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2007-05-06
Freetown, MA. Rare Turtles, Fly Ash Part of Wal-Mart Plan

Wal-Mart is so desperate for large parcels of land in Massachusetts, that it is willing to locate on top of a former coal ash landfill, with rare turtle habitat, and millions of dollars of needed traffic improvements. Developer K.R. Rezendes has proposed a Fly Ash Landfill Redevelopment on 81.38 acres in Freetown, Massachusetts that has local residents up in arms. On April 13, 2007, the Secretary of the Environmental Affairs told the developer, "I am requiring... additional information pertaining to traffic, wetlands, rare species, and mitigation. The project site is the location of the former K.R. Rezendes, Inc. coal fly ash landfill, which operated until 2002, when it ceased accepting and disposing of coal ash. 80% of the landfill has been capped, and the remaining 20% uncapped landfill will be filled over as part of the "Payne's Crossing" project. This huge retail project will create 40 acres of impervious surface area. It also contains nearly 10 acres of bordering vegetated wetlands, and nesting habitat for the Diamondback Terrapin, a state protected threatened species. The project's stormwater plan may result in direct impacts to nesting habitat of the turtle, and result in a "take" of state listed rare species. The project will convey 13.1 million gallons per year of sewage through the town's sewer system. In Phase I the fly ash landfill will be closed, plus construction of a 170,000 s.f. home improvement store, a 217,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter, and 1,600 parking spaces. In phase II, 95,700 sf of retail space to be located in five separate retail buildings, plus another 380 parking spaces. More than 482,000 s.f. of stores will be built in total. This will generate more than 25,100 care trips on a Saturday. The parking lot has 483 more spaces than required in Freetown's zoning code. MassHighway has indicated that Payne's Crossing's traffic will have significant impacts on operations along the Route 79 and Route 24. The project's traffic mitigation plans "are inadequate to accommodate the potential traffic impacts (and) will result in the development of vehicle queues that will extend beyond available queue storage and will potentially block traffic attempting to enter the Route 24 northbound and southbound ramps," Mass Highway said. The project will require the widening of Route 79 and either the reconstruction or a new Route 24 bridge over Route 79. The state has told the developer to "work closely with... local area neighborhoods to successfully resolve design issues for the overall traffic mitigation plan." The state has also suggested "clustering of buildings... to preserve open space and minimize land disturbance." Brian Dunning, a member of the Assonet Bay Action Committee and a banquet facility abutter to the site, told the Standard Times newspaper, "It seems to me MassHighway is telling (the developers) that they have to widen Route 79. The only way they can do that is by rebuilding the bridge, which means redoing the Route 24 exit ramps and the deceleration lanes. The whole enchilada. I don't think they were planning for that. But I don't think they are going to walk away, so we are going to keep turning up the heat." A spokesman for the developer, KGI properties, told the media that his company hopes to have additional information ion place within a month. A Freetown Selectman told the Standard Times, "Since Day One I was concerned about public safety and how emergency vehicles were going to be able to get through there." But local opponents are stepping up their opposition. "Would you like another 15,000 - 25,000 car trips per day in the Exit 9/South Main Street area?" the group says on its website. "These numbers do not represent a worst-case peak Christmas shopping season, which will increase the numbers significantly! Are you comfortable with the possibility of fly ash being released into the air during the estimated five years of construction (Fall 2007 - 2011)? As a resident of Freetown, would you want to look at a retail mega mall on the Assonet Bay Shores instead of natural landscape? Will the tax revenue generated by this development outweigh the added costs for police & fire infrastructure or will it cost us money?"

What you can do: On May 7th, the voters of Freetown will vote on several articles to control sprawl in their community. Article 31 "is intended to preserve the small-town character of the town of Freetown by limiting the sizes of retail establishments, wholesale establishments, and shopping centers. These standards attempt to reduce the noise, lighting, and visual impact of vehicles, structures, queuing traffic, potentially-necessary traffic signal lighting, and limited access traffic signaling on abutting uses; particularly, on nearby residential and environmental areas." Under the ordinance, "no single retail business, whether located in a single structure, a combination of structures, single tenant space, or aggregate of structures or tenant spaces in an aggregate of structures, shall exceed 25,000 square feet of floor area. All adjacent retail or service establishments which share a common check stand, management, controlling ownership, or storage areas shall be considered a "single retail business" and their aggregate square footage of floor area shall be used to determine compliance with the standards of this by-law... .All retail establishments and shopping centers constructed after July 1, 2007, shall be situated on a parcel no fewer than 70,000 square feet in area, of which such retail or wholesale establishment or shopping center shall occupy no more than fifty percent of the land area, including all impervious areas, for example but not limited to pavement, accessory structures, sidewalks, etc." A special permit would also be required for any retail store larger than 25,000 s.f. in an industrial zone. These articles will require a two-thirds vote of town meeting members. For more information, see the group's website, http://www.assonetriver.com/abac/










 
 
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