Most residents strongly disputed the traffic models presented by Rod Emery, a traffic engineer who has helped to design the project. When Emery said the shopping plaza would generate only an extra 30 vehicle trips during a peak afternoon hour, many in the crowd broke out in laughter.
Budleigh Avenue resident Jennifer Holak said the traffic models don’t take into account that the plaza will have a Whole Foods Market.
“That completely changes the dynamic,” she said.
Some residents said they wanted the traffic problems in the area addressed, but not with the accompanying development.
The developer, CEA Group, distributed a flier at the meeting touting the benefits of the proposed traffic improvements and saying that the shopping plaza will be built on the land it currently owns if the zoning change for the land swap is not approved.
“This zoning petition is not about the Whole Foods Market,” the flier said. “That will go forward in any event.”
Residents had many questions about various aspects of the project, from the use of roundabouts and traffic signals to funding sources and the land swap with the developer.
Some speakers complained about what they called a lack of transparency about the project on the part of Mayor Bill Scanlon and the city.
In addition to Emery, Scanlon and City Planning Director Tina Cassidy also fielded questions from the audience. The meeting was contentious at some points, with City Council President Paul Guanci admonishing the crowd for laughing at Emery’s traffic figures and Planning Board Chairman Richard Dinkin chastising one resident for his commentary.
Steve Cohen of CEA Group, who had not spoken at recent meetings, answered a question about possible contamination of his land, which was once a city landfill.
Cohen said tests conducted by the company and by the state showed that there are “no hazardous wastes to speak of.”
The meeting continued past The Salem News’ 11 p.m. deadline. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the zoning change at a later date.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.