Friday, January 30, 2015

Get It In Writing!

This Letter-to-the-Editor was submitted to the Longmeadow Buzz blog by Alex Grant, town resident and Longmeadow Select Board member.
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When the Longmeadow Shops zoning change request goes for a vote again on February 3, voters will not be called upon to approve or disapprove the Shops’ expansion plan.  Instead, the question will be whether to allow Grove Property Fund LLC or some subsequent owner to pursue commercial development more or less as it sees fit.


Even so, Grove Property and its allies have made some big promises: a drive-through CVS, the continued existence of the CVS on Longmeadow Street, and maintaining the farmer’s market in the parking lot of the Shops.  From these promises, we have been led to believe that nothing but goodness will come from the zoning change and the expansion plan.  There is just one catch.  None of the promises I just mentioned are in writing, and they are not guaranteed.

If your reason for voting for the zoning change is a drive-through CVS, if you truly believe that the infirm and the sick will benefit from such a mega-pharmacy, wouldn’t it be a good idea to know that such a CVS will in fact occupy that space?  When Grove Property came before the Select Board in July, a contract with CVS for the drive-through pharmacy was not in place.  At the November town meeting, the contract was not in place.  In January, when Grove Property came back before the Select Board, the contract was still not in place.

Nonetheless, the representative of Grove Property tells us that CVS is itching to expand its operations at the Shops and to build a drive-through pharmacy.  If that is so, and this expanded CVS is the key selling point to the whole proposal, why is there such uncertainty?  The most we have heard is that Grove Property will call CVS after the zoning change is passed.

Similarly, Grove Property tells us that CVS has no plans to close its Longmeadow Street location if CVS expands at the Shops.  Grove Property’s representatives have said that CVS sees the two locations as two separate markets.  But nary a word has been heard from CVS.  There is nothing in writing that says that the Longmeadow Street CVS will survive. 

Finally, we have been told that Grove Property plans to allow the farmer’s market to continue its operations with the new configuration.  If that is important to you, why not get that promise in writing?  Why not make the commitment enforceable?

Business interests like Grove Property and CVS make important decisions when they have signed commitments in writing.  We should do the same.  Why allow these corporations to change their minds, if these promises are important to voters’ decisions?  Make no mistake, Grove Property wants to do a deal with Longmeadow voters.  Voters have this one point of leverage to obtain the things that are important to them.  Our decision to allow the zoning change would be binding on us and essentially irreversible.  In exchange, are we going to accept vague assurances on the essential points of this deal?

When handling our own money, we would never enter into an important deal without getting the deal signed and in writing.  Why should we be so trusting, so credulous, so careless when we enter into a deal on behalf of the Town?

Personally, I don’t see the crying need for this expansion, and I fear that expansion will exacerbate the existing traffic and parking problems at the Shops, especially since a traffic study has not yet been done.  I believe that Longmeadow can be a great place to live without this added commercial development, and I also believe that ever-increasing traffic congestion represents the biggest threat to our quality of life.

But I recognize that others are more bullish on the benefits of this plan, if it is enacted as it has been presented.  If we are going to bear the burden of more drivers on our roads, if we are going to run the risk that this expansion will require other, expensive design changes to the road system around Big Y and the Shops, why not insist that we get what has been promised to us?  If we are going to vote for this change because people want a drive-through CVS, let’s get it in writing.  If the other CVS location and the farmer’s market are part of this deal, let’s get that in writing too.  If Grove Property and CVS cannot put their assurances in writing, then we should vote no.
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Alex J. Grant is a member of the Longmeadow Select Board. 
His email address is agrant@longmeadow.org.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vote No to Shops Expansion on February 3

This "letter to the editor" was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Paul Santaniello, Longmeadow resident and member of the Longmeadow Select Board.
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I plan on voting NO on the expansion of the Longmeadow Shops on February 3rd.  I plan on voting NO because we are asking to make a decision that will have a long term impact on Longmeadow, without knowing what any of the potential impacts are until we approve the expansion.  The process is backwards.


At the Planning Board Public Forum on January 7th, there was much discussion of the process.  One point hit home more than any other.  Paraphrasing a Planning Board member, “we may decide, after the traffic study is done, we may approve only one store instead of three.  We would most likely be sued…”  In other words, unless the Planning board approves what the petitioners want, we have the potential to be sued as a town.

That aside, we have no idea of  the traffic impact by adding three stores (four really when the CVS is four times the size of the current location) to the already busy Bliss/Williams intersection.  We have no idea of any potential infrastructure improvements that the Town (you and me) will have to pay for to alleviate any potential issues.

The process is backwards.  It’s just the way it is.  I have full faith in the Planning Board to do their best to protect the Town from any potential negative impacts, but once Town Meeting approves the zone change, it places the Town in a defensive position.  That is a terrible position to “negotiate” from.

