SEABROOK – Traffic complaints on Route 1 following the opening of the BJ Wholesale Club on the weekend of July 4 have worried some city officials about future plans for the land remaining in the development.
At the July 12 board meeting, Selectman Aboul Khan said the previous weekend that he had heard from many residents worrying about the congested condition of Route 1 and its intersection with the Perkins Avenue since the opening of BJ. But, said Khan, he believes the recent traffic backups in that area over the holiday weekend do not indicate the normal flow of traffic and that things will calm down.
Khan said the recent barrier to smooth travel in the region has to do with more than just opening up BJ. Road construction limits traffic as crews put the finishing touches on needed improvements on Perkins Avenue, he said. Additionally, thousands of people frequented the Seabrook Route 1 fireworks shops because of the holidays, especially Phantom Fireworks, which is also at this intersection.
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Also, the 4th of July weekend was rainy and many who weren’t in the outdoors ended up shopping along the Seabrook Route 1 retail outlets.
Although Khan believes the traffic problems in this area are temporary and will subside soon, he expressed concern that traffic could worsen since the development has also been approved for a 200-seat restaurant, hotel and a gas station, after completion of approximately 90,000 square foot BJ. Khan suggested that the council contact the planning council to discuss the situation.
Resident and local businessman Arleigh Greene of the Seabrook Development Association, along with Waterstone Retail Development, are the developers of the project. According to Greene, to his knowledge, the second phase of the project, which would add the hotel behind BJ’s, has yet to be approved. He also estimates that the construction of a 200-seat restaurant on the site is no longer relevant.
History of the Perkins Avenue project
The 20+ acre commercial zoned land was submitted to Planning Council as a new commercial development in early 2018, proposed by Greene and Waterstone. The development sits off Perkins Avenue, which crosses the southbound lane of Route 1. The development itself is tucked behind Seabrook ER and The City (formerly Cigarette City), abuts Route 107, and goes back to the Interstate 95.
The first phase of the project received approval from the Town Planning Council in February 2018, provided the developers meet 16 conditions. The development also required a state permit for wetlands and had to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Transport, as Route 1 is a national highway.
During his 2018 Planning Council review, traffic engineer Steve Pernaw predicted that the new development could add 500 car trips per hour to the Perkins Avenue intersection during weekday rush hours ( 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.). He estimated that weekend rush hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday) could see 600 additional vehicle trips per hour on the roadway.
At the time, Pernaw said the study took into account the traffic impact of not only the mall and restaurant, but also the planned second phase of development, which included a hotel.
Currently, the mall has only one access: on Perkins Avenue which is a signposted intersection with Route 1. However, during its 2018 review, members of the Planning Council, Stops and Stops Developers have discussed the possibility of adding another entrance to Route 107, which adjoins the project on its northern boundary.
An additional ramp from National Route 107 presented challenges, according to those present, including obtaining permission not only from the state transport ministry, but also from the governor’s executive council. In 2018, Planning Board consulting engineer Richard Friberg said that while it wasn’t impossible, it would take time.
Recently, Khan expressed concern that an entry on Route 107 no longer appears to be in progress. He believes a second entry could make a significant difference in traffic on Route 1, especially if plans for the second phase continue.
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The project adjoins a residential complex on Perkins Avenue, Seabrook Village Cooperative, which has 101 homes and many of the planning council conditions related to housing the residents of the complex. The developers met with residents of Seabrook Village to resolve concerns about safety, traffic, noise and flooding, and signed an agreement to resolve their issues. This signed agreement included the addition of sound and light barriers, fencing, landscaping, sidewalks and safe areas for children to wait for the school bus.
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Other conditions included Planning Council requirements to meet traffic expectations, such as road widening, traffic light sequencing, signage, truck delivery restrictions, adherence to all recommendations from the city’s engineering and traffic consultants, water, sewage, fire, police and public works. departments, and working with all pillars, including The City owner, Richard Rigazio.
Selectwoman: Too late to complain
At the July 12 Council meeting, Selectwoman Theresa Kyle said she was the Selectmen’s representative on the Planning Council when the project was reviewed. Other than the foothills, no other resident objected to the development proposed at the time.
Kyle said that by meeting the conditions set by the planning board, the developers made substantial improvements, including the new school bus turnaround and a waiting area for children, as well as the cleanup of Ben’s Brook, located on the site.
“This project has been going on for five years,” Kyle said. “Where were the people complaining? Come to meetings; don’t wait until (the project) is finished and people have spent millions of dollars, then start insulting people.