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Public hearing for Longmeadow Shops expansion project set for Sept. 2

Date: 7/16/2015

LONGMEADOW – The Longmeadow Shops submitted its site and design plans to the Planning Board at its July 1 meeting and a public hearing date is now set for Sept. 2, after which the board will have its final say on the proposed expansion project.

 Larry Rusiecki, a civil engineer from Doucet & Associates in Northampton, presented the Longmeadow Shops’ plans for the site, which includes an addition of 21,000 square feet that includes a new CVS with drive-thru pharmacy.

The expansion project would include a “pedestrian friendly walkway” in front of the existing Bank of America and a crosswalk from Williams Street “directly to the front door of CVS,” he added.

Rusiecki said the Shops is proposing a roundabout for a new drive-thru ATM that would replace the existing Bank of America ATM. The expansion project would remove the area with the existing ATM.

The existing site has small decorative lampposts along the curb cuts along the Bliss Road right-of-way and near the existing shops, he noted.  

“We’re proposing a 20-foot high LED lighting fixture within the main portion of the CVS site with matching those decorative lights along the street lines of Bliss and Williams as well as up against the sidewalk,” Rusiecki said.

The lights are designed to not spill over to adjacent properties, he noted.

Rusiecki said there are also plans to increase parking spaces from 493 areas to 600 spots. Ten percent of the on-site parking would be utilized for snow storage during winter months or approximately 60 spaces within the plans.

“It’s January [and] February when sales are down 30 percent,” Steve Walker, manager of Grove Property Fund, which owns the Longmeadow Shops, said.

Planning Board member Walter Gunn responded to Walker by stating, “After this winter, 60 spaces would not work.”

Planning Board member Donald Holland said he was concerned with increased noise levels from the property regarding additional traffic flow behind the Longmeadow Shop via the CVS drive thru.

Matthew Wittmer of Phase Zero Design said a 12-foot tall stone retaining wall would likely “bounce” the sound back to the CVS and away from the surrounding residential neighborhood.

Prior to the Longmeadow Shops submitting its plans, Jason DeGray, project manager for Greenman-Pedersen Inc. (GPI), the town’s engineering consultant, presented a traffic study to the board.

DeGray said GPI conducted traffic counts in May along seven study areas, including the intersection of Williams Street and Redfern Drive, Frank Smith Road’s traffic signal, all of the existing site driveways to the Longmeadow Shops, intersections near Grassy Gutter Lane, Williams Street, and Bliss Road as well as an area near Burbank Road and Bliss Road.

GPI also collected turning movements of vehicles from peak hours such as 7 to 9 a.m., 4 to 6 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. during a Saturday, he noted.

"The total volumes along these roads are on Williams Street is between [11,000] and 16,000 vehicles per day. On Bliss Road, immediately in front of the site, it’s between 10,000 and 11,000 vehicles per day,” he noted. “Those are pretty standard volumes for roads of these types.”

During peak hours there is an average of 80 pedestrians per hour walking along the sidewalks or crosswalks in that area, DeGray said.

He added traffic via the creation of a new drive-thru CVS pharmacy would be minimal and within the zoning bylaw.

Planning Board member Bruce Colton later told Reminder Publications it’s probably a fallacy to assume that the “big news” from the study involves the Longmeadow Shops.

“The town can deal with the expansion of the shops,” he added. “The real issue is everything else. Even if the expansion goes through, the increase in non-Longmeadow Shops traffic will be so extreme that the Longmeadow Shops traffic on the adjoining streets will represent a smaller percentage of the overall traffic than it does at present.”

The traffic increase is fueled by the continuing development of East Longmeadow and other surrounding communities, expected MGM casino traffic as well as a large condominium development in Enfield on Shaker Road just over the border from the Armata's Super Market, Colton said.

“The study may toll the end of any thoughts of using the former Christian Science Church property for anything other than single family homes,” he added.

The former First Church of Christ Scientist property at 916 Williams St. was recently purchased for $1.1 million by the Colvest Group, a real estate company.

A proposed large medical office building on Dwight Road, which has yet to come before the board, would likely have traffic problems, Colton said.

Another proposed medical office building on former synagogue land on Williams Street, which has also not yet come before the board, “may also have problems,” he noted.

A potential Big Y expansion project at 802 Williams St. could have traffic problems as well if they come before the board, Colton said.

“All future development impacting these corridors is going to need to be examined far more critically than before,” he added.