As a result of the increasing traffic issues at the intersection of Long Pond Road and Home Depot Drive, some changes are being made. A new land is being added to the Home Depot Drive exit which will be to proceed straight or turn right. The two existing lanes will be for left turn only. Other changes may also be in the works for this intersection, but as of now, a separate egress and exit to the new Oasis apartments is not planned.
Not surprisingly, many residents are concerned about traffic in Town. One location in particular, the area around Home Depot at Old Exit 5, is particularly worrying (even more so with the new racetrack proposal in the area). I wish I could say there is a plan to make it better, but there isn’t.
People have asked why the Town didn’t do anything to address the situation before new construction started. As this was a decision from before my time in Town government, I researched the issue. From what I found, the short answer is that there were multiple failures on the part of the Town to engage in proactive planning.
The land behind Home Depot was originally zoned residential. It was changed by Town Meeting at the request of the owner of the commercial space in front (the Home Depot complex). When approving that zoning change, the Town failed to consider the possibility of a change of use, or sale of the property to a third party. Had it done so, it could have required guarantees from the developer that it would address the effects of traffic on any future development. Failure 1.
Instead, the Town relied on the belief that the developer would make those changes as part of the planning process for new construction. The developer did perform a traffic study in anticipation of such development. That study identified the need for additional access points into the property, widened roads, and new traffic signals. But those changes were never made, because after the land was rezoned, the Town proceeded to oppose various proposals made (I have heard of both a car dealership and an outlet mall) and not encourage another type of use. Failure 2.
Frustrated with the Town, the developer eventually gave up, and sold the land to the current owner, who is constructing a 40B housing development on the site. (Please go to the 40B Housing page for a fuller explanation of what 40B Housing entails). Rather than try to work with that developer on a "friendly" development, possibly involving mixed use, the Town opposed all such activity, forcing the developer to proceed wo the State for approval which bypasses all Town planning and zoning. As a result, decisions as to whether roadway improvements were needed was left to the State. Failure 3.
The 40B developer produced a traffic study which, surprise surprise, said that the traffic changes needed for commercial use of the site would not be needed for the proposed residential use. (Scroll below to see the entire traffic study). The developer promised to re-examine the issue after the development was completed and occupied, but made no promises beyond that. Despite Town concerns, the State ultimately decided to approve the development with only limited traffic mitigation (the changes to the exit ramp off of Route 3).
So here we are. We have a 320 unit development which common sense says will dramatically affect traffic in the area (no one ever accused State Government of having common sense) with only one narrow exit road onto Long Pond Road, both of which are already overcrowded on weekends. We have a developer who has already avoided Town zoning, who has no obligation to do anything ore, and roadways providing access to the site which are owned by the original developer of the property who would have to make significant changes to the area to widen roads (which, given the history of the relationship with the Town would be highly unlikely). And it because the Town wasn’t proactive in its planning for this location.
Whether or not the original developer’s proposals for the site would have been good, long-term uses for the property is hard to say. What is clear is that because our Town boards never worked with the developer to identify a use that Plymouth wanted, we ended up with exactly what we didn’t want. That will continue to occur unless Plymouth adopts a forward-looking land use policy that encompasses both intelligent development and open space preservation.