|By Chris Maza|
LONGMEADOW – Representatives from town government attended a meeting hosted by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) regarding traffic studies related to MGM’s proposed casino development in downtown Springfield on Sept. 26.
Town Manager Stephen Crane told Reminder Publications the event was well-attended with a cross-section of communities that feel they would be negatively impacted by a casino.
“I would say the communities were well represented and to their credit, MGM was willing to listen,” he said. “MGM didn’t have to hold this meeting, but I think they realize that with surrounding community agreements being a requirement to obtain a license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, it is in their best interest to work with the cities and towns in the area.”
The process proposed by the PVPC involves the commission utilizing its own traffic consultant to peer review the traffic study that was recently completed by MGM’s own consultants. Participation in the peer review is optional for all communities and to this point, Longmeadow has not made a decision as to whether or not it would participate.
“As of now, no decisions have been made,” he said. “We have the option of joining with the PVPC and the option of hiring our own traffic consultant and those options are not mutually exclusive. What the [Board of Selectmen] has to determine is what they feel is in the best interest of the town.”
The hiring of the town’s own consultant has been discussed at prior meetings, but has not been agreed upon. In their interview with the town before being hired as special counsel for casino mitigation negotiations, representatives from the law firm of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey, & Lehane stressed the importance of the town getting its own experts in order to have someone loyal to Longmeadow reviewing the data.
The PVPC is in the process of retaining a traffic engineering firm as its consultant and while there is no specific timetable laid out at this time, Crane said that with the state’s deadline to negotiate a surrounding community agreement looming, it behooves the town to make a decision in the near future.
Crane said one issue he raised with the PVPC at the meeting was the fact he wished to see more Longmeadow roads and intersections included in subsequent studies.
“There are roads that we believe are areas of concern that were not addressed in MGM’s traffic study and we want to make sure that our concerns regarding those roads and intersections are heard and addressed,” he said.
Other topics not directly related to traffic, such as public safety or sewer concerns were not specifically discussed at the meeting, he added.
“It was clear that there was one primary goal at this meeting and that was the traffic study,” he said. “The PVPC’s role with the MGM project is very specific and is limited to the traffic study. The surrounding communities will not be utilizing the PVPC to address those other issues.”
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