, Salem, MA

January 19, 2014

A matter of safety

Couple crusading for improvements at dangerous intersection

Ethan Forman
Staff Writer

DANVERS — In the Packowski family, the bottom of Village Drive where a stop sign sits is known simply as “the spot.”

For years, John and Kelly Packowski of Middleton have been trying to improve a treacherous intersection at Village Drive and Ferncroft Road in Danvers, near the border with Middleton. The matter is complicated because the part of Village Drive where the stop sign sits is privately owned — but not by the nearby hotel, which uses it as its main access road.

Then their son was involved in an accident, when the car he was riding in was broadsided.

“I called him,” Kelly Packowski said, recalling the conversation:

“Mum, I’ve been in an accident.”

“Where are you?”

“The spot.”

“I knew exactly what he was talking about,” she said.

Both vehicles were totaled, and their son, who was a passenger in the car, had to crawl out the driver’s side. The impact had spun the car around twice before it landed on the grass by the side of the road. Their son had a concussion and a bruise on his face from the air bag, but everyone escaped serious injury.

“To have this happen to our son, considering we tried literally for years to get this made safer,” Kelly Packowski said, was beyond frustrating.

“I’m speaking as a mother — not as a selectman, not as a GM of a hotel, not as the police,” she said. “I’m speaking as a mother for this to be made safer for our kids, for our community.”

Over the years, Village Drive has evolved from an access road to a resort hotel to an increasingly busy street, with a number of developments in the area, including the expansion of North Shore Community College’s commuter campus, construction of the CoCo Key Water Resort, large condominium developments, a commercial office complex and the DoubleTree by Hilton Boston North Shore Hotel.

“The area has grown tremendously since the hotel was put there,” said state Rep. Ted Speliotis of Danvers.

Ferncroft Road, which turns into Locust Street in Middleton, is the main way out to Route 1 for the Packowskis, who live on Nichols Lane in Middleton. The problem, they say, is few drivers heed the stop sign at the bottom of Village Drive, and simply breeze through it.

Following Ferncroft Road as it makes a left across Village Drive is difficult because a rock wall, plantings and flag poles in the median strip block the view up the hill of traffic heading down toward the stop sign.

“The most dangerous part is taking a left here,” said Kelly Packowski. “You can’t see the cars coming down.”

The Packowskis aren’t calling for an expensive fix or a traffic study, but they want some road striping and a blinking red light.

The problem is that this two-tenths of a mile stretch of Village Drive in Danvers is privately owned, by the late developer Thomas Flatley.

“The hotel has been very good in terms of helping us get this fixed,” John Packowski said, “but they don’t own any part of the road or the stop sign or anything.” The hotel even hosted a meeting with neighbors, who also favor safety improvements, but there is little the hotel can do.

“Our frustration is this accident happened in July,” John Packowski said. “We’ve been diligent — if not weekly, then every other week — trying to communicate, trying to get this done. We’ve been trying to get this done for years before the accident happened.”

They say they have met with the Danvers Traffic Advisory Committee, contacted Middleton Town Administrator Ira Singer and asked state lawmakers for help. They circulated a petition and got dozens of signatures from neighbors. They have spoken with Danvers, Middleton and state police.

“This is a classic case of jurisdictional oversight,” Speliotis said, “where it takes a simple project and magnifies it a couple of times.”

The traffic improvements the Packowskis want are “doable,” he said. It just involves bringing all parties together.

Danvers Town Manager Wayne Marquis said town officials have discussed the problem, and he understands the issue is compounded by the road being privately owned. Singer has taken a lead role in this, and Danvers planning director Karen Nelson has also been involved, Marquis said.

All of them are working, he said, to locate the landowner’s heirs, the first step in resolving the problem. Once that happens, he said, they will bring everyone together to decide how to improve the intersection.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.