Judith Durant, a resident of the Highlands, attended a meeting last night about the proposal to build 240 apartment units on Wellman Street, which is off Chelmsford St, adjacent to Lowe’s and next to the Lowell Connector. Judith shared her observations of the meeting and her thoughts about the proposal below:
I did not attend the public meeting held on March 28 by the developers of the proposed apartment complex to be located at 42 Wellman Street. But my neighbor did and he reported that the expressed expected increase in traffic to the area would be approximately 20 cars per hour. We agreed that this is not realistic. The complex as proposed has 240 apartment units and 498 parking spaces. So it seems the traffic impact was calculated by dividing the 498 spaces by 24 hours. Which of course doesn’t work because the cars will not be entering and leaving the complex at a steady rate for any 24-hour period. I’m concerned about the impact on Chelmsford Street, and that’s why I attended last night’s meeting about the project with the planning board.
The developers say that most cars will leave the complex and travel down Lowe’s Way, and then turn left to the connector. I’m skeptical. For one reason, not everyone will be leaving town each morning via the connector. The developers did say that others would likely take a bus to the Gallagher Terminal to connect to commuter rail. It is far more likely that they will drive to the terminal.
While numbers given last night took into account that the biggest impact would be during commuting hours, the estimated increase was still very low—that is my opinion and also the opinion of several members of the planning board. So I’m pleased that this matter will be further studied by traffic engineer Nicolas Bosonetto and others.
What I think is not being considered by the group is that the residents of 240 apartments are going to move about a little more than just going to and from work on weekdays. When they’re not working, they will be grocery shopping and going to restaurants, drycleaners, banks, doctor’s offices, and all the other places we go when we’re not working. This will most definitely impact weekend traffic, and I hope this is also looked into.
The other thing that occurred to me is that there may be children needing to catch a bus for school. This could be a scary proposition at the corner of Wellman and Chelmsford Streets. This concern was countered by the claim that the complex will house very few children–seems the proposal estimated there would be two children. Huh? The reasoning is that these will be “luxury market-rate” apartments, and the targeted residents will be young working professionals. What we used to call dinks—double income, no kids. The breakdown in apartment types was something like this:
3% three-bedroom (7 units)
I wish them luck finding enough gainfully employed people who want to live in a luxury building that will face the connector and be located in a mostly commercial area. But we need to be mindful that if it they build it and they don’t come, the rents come down to the affordable living category for families who will need to send their kids to school safely.