Stop the Riverneck Road Project in the Lowell Sun
The article was aptly titled, “A developer plans to build a warehouse in East Chelmsford. Residents say they ‘hope it goes away.’” The article covers the 13-month – and counting – saga of The Davis Companies’ plan to raze the 2 old Mercury Computer Office Buildings on Riverneck Rd in residential East Chelmsford, MA, and in their place build a quarter-million-square-foot warehouse “flex '' building.
The Davis Companies is a Boston-based real estate developer. Founded in 1976, Davis is currently located at 125 High Street, Suite 211, in Boson, MA. Their team includes:
- CEO & Founder Jonathan Davis
- President Stephen Davis
- Chief Investment Officer Quentin Reynolds
- Chief Development Officer Michael Cantalup
- Chief Portfolio Management Officer Cappy Daume
- Chief Operating Officer Leslie Cohen
The Davis Companies has done a variety of projects
In the article, Morsberger interviews several concerned residents and recounts moments from the most recent Planning Board meeting that was held on January 25, 2023. At this meeting, residents finally had the chance to share their concerns about the new part of Davis’s plan – to convert a single-lane emergency fire truck path into a 2-lane “truck access road” immediately behind a dead-end, quiet, residential street.
Residents continue to be upset at Davis’s refusal to address any public concerns.
Click here to read the full article, written by Cameron Morsberger, who has covered this topic several times.
This image is a satellite view of the immediate area. The BLUE box approximates the placing and size of the warehouse building proposed by Davis Companies. The GREEN arrows show a currently dead-end, quiet street. Behind that street (to the right of it in the image) is an emergency-use-only fire lane. Davis wants to convert this one-lane emergency path into a truck access road, shown by the RED arrows.
Riverneck Road connects Billerica Road (Rte. 129) to Gorham Street (Rte 3A). Although it’s physically close to both I-495 and Route 3, there is no direct access from Riverneck Road to any major highway, meaning that trucks coming in and out would have to pass by residential streets to get to the highway.
The project was first proposed back in October of 2021, and it didn’t take long for residents to form a movement called Stop the Riverneck Road Project. The group began with an online petition and lawn signs, and has since expanded to a Facebook group, a Youtube channel, and now a website.
Residents have many concerns with the development, including but not limited to the following:
- Size, at nearly 250,000 square feet! It doesn’t fit with the neighborhood. The area is in a mixed-used IA zone, but surrounding the site is residential Riverneck Rd, that has 13 connecting residential streets. A few businesses are also located on Riverneck Rd, but they are much smaller in size and scope. Any building larger than 20,000 square feet requires obtaining a special permit through the Chelmsford Planning Board. This building is over 12x larger than that. Special Permits exist to protect the neighborhoods! The Planning Board CAN and should say no to this project.
- Unknown uses. Since it is a “flex” building, the Davis Companies doesn’t even know who the tenant(s) will be yet. It could be anything from several light manufacturing companies to an Amazon facility. The implications of the varying possible uses are endless and impossible to predict
- Traffic. Increased traffic for this type of project is estimated to be 400 to 1900 trips per day. A “trip” is a round trip, meaning total vehicles will be 800 to nearly 4000 per day. Since it’s mostly designed for warehouses, think lots and lots of trucks. On winding, residential streets, past bus stops.
- Hours of Operation. Davis has claimed to “reduce” the hours of operation from 5am to midnight, 7 days a week. Ridiculous. No one wants truck traffic driving down residential streets at midnight or 5am! The previous tenants, which the neighborhood agreed to, were a 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday office environment.
- Safety. School buses (high school, middle school, elementary school) have many stops along the length of Riverneck Rd. Riverneck itself is very narrow, with several curves including a couple very sharp ones. People walk, jog, and walk their dogs along Riverneck to get to connecting residential streets. This is NOT the place for a gigantic warehouse. It isn’t safe. Davis is claiming to add all sorts of safety measures, but that won’t mitigate all the problems. Truck drivers at the end of their shift, on an unfamiliar, narrow, residential road? No thanks.
- Neighborhood character. The Planning Board may choose to deny special permits that do not fit in with neighborhood character, according to the Chelmsford Town Bylaws. Compared to everything on Riverneck and nearby, it would stand out like a sore thumb. Warehouses like this should be IMMEDIATELY off the highway, far away from residential streets. Riverneck Rd has roughly 70 residential lots directly on it. Many of these lots are VERY close to the street, as they were built before setbacks were fully implemented in zoning laws.
- Noise. As said above, many houses are very close to the road. When the occasionally 18-wheeler comes down Riverneck today, those residents say that their houses shake. The last thing they need is a project that will bring hundreds of vehicles, including trucks, past them each day.
- The access road. Where to begin? First off, only class 8 tractor trailers will be required to use it. The rest of the vehicles, including class 5, 6, and 7 trucks, will be able to stay on Riverneck Road anyway. So the problem isn’t “solved.” Their “solution” moves <10% of the traffic off Riverneck and instead redirects it directly behind a dead-end, quiet residential street!