The 18th is coming up fast so I thought it would be good to go over the points that were covered during the Committee of the Whole’s meeting on Storey Avenue. Unlike the regular city council meetings, these were not taped. (PortMedia should have been there!) And as you can see from my early post, I was so impressed at the democratic process at work. There were no loonies, no overly emotional outbursts and everyone was so civil and reasonable. Alas, I wish this could be repeated for the LHD! By the way, the Lot Width Ordinance is also being discussed that night so this has to be dealt with before the commercial rezoning. It will be a long meeting.
Now keep in mind that I don’t want to hear somebody say, “You promised last time!” or “You said last time this would be the way it is!” This could be a statement leveled at the developer, Planning Director, or even a city councilor. These notes I am about to list were true at the last meeting. Since then, a lot of information and input has come from abutters to Beacon Hill. All I can provide is a baseline of information from which the discussion will spring board.
In addition to giving a good review, this should help those who couldn’t attend the last meeting:
First Point, As for the re-zoning request for two parcels, there is an initial project proposal:
a. One parcel on Storey Avenue which would be a CVS, a bank and perhaps a retail business.
b. There would be a buffer piece of property behind the first parcel. Tropic Star represented by Scott Mitchell and lawyer Jeffrey Roelofs would prohibit the following uses in this buffer: car repair facility, retail car sales and a fast food service.
c. The last parcel (now as of this last meeting, 18.8 acres) of agricultural/wetlands land would be given to the city for open space/trails use.
d. The developer, the Planning Office and the Mayor have signed a Tripartite Agreement. This involves the giving of land and other commitments.
Second Point, any real development on this property would have to be thoroughly vetted with public meetings and later public hearings via the Planning Board. Only then, would true project dealings be presented. If the proposed development does not pass muster, a whole new project may be presented at that time. The development will be covered under the strict Site Plan Review Ordinance which requires several public hearings.
Third Point, Tropic Star before signing the agreement, met with the police, fire, open space committee and the Planning Office to find out what would need to be resolved to allow the project to go forward. It was identified that the biggest concern was the traffic issue on Storey Avenue. Consequently, Vanesse & Associates was hired to do a preliminary traffic study and to offer some solutions.
Fourth Point, Vanesse & Associates revealed the following:
1. Traffic count: 3,000 vehicles per day at peak.
2. Typical speed: It is posted at 35 MPH – actual ranges from 40 MPH or below.
3. Compared to other commercial districts in the State, the Crash rate is average.
4. On a scale of A through F on traffic delays, this commercial district is at a C rating.
5. There are inadequate or no pedestrian ways.
6. There is excessive signage in the area.
7. One intersection has an “F” rating, the left turn at Noble Street.
8. Marshall Howard says most accidents are due to left-hand turns and that this commercial district generates the highest number of accidents in the entire city. The highest danger occurs as cars attempt to turn into the Merrimack Atria and Russell Terrace. He also mentioned how bad it is at the Low/Woodman Way/Storey Avenue intersection.
9. The initial proposed development by Tropic Star will generate 1,200 vehicles per day. (24-hour pharmacy)
Fifth Point, if nothing is done and this project does not progress, the situation is going to get WORSE. Due to the new addition of 23 unit housing at Oleo Woods, a new pre-approved commercial strip mall on close-by Low street and the potential that 21-35 Storey Avenue may be developed (between McDonalds and Wendy’s), it is estimated the commercial district traffic situation will convert to BAD by 2016.
Sixth Point, Because Tropic Star would need a State Highway Access Permit for their development, all parties are in agreement the traffic situation must be resolved. Normally, MassDOT would work to resolve the issue but the state is financially strapped with other areas of the state receiving a higher priority because of our present ‘average’ status. Tropic Star is proposing to pay for the improvements for Storey Avenue.
1. They would remove the ‘Kink’ that occurs when cars are exiting left from Low Street onto Storey Avenue. They would suggest a change in light timing.
2. They would pursue an additional light at Noble Street. (Must be approved by the State)(To obtain a traffic light, it must satisfy eight state and federal criteria.)
3. They would add a center turning lane which MassDOT allows now. (They used to ban these.) This would allow an easier time to turn into the Aria, Russell Terrace and other entrances. By focusing on this solution, they can avoid taking away front properties of private parcels and ease the flow of traffic.
Seventh Point, the agricultural/wetlands parcel that would be given is useless unless some conditions are attached:
1. For a trail system to be developed, it would have to be accessed via Storey Avenue.
2. There are no present conditions for leasing out or access to the agricultural land – this would need to be specified.
3. Much of the trail would cover wetlands so an extensive boardwalk would need to be installed.
4. The city due to flood dangers downstream would love to see this area left open but fails to see the necessity at this time to obtain the land since it is mostly wet and wouldn’t pass muster for development. Of course, an adjacent land was considered useless and attempts have been made in the past to put in a 40B that would skirt most of the restrictions. The City lost that lawsuit prohibiting the 40B.
5. The developer needs to provide boardwalk, kiosks and parking for the donated land.
Eighth Point: What was not able to be covered at the last meeting:
1. The details of the Tripartite Agreement.
2. More input from abutters, commercial and residential.
3. More input from the State in particular MassDOT.
4. Lacking mention of any solutions for the Dunkin’ Donuts/Bank/Woodman Way area.
As you can see, there is a lot to learn and see on Wednesday. As for the need for a CVS or even any new tax-generating businesses in town, I will leave that discussion to the anti-business lobby amongst us!
Keep in mind, the city council has to make a decision by February 12th – that is the drop dead date.
See you there!