Anne Mitchell’s Letter to Editors on” Concerns about Traffic and Public Safety are Legitimate and Credible”

I write to respond to the statements by Selectman Dalton and Selectman Crawford after Police Chief Breen was not allowed to speak publicly at the Selectmen’s meeting. Mr. Dalton’s statement (that opponents of the theater have “no credibility”) is insulting, as was Mr. Crawford’s statement that the request for a delay is a “stall tactic.” Are they suggesting that the MarketStreet Advisory Committee (“MSAC”) members, the Police Chief and Selectman Barrett have no credibility?

It was not too long ago when Mr. Dalton thought the developer should wait until after Building 1350 (Lahey Building) was fully operational before considering a cinema. Now Mr. Dalton and Mr. Crawford appear to be advocating for the cinema on behalf of National Development (it’s not the residents who are begging the Town to build a theater). Two questions that need to be asked are: (i) why are Mr. Dalton and Mr. Crawford not heeding the recommendations of MSAC and Chief Breen; and (ii) why are they advocating for this theater so vigorously despite these recommendations and the legitimate concerns raised by the residents of this Town?
As a member of MSAC, I also would like to take this opportunity to address several issues regarding this multiplex proposal.

MSAC was a committee authorized and appointed by the Board of Selectmen to review issues related to MarketStreet, including a theater proposal. The recommendation of MSAC (which adopted the recommendations of MSAC’s traffic subcommittee led by Chief Breen) was to delay any cinema at MarketStreet for at least one year after the Building 1350 is fully leased and operational. Incredibly, Selectmen Dalton and Crawford want to ignore the recommendation of this board-appointed committee, because the recommendation does not support National Development’s desires to have a multiplex.

Building 1350 is not fully leased. There is enough square footage remaining in Building 1350 to have another restaurant the size of the Yard House at that location. Because it not yet fully leased, we do not yet know the full impact of the traffic from the Building 1350. (See MSAC Report)

The number of ambulance runs to Lahey since opening have increased (per the Fire Chief). This increase will lead to more demands on the Town’s emergency services (including after day time hours response costs). (See MSAC Report). The Police Chief and former Fire Chief found National Development’s consultant’s estimates regarding calls for service “to be patently inaccurate.” (See MSAC Report)

The motor vehicle accident statistics don’t lie, nor do the pictures of the accidents. The MSAC report showed a significant increase in auto crashes. According to the data from the state, the accidents in the MarketStreet area more than doubled from 2013 to 2015, and at the time of its published report, MSAC only had state accident data through 2015. Based on some of the Town’s internal data, it is likely that the accidents statistics will be even worse in the years after 2015 through the present. (See MSAC Report)

The traffic jams are real (the pictures and videos residents have taken tell the story). (See also MSAC report for additional pictures). “At times, long delays have slowed response times for policy and fire apparatus.” (See MSAC Report)

Contrary to Mr. Crawford’s statement, there are no “off hours” for movie theaters. (See CMX’s website). The movies show from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 a.m. and the cinema will be open 365 days a year. Residents would much prefer the agreed-upon office space, because it is well known that Office space generates day time traffic only, the traffic will be much less than an 800-seat multiplex showing up to 32-40 movies a day, the demands for parking will be less, and significantly, these offices will be closed on weekends and holidays.

There are many questions about whether the proposed adaptive signals and geometric improvements will fix the traffic problems at these intersections (especially with the limitations of the 128 overpass and the three narrow traffic lanes under the overpass). We already have some traffic sensors at the Market Street/Walnut Street intersection, and they are not working in times of heavy traffic. And National Development’s own traffic expert, Randy Hart, admitted in a presentation to MSAC that adaptive signals have limited effectiveness when there is heavy traffic volume. (See MSAC Report).

The adaptive signals will NOT prevent those motorists who rush off of the 128 south ramp and run the red light to get to a movie on time. Running this red light happens all of the time. With increased traffic (regardless of the adaptive signals) more accidents will occur (and by the way, Lynnfield’s auto insurance rates likely will go up too). (See MSAC Report)

Similar developments with theaters have multiple entrances and exits to handle the traffic that a multiplex generates. National Development can only advertise one entrance because of a deal it made with the Town of Wakefield, and all GPS systems direct cars to Exit 43. Essentially, MarketStreet has only one entrance, which negatively impacts traffic. By comparison, Superlux at Chestnut Hill (where National Development hosted MSAC committee members for a visit) is located right on Route 9 and has 4 entrances and 5 exits.

As also reported in the MSAC report, “increased traffic volume or traffic backups from a theater could negatively impact patronage at Market Street as a whole.”
Market Street is doing quite well and does not need a theater to remain viable (see MSAC Report). National Development’s Doug Strauss recently represented to FinCom that the life of tenant leases used to be 5-10 years and now that timeframe is shorter. He also stated how proud National Development is to still have 70% of its initial tenants at Market Street (almost six years later).
National Development has wanted a cinema at Market Street since its inception, and has come back several times over the years asking the Town for a cinema. (See MSAC Report). As time has shown, Market Street does NOT need a theater to be successful. As confirmed by Mr. Strauss at the FinCom meeting, the town generates over $4.3 million in taxes each year (which is way beyond the original estimate of $1 million in tax revenue from the Connery report). (See MSAC Report)

The REAL reason that National Development wants a cinema is to make a bigger profit from the percentage lease it will have with the cinema operator – by which it will make a percentage of the profits from the cinema revenue. This also explains why they are asking for an 8-screen, 800-seat multiplex (and not a much smaller cinema). And by the way, the last time that the cinema was voted on and rejected at Town meeting, the proposed cinema was only 360 seats.

As discussed above and as shown in the MSAC Report, the concerns about traffic and public safety are both legitimate and credible.

Thank you Selectman Barrett and Police Chief Breen for taking into consideration the real concerns of the residents of this Town and for not just saying “yes” to everything National Development requests. I hope that the Police Chief will be allowed to speak at Town Meeting to educate the voters about his concerns on traffic and public safety as well as his continued recommendation that a cinema at Market Street not be considered until one year after the Building 1350 (the Lahey Building) is fully leased and operational.

Let’s follow the recommendation of our Police Chief and MSAC to delay consideration of the cinema and Vote NO on Article 14 at the April 29th Town Meeting.

Anne Mitchell
Lynnfield Resident and Member of MSAC

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