If the owner of The Shops wants to be the true blue property owner it claims to be, why don’t they offer numbers as to the potential traffic that the expansion will generate?  If they are looking to CVS, JCREW, et al, to occupy the new space, why don’t they ask for the average trips per hour they expect (data the store have) and provide that now?

While we talk about a drive thru CVS and all the medical advantages of having one in town, the Manager of The Shops has stated publicly that CVS will not commit to a lease without having the zone change in hand.  Nor do we really know any of the other two stores coming in.

At Town Meeting, you are NOT approving a CVS.  You are NOT approving a JCrew.  You are voting on a massive extension of the one of the most traveled roads in town.  There is no guarantee that CVS or any other pharmacy will be placed there. Don’t let this misinformation confuse what we will be asked to vote upon.

While I believe the process is backwards, I also believe there could be a little more truth in the details of what will actually happen if this vote passes. The Shops have done a great job in marketing the expansion.  I just wish they would have spent half as much time finding out and telling us what the facts are.

Vote NO on February 3rd.

Paul Santaniello
179 Edgewood Ave
Longmeadow, MA

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Vote NO on Proposed Zoning Change

This "letter to the editor" was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Jayne K. Benmosché of Longmeadow, MA.
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  1. A NO vote would assure that additional traffic congestion in and around the three schools located near the shops will not be  additionally challenged, thereby not endangering the safe passage of school children to/from Blueberry Hill School, Longmeadow High School, and Williams Middle School.
  2. A NO vote would maintain that the current CVS at the shops not be moved to the proposed residential lot with a larger building and a drive thru pharmacy.  There are two CVS stores in our town which are more than adequate to service the resident’s needs.  CVS is NOT a preferred pharmacy for disabled persons or seniors on Part D prescription coverage.  Most seniors with AARP currently drive two miles from the shops to Walgreen’s in East Longmeadow or use the pharmacy at Big Y for their prescription needs.  Another concern would be a Minute Clinic added to the store’s services.  Sick individuals belong in a physician’s office not in a busy store with shoppers.
  3. A NO vote would not compromise the residential areas that abut the property.  Those homes located on Williams Street would have increased road traffic, delivery truck noise, and increased difficulty gaining entrance and exit of their homes.
  4. A NO vote does NOT interfere with Grove Properties ability to redesign the current parking structures of the shops.  They do NOT need additional stores to accomplish this. This area has had a substantial increase in traffic since adding another restaurant on site.  Grove Property knew in advance this would create increased need for additional parking spaces.
  5. A NO vote would allow our town to safely utilize ALL the current stores in Williams Place, Big Y, and the Longmeadow Shops.  Increasing the size of the current shops would interfere with the existing flow of traffic that traverses between the both sides from Bliss to Williams Street and vice versa.  There are currently 12 entrances/exits in the oval with two crosswalks.
  6. A NO vote would allow consideration be given to hiring an urban planning company to get a traffic safety study done BEFORE a zoning change is approved.
Please attend the Longmeadow Special Town Meeting on Tuesday, February 3 at 7 PM in the Longmeadow High School Gymnasium and VOTE NO!

Jayne K. Benmosché
Longmeadow, MA

Monday, January 12, 2015

Local Tempest in a Teapot

This "letter to the editor" was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Marjorie Morgan of Longmeadow, MA.
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Our local Tempest in a Teapot pales to many events taking place in our world.  I refer to the proposed expansion of the Longmeadow Shops, AKA a LifeStyle Center.

This tempest is important to our town.  The town of Longmeadow has grown over the years.  There are no more dirt roads and few meadows as some like to recall.  And, that is exactly my point.  We can no longer make major decisions regarding our town’s geographical layout as was done in the 50's, 60's, 70's and so on.  We are now a small urban area with little room and that space should be used wisely.

If you were hearty enough to come out for the Planning Board meeting on January 6th or watched it on LCTV, you might have witnessed what I observed.  I watched a well-meaning but mostly uninformed group dithering with thoughts and ideas that for the most parts are outdated or narrow.  We cannot be stuck in "old days" of "we know the folks, and what the heck, let's just approve it...after all, they are our neighbors and a doctor said it is a good idea."

I am in no way saying that the present set-up is not crowded and dangerous or  that a drive-thru is a bad idea.  I am saying that the step of supporting this and a potential change of zoning should be done with the consultation of a neutral urban planner and a traffic study.  If and when Brightwood Hardware closes and The Big Y expands, another element in thrown into the mix.

The Planning Board is way over their heads. As a town we must insist that someone who understands urban planning consult as well as a traffic study before we embark on a LifeStyle Center that haunts us for years.


In closing, I must add that newly constructed pharmacies tend to add a "Doc In A Box" staffed with a nurse that sees many different illnesses....some that will be contagious. So that does negate the public health issue that seems to have taken on the fear of ebola.

At the Town Meeting, Vote No until the concept is looked at by good planners.  This is not 1950.

