Neighbors concerned about proposed Centech development

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Neighbors concerned about proposed Centech development
Photo by/Dakota Antelman
A sign advertises land near where developers are seeking to build a new campus-style complex in Shrewsbury.

By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer

SHREWSBURY — With two potential warehouses and an office building proposed for the Centech Park North property, neighbors recently voiced their concerns about noise and trucks turning in and out of the site.

The main entrance would be off Route 20, according to draft plans submitted by the developer, NorthBridge Partners. 

“Left-hand turns at the height of rush hour are going to be difficult at best, dangerous and deadly at its worst,” said neighbor David Singer during a May 6 Planning Board meeting. 

NorthBridge proposes campus development

NorthBridge is proposing a campus made up of two distribution facilities totaling 292,300 square feet. There would also be one 10,400-square-foot office building. 

According to Todd Morey, Vice President of the engineering firm Beals Associates, NorthBridge owns and operates its properties and does not sell the sites to individual users. 

The Centech Park North property is a 60.89-acre plot located near the corner of Route 20 and South Street. In 2002, Shrewsbury purchased the land when it was then known as the “Allen Property.” 

The Allen Property was farmland established in 1725 by the local Allen family.

The land is located in Shrewsbury’s Office-Research zone. But Morey noted that there’s an additional flexible development overlay district over the tract. According to Shrewsbury’s zoning bylaws, the purpose of the overlay district is to “provide flexibility to develop office, research, health care, light industrial and accessory uses.”

A campus master plan development is one of the uses allowed in the overlay district if a special permit is granted by the Planning Board, which NorthBridge applied for. 

“The goal here is to leave as delicate of a footprint for a development of this size as possible,” Morey said.

Typically, in campus-style developments, pods are built across a property, Morey said. 

He added that NorthBridge’s plans take into account the wetlands and natural buffers between their development and nearby residences, which Singer, the property neighbor, praised.

While zoning bylaws require a 200 foot “no build” buffer, Morey considered it “no-touch.”

“When we started to develop schemes on how this would all come together, we realized that by providing the layout with these three buildings along this corridor, it allows us to maintain all this open area as contiguous open space that never gets touched,” Morey said.

Neighbors concerned about noise

John Mcgorty, who lives on Thomas Farm Circle near the northern building, however, expressed concern about noise. 

“We have a noise problem from Charles River Labs that we’ve been dealing with for years,” Mcgorty said.

Some neighbors have deemed their yards unusable, he said.

Morey asked to come and listen to the current noise in question. 

In the meantime, he said there are plans for sound mitigation. The building will sit lower than Charles River Labs does. NorthBridge doesn’t plan to disturb that aforementioned buffer, and a sound barrier will be constructed. 

Proximity to Route 20 prompts traffic concerns

Traffic engineer Rebecca Brown said a traffic impact study was prepared, and NorthBridge is anticipating that the Centech site will be a “fairly low” traffic generator. 

She anticipated 774 daily trips during the week, which included 146 trucks and 628 cars. Cars will be able to access the site through a South Street entrance. Likewise, trucks will enter off Route 20 and drive to one of the two warehouses.

Brown anticipated that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will require NorthBridge to monitor their traffic. 

Brown said traffic will be able to turn left entering and exiting from the property onto Route 20.

“Traffic has been a major issue on Route 20,” said Planning Board member Purna Rao, as he asked NorthBridge about its plans. 

Recently, Shrewsbury has looked into restricting left turns from South Street onto Route 20 after a bus crash in March reinvigorated public discussion of concerns elected officials say they’ve been tackling for years.

As such, McGorty echoed Rao and Singer’s concerns, saying it takes nearly 10 minutes to drive between South and Cherry streets during evening rush hour.

“Traffic is a major concern,” he said. “To add another hundred or some odd trips coming out of that new development is not a good plan. Until Route 20 gets dealt with by MassDOT, I think development should really be considered off the table.”

Shrewsbury Town Planner Bernard Cahill anticipates that NorthBridge will submit its site plans before the Planning Board meeting in June. After reviewing those plans, the board will vote on the special permit and the plans.