SHIRLEY – The prospect of problematic lorry traffic generated by planned commercial developments in two neighboring towns is raising red flags among local residents, some of whom raised concerns at the Select Board meeting on Monday evening.
The problem is that Lunenburg and Lancaster have projects underway which include large distribution centres, mega trucking depots which could dramatically increase the number and frequency of large rigs rumbling through Shirley, potentially endangering people , goods and local roads, according to those who spoke at the meeting.
Residents – including Robert Adam, Gordon Chase and planning board chairwoman Janet Tice – wanted to know what, if anything, the city planned to do in response.
Tice, whose board addressed the issue at a previous meeting, suggested creating a “truck exclusion” zone that would trace designated truck routes for large tractor-trailers, avoiding roads of the city that, as Adam pointed out, weren’t built to handle heavy trucks. circulation.
When the Planning Board discussed the matter, Tice said the Lancaster and Lunenburg projects would benefit other towns with a “big influx of tax dollars,” but there’s no upside for Shirley.
“We win nothing and lose everything…that’s how I see it,” she said.
Chase agreed. Promising to the selection committee he would hold back his ‘passionate talk’ about Shirley’s cherished ‘rural character’, he noted her importance to townspeople and how these projects threaten him.
He said there must be a way to balance “responsible development” with maintaining “the wonderful, rare rural character that we love”. But fulfillment centers pose a threat, no doubt, he said.
Chase said he’s seen more and more 18-wheelers driving through the city center these days, including car transporters going to and from businesses on the Great Road. According to him, two new truck depots blocking Shirley’s borders will make matters worse.
“If we’re smart, we’ll… start planning now,” he said.
If the solution is a truck exclusion zone, then the question becomes how to structure the traffic studies that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will require.
People at the table and in the audience agreed that it would be a challenge, to gather the necessary data and feedback from the community and come up with preventative strategies “before the problem becomes real.”
Board member Bryan Sawyer said the board will address the issue in depth later and schedule a presentation in February.
Adam suggested “no cost…or low cost” actions the city can take on a relatively short notice, such as lowering speed limits and posting signs.
President Debra Flagg said it was difficult to know in advance how this matter would play out. “We can’t count the number of trucks using Route 2,” she said.
And at this point, with plans for the other cities still on the drawing board, “we don’t know” what the future storyline might look like, she added.
Sawyer noted that the truck exclusion zone option would involve a process, with a set of moving parts.
“A lot of residents have legitimate concerns,” Sawyer said. “We want to get it right,” he said, explaining why the issue was on the agenda at this point but would be fully addressed next month.
“We’ve reached out to the agencies to find out how to get started…to structure this process,” he said, adding that the council would know more by mid-February and then could share that information with residents.