Planning Board mulls Beal Commons parking, traffic studies

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Planning Board mulls Beal Commons parking, traffic studies
The old Beal school in Shrewsbury has long been a familiar sight in the downtown area. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

SHREWSBURY – Traffic and parking.

That was the focus of the conversation regarding the application for Beal Commons – located on Maple Avenue at the site of the former Beal School – at the Jan. 19 Planning Board meeting. It focused on traffic and parking studies commissioned by the applicant.

The studies noted that while “parking is sufficient at the site,” public parking sites seem to be underutilized.

The town’s Town Center Parking Management Plan has made a similar assessment, and that public-private partnerships are necessary to offer solutions to parking.

Among the suggestions to regulate parking – signage; resident and employee stickers; potential for resident visitor passes; a developer to work with the town on regulating parking spaces.

There was also discussion on how to better coordinate traffic signals to reduce waiting times.

Developer notes discussions with potential cafe 

The project would develop 55 one- and two-bedroom units along with commercial space.

Robert Michaud of MDM Transportation Consultants provided some additional peer review comments on the proposal.

He asked the applicant whether any potential tenants for Beal Commons have been identified. Sam Scoppettone, senior associate for Civico Development, told Michaud and Planning Board Chairman Steven Boulay that “they were not at liberty to say,” but discussions have been held with a “potential café.”

Michaud also brought up the potential for more traffic than the studies suggested. He also said he would like to see more details on traffic-calming components, such as “do not block the box” lines at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Hascall Street.

At least one board member disagreed about whether or not there’s adequate parking.

“Parking is inadequate – there needs to be a fix,” said Planning Board member Stephan Rodolakis.

Abutters to the proposed development also expressed concern about the plans and the studies.

Some worried that the anticipated increase in traffic will lead to motorists driving down their streets in trying to bypass the center of town.

Some residents agreed with Planning Board member Joseph Thomas in asking the developers to reduce the number of units and lower the density along the Hascall Street side.

“Our street is dangerous now,” said resident John Scott, who lives on Hascall Street.

Several residents said that Beal Commons was “the wrong development” for Shrewsbury Center.

Charles Garabedian said the town was “giving away” open space.

The developer is waiting on additional information, such as police crash data, the location of a bus shelter, bicycle parking spaces, and pedestrian safety enhancements. Once that information is available, it will be added to the plan revisions.

The next public hearing for Beal Commons is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. at Shrewsbury High School.