By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Shrewsbury – Approximately 80 residents who live in neighborhoods abutting Commerce Park packed a Planning Board public hearing March 1 to register their disapproval of a proposal for a flea market to locate there.
For several months, the Planning Board has been reviewing a site plan for Worcester resident Danny Ha, who is hoping to open a flea market in a vacant building in the industrial park that is located at 420 Boston Turnpike (Route 9). The property is owned by Carl Cervini Jr., 420 Boston Turnpike LLC.
Ha's proposal is to renovate 103,000 square feet and install 500 booths, which would be manned by 80 to 100 vendors on weekends and holiday weekends. To do so, he must get approval from the Planning Board for a change of use and striping for the parking lot. (The building was formerly a cardboard box and pallet manufacturer.)
Commerce Park has two entrances/exits. One is directly off Route 9 and is a short distance from a traffic light at the intersection of Route 9 and Oak Street. The other is at the back of the parking lot leading onto Oak Street. Residents of two neighborhoods near that entrance, Oak Street and Beverly Hills Drive, told the Planning Board that they fear many who come to the proposed flea market will use Oak Street as a way to bypass Route 9.
Residents noted that the previous tenant had only about 10 employees, so traffic was not a concern in the past.
“It's a radical change when you turn it into a retail business,” Daniel McDonald, a Beverly Hill Drive resident, said.
Other residents cited Route 9 safety issues.
“How will police officers stop traffic on Route 9 at Commerce Park?” asked George Jreij, an Oak Street resident.
Matthew Watsky, an attorney representing Beverly Hill Drive residents, addressed the Planning Board. Earlier that day, he had submitted reports from a traffic consultant and wetlands expert which, he said, outlined reasons why the Planning Board should not approve the 14 waivers that the applicant had requested for the site plan review. If the proposal was not denied by the board, Watsky said that the neighbors planned on appealing to the town's Conservation Committee and Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, which is part of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Richard Ricker, an attorney representing 420 Boston Turnpike LLC, said that he was not prepared to respond to the information Watsky had compiled since the reports were only submitted earlier that day. He added that the applicant had already addressed many of the issues in previous Planning Board hearings and that they knew they would have to work with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation regarding the traffic issue at Oak Street and Route 9.
“This is a landlord in Shrewsbury, with his tenant, seeking a permit on what they thought and what I still think is a legally zoned property in Shrewsbury,” he said. “This is not a new project, not a new building nor a new parking lot.”
“You are dealing with businesspeople trying to get going,” he added. “They need a decision.”
The Planning Board closed the public hearing but said it needed more time to make a decision on whether to grant a site plan approval.