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Residents weigh in on Longmeadow Shops expansion during public hearing

Date: 9/10/2015

LONGMEADOW – The Planning Board hosted a public hearing at its Sept. 2 meeting regarding a proposed expansion of the Longmeadow Shops, which if approved, could add a CVS drive thru and two businesses to the location.

Previously, engineers working for Grove Property Fund, which owns the Longmeadow Shops presented updated plans to the board during its July 1 meeting that included a 12-foot tall retaining wall, an increase in parking spaces from 493 spots to 600 areas.  

“I will say that the site itself has not changed significantly since it was previously presented to the board,” Matthew Wittmer of Phase Zero Design said prior the public hearing.

Larry Rusiecki, a civil engineer from Doucet & Associates based in Northampton, said new changes include the addition of increased lighting to the area, a 4-foot tall semi-private stockade fence near the retaining wall, and utilities to better manage storm water runoff.

“Previously, we were tying in the storm water system as an overflow into the town drainage system,” he added. “It’s been asked that we keep it separate from the retaining wall for storm water runoff along the site. We disconnected the overflow to this system. The design, based on infiltration, all of the runoff would be collected through rooftop leaders [and] catch basins.”

Two fire hydrants would also be added to the site near the entrance to the Shops, he noted.

Grove Property has also been coordinating the project with Town Manager Stephen Crane to include changes to the site, he noted. One example that came out of the discussions is public access at the property, which would be maintained at all times.

The Longmeadow Shops would also work with the Police Department to increase security measures at the site related to the fence near the retaining wall, he noted.

“We did go through the plans [and] we found Grove Property to be really receptive to our feedback on issues that we raised that have not been amended – it’s only because we want to talk about it a little further – we did talk about the fence issue and it is a site security issue,” Crane said.

Crane stated in his town manager’s report to the Select Board dated Sept. 8 that the town is in discussions with Grove Properties about traffic improvements recommended by the Planning Board’s consultant, GPI.

 “The GPI?analysis examined the impact of the expansion as well as other planned developments on the intersections around the site,” he noted.

The focus of the analysis was the intersection at Williams Street and Redfern Drive, which would likely need upgrades within the coming year, Crane said.

He added that Grove Property would likely be required to contribute funds for traffic improvements as a condition for site plan approval.

Crane said within the next couple of weeks he expects all additional recommendations by the town to be presented to the Planning Board.

Planning Board member Walter Gunn asked Rusiecki how long an ATM at the Bank of America in the Shops would be unavailable during construction.

Rusiecki said the ATM would be out of commission for a day or two.

Steve Walker, manager of Grove Property Fund, said the project and additional parking spaces would be completed prior to having new tenants start business within the Longmeadow Shops.

“It’s going to take them 180 days to build out their particular spaces,” he added.

Planning Board Chair Bruce Colton said raised crosswalks would also need to be added to the site, to which Walker responded that Grove Property’s intention is to include them.

Steve Wolman, a resident of Pinewood Drive, asked during the public meeting whether tenants had signed leases.

"We have signed a lease with CVS on Monday this week,” Walker responded. “That took seven months to do that. We are in negotiations with another tenant for that larger space A and we’re trying to get a letter of intent signed with them right now.”

He added that the second space is comprised of 600 square feet and could bring another tenant to the location.

The old CVS space would also be utilized for a future tenant, Walker said.

“If we can get this tenant A, which is a very strong tenant, there’s going to be better quality tenants that want to come in and fill the CVS space,” he added.

Daniel O’Malley of 64 Fairhill Drive asked whether winter weather would impact the 600 spaces required parking on the site.

“What happens when snow starts piling up like last year?” he added.  

Walker said the Shops would lose about 60 spaces to snow, but sales in January and February drastically decrease and traffic during those two months would be down 85 percent and 78 percent respectively.

“You could lose 90 spaces in January and 132 spaces in February and still technically have enough parking,” he explained.

Colton said losing spaces due to snowfall is not a factor in terms of the site approval.

Gunn said loss of parking spaces due to snow is one of his “pet peeves” and plans on holding the petitioners responsible if there is a loss of more than 60 spaces due to inclement weather.