ADAMS, Mass. — The Traffic Commission had no real concern with the proposed Cumberland Farms on Commercial Street and gave the project its blessing.
The commission unanimously voted Tuesday to recommend the draft layout of the proposed gas station and convenience store that will be built on where Al's Service Center currently sits as well as two other adjacent parcels.
"I have looked at the plans that they have submitted to us and I kind of like their layout," Commission member and Police Chief Richard Tarsa said. "This plan that they have is a pretty good plan and I don't see any issues concerned with traffic."
Cumberland Farms is looking for three variances from the Zoning Board of Appeals and at a meeting earlier this month, the zoning board heard multiple concerns from residents in the surrounding neighborhood.
Traffic-related issues included increased traffic, a bus stop, increased accidents, congestion on Prospect Street and maneuverability of tanker trucks.
Prior to that meeting, the Traffic Commission did not review the plan.
The commission first noted that years ago there were multiple businesses operating in the area. Commissioner Tim Cota, also the Department of Public Works superintendent, said Aldaco had many more workers, the service center was pumping gas, a school was open and a service center was operational.
"We worry about congestion," he said. "Aladco had 200 to 300 more workers. They used to park on Prospect Street and you couldn't get through."
Tarsa said the area is also a low-volume accident area.
"That area does not raise any concerns," he said. "From that point of view, it does not raise any flags."
He added that the layout would actually make the area safer with better lines of sight.
As for issues with the tanker trucks, Cota said the existing Cumberland Farms (located just north on the other side of Commercial) creates far more traffic issues.
The only issue the commissioners saw was a bus stop but they agreed an easy fix would be just to move it somewhere else.
The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold another meeting in July and look at updated plans from Cumberland Farms.
In other business, the commission heard from two Phillips Hill Road residents who said Mullen Moving and Storage customers use the narrow road to reach the back loading dock on the second floor of the Grove Street building and completely block the road.
"It is at a point here where it is just bad," resident Katherine Dick said. "People leave their vehicles there on the dead-end street completely unattended … would any of you like to wait 20 minutes to go home when you get out of work?"
Dick said there are six residents who live on the hill and that idling cars has been a problem for over 10 years. She added that they have made contact with Mullen but nothing has come of it.
She said people who are unloading at the storage building are often confrontational.
"Eighty percent of the time, we run into people that are confrontational or they say wait 10 minutes," she said. "I drive a school bus and I can't tell you how many times kids have been waiting for me because I am not allowed out of my house."
Resident Mathew Davis said when neighbors are trying to pass, they are often cursed at or told to call the police. He added that one person, who had him waiting for over 20 minutes, asked him to help move a piano.
Dick said she was concerned about emergency vehicle access and noted the few minutes it may take for someone to move a vehicle could be life or death.
"I have been taken by the ambulance twice this year for a food allergy and I was unconscious the last one," she said. "So it took five more minutes for them to get to me by that time I would have died."
Davis, a North Adams firefighter, said if an all-call comes through to report to his station, he may not be able to get to the fire as quickly if a vehicle is blocking the path.
He went on to say that he has had tag sales that people have not been able to reach and Dick added that she had a party and one of the attendees was forced to carry his grill up the hill because the road was blocked by someone unloading.
Davis said larger trucks have created large potholes in the small road and have caused damage to a retaining wall.
He added that these trucks often turnaround in their driveways and damage their lawns.
Dick and Davis said they both had called the police but officers often do not get there in time or just tell the driver blocking the road to leave and then head out themselves.
Cota asked if there were other access points into the building and Dick said there are other entrances or people could just walk their items to the dock. She added there is a lift in the building, but it is broken.
Commissioner and Police Officer Gregory Onorato said he has been to calls on Phillips Road and felt something needed to be done.
"It is not a good situation up there at all it is very narrow," he said. "My opinion is that this should not burden the public ... even if you pull tight to the building with a small vehicle, you can't get by."
Davis noted that the other issue was a movable set of stairs that patrons often leave connected to the dock. He said this not only gets in residents' way but snow plows.
He asked if the commission could create a no-loading zone of some kind or force Mullen to fix its lift.
Tarsa said the commissioners cannot force Mullen to fix the lift and that before they make a ruling, he would like to invite Mullen's owners to a meeting.
"This is becoming a problem unfortunately and there is an abuse," he said. "I am concerned that there is no one here from Mullen ... I think we would be hard-pressed to take some action on this now but it has to be addressed."
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