protection approved public water well located behind the commercial building as well as a septic system. Patterson also intends to replace the property’s current signs (one on the front of the building and one on poles by the road) with new ones for his business.

While the Planning Board did not approve the special permit request at the meeting, members said they expect they will do so at the board’s June 15 meeting. Pauling said he would have the requested changes (removal of tandem parking, drawing of the garage, and before-and-after schematics) at that meeting.

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