Marjorie Morgan
Longmeadow

Vote NO at the Special Town Meeting

I have now watched multiple presentations by Grove Properties about their plans for expansion of the Longmeadow Shops and feel that I understand the project and its objectives quite well.  I believe that one of the key issues- safety and parking in the Longmeadow Shops area has been well addressed.

However, given the size of this project, I'm expecting that there will be a significant increase in the traffic flow from outside our town to the Longmeadow Shops if this zoning change and expansion are approved …. so I have a major concern that has not been well addressed or considered.  There will be a significant increase in overall traffic flow and subsequent congestion- both in the immediate area of the Longmeadow Shops as well as other streets in our town.

In recent years Longmeadow has been experiencing a significant increase in drive-through traffic from East Longmeadow, Enfield and other surrounding towns- that impact overall traffic on our residential streets.  At certain times of the day (morning/ mid-late afternoon) the major streets in Longmeadow such as Longmeadow Street, Converse Street, Williams Street and others become very busy- sometimes with lengthy backups.


The Select Board has recently considered the closing of Quinnektuk Road because of increased vehicle traffic because this street is being used as a shortcut.  As our major streets experience increased traffic volume, this same pattern will continue to be repeated in other areas of town.

The Planning Board knows that there are already two major projects currently underway that will significantly impact traffic on our already congested major streets in town- the MGM casino and the large apartment complex being built off Shaker Road on Mayfair Drive in Enfield.  This Mayfair Place project consists of 340 apartments and construction has already begun.

Mayfield Place Development
(Shaker Road/ Route 192, Enfield, CT)

Schematic drawing- Mayfield Place Project Plans

While Longmeadow will receive significant money as a surrounding community to mitigate the expected traffic and safety issues related to the MGM casino, Longmeadow was not allowed to influence the size and scope of the Mayfair Place project.  This Mayfair Place project is likely to significantly affect the volume of traffic on our town streets.  A traffic study for this project conducted by Bubaris Traffic Associates in February 2013 estimated between 170 - 205 vehicle trips per hour during morning and afternoon peak periods with 70% of the volume heading north toward Longmeadow or returning south from Longmeadow on Route 192 (Shaker Road).

I do agree that the Longmeadow Shops has for many years provided a great service and resource to our town.  However, one of the many reasons that my family and I have lived in Longmeadow for 35 years and have paid its high property taxes is the low level of traffic on our town streets.  I do not want to see the bumper-to-bumper traffic that is experienced in many surrounding towns and it appears that this will be happening to Longmeadow in the not too distant future.

At the February 3 Special Town Meeting voters will have a “second chance” to decide whether or not to allow this proposed zoning change and expansion.  If the February 3 Special Town Meeting again decides to reject the zoning change, Massachusetts General Law allows the petitioner to come again via a citizen petition to the Annual Town Meeting in May as long as the Planning Board continues to submit a positive recommendation on this zone change as they did (5-0) after the Public Hearing on January 7.

The Town of Longmeadow needs to better understand the full impact of the MGM and Mayfair Place projects on traffic flow in our town before we allow this type of zoning change to take place.

Please plan to attend this important Special Town Meeting
on February 3 and Vote NO.

James R. Moran
48 Avondale Road
Longmeadow, MA 01106

Potential School Safety Issue

This is a letter recently sent to Longmeadow School Committee members by Mark Gold/ Longmeadow Select Board member about the potential safety issue to our school children if the Longmeadow Shops residential to commercial rezoning petition is granted.
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Dear School Committee members,

At a Special town meeting that will be held on February 3, 2015, the residents of the town of Longmeadow will be acting on a petition to rezone additional property adjacent to the Longmeadow Shops from residential to commercial.  This rezoning petition is being brought before town residents by Grove Properties, the owners of the Longmeadow Shops, for the purpose of adding additional commercial businesses.


Along with those businesses will come a significant increase in traffic.  That traffic will most certainly have an impact on the safety of students in both Blueberry Hill elementary school and Longmeadow High School.  Of particular concern to the school committee members should be the safety of students who must cross Bliss Road to participate in athletics on Russell Field.   The crossing situation there is already tenuous, and additional traffic will only make that crossing more dangerous.  At Blueberry Hill School, added traffic turning into the shops will impact students who walk to school from areas east of the shops, and after school student pick-up, which already has traffic backed up to Bliss Road on many days, will be further impaired by the additional traffic that 20,000 sq. ft. of new retail space will generate.

I urge the School Committee, as elected town officials entrusted with the safety of our students, to consider the impact that additional vehicles will have and to make your concerns known to the town meeting as it considers a proposal that will likely compromise the safety of students attending these two schools.

Mark P. Gold

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Longmeadow residents are invited to submit "letters to the editor" for posting on the Longmeadow Buzz blog.  If you are interested in doing so, please see guidelines for such submissions.  There will be no anonymous comments allowed.  All comments and letters must be accompanied with name and address.