Neighbors fret over South Shore Plaza expansion plans

Dennis Tatz

South Shore Plaza’s neighbors are worried about traffic and safety in connection with the shopping center’s major expansion plans.

“One of the consistent concerns we heard tonight was traffic,” planning board Chairman Robert Harnais said Tuesday during the second public hearing session on the project.

Granite Park Association President Duane Keegan told planning board members that everything must be done to prevent public safety problems as a result of increased traffic on Granite and West streets at Five Corners.

“The opportunity at hand calls for the town to position itself so that it is managing development rather than having development dictate the character of the town and the quality of life of its residents,” Keegan said.

Board member James Eng asked representatives from Simon Property Group, the mall’s owner, about improving intersections to ease the flow of traffic.

Lawyer Carl Johnson, who represents Simon, said the developer would be willing to review the intersections to see if changes are needed.

A few residents said they were also concerned about the effects the project would have on the Flaherty Elementary School on nearby Lakeside Drive. Others said a proper buffer between the mall and the neighborhood should be maintained.

Harnais, the planning board chairman, urged the developer to meet again with civic groups to address their worries about the impact of the proposal on their neighborhoods.

“I feel there are many issues that can be resolved,” Harnais said.

District 1 Town Councilor Charles Kokoros, whose district includes the mall, and at-large Councilor Charles Ryan said officials should give weight to neighbors’ concerns.

The mall’s owner plans to raze the former four-story Macy’s store to make way for a three-level Nordstrom department store and several upscale shops in 210,000 square feet of additional space.

Nordstrom, which would be one of the shopping center’s anchor stores, is expected to open in 2010.

It would be the mall’s first major expansion since a second story was built 15 years ago.

Simon officials have said the project would generate more than $1 million in annual property-tax revenue and create about 800 full-and part-time retail jobs.

Harry Brett, business agent for Plumbers and Gasfitters Union Local 12, said the expansion would mean construction jobs for workers.

“This (project) is very important for the building trades,” Brett said. “It brings a lot to the town and keeps South Shore Plaza as a destination.”

Representatives for Simon Property Group have said the expansion is needed so the plaza can compete for customers with other proposed shopping centers in the area.

The planning board’s review of the project will continue April 22.

The Patriot Ledger