FREETOWN — The Assonet Bay Action Committee is circulating two petitions in its latest attempt to stop a proposed retail development on South Main Street dubbed "Payne’s Crossing."
FREETOWN — The Assonet Bay Action Committee is circulating two petitions in its latest attempt to stop a proposed retail development on South Main Street dubbed "Payne’s Crossing." The ABAC is also looking to raise money and organizer Brian Dunning reported that one anonymous resident has agreed to donate $7,500 if the ABAC can raise the same amount. He stressed that the group needs the financial resources to stop the the five-store retail project, which would also include a bank and a restaurant. At a public forum held by the ABAC at Independence Harbor on Tuesday, the group detailed fundraising strategies and presented the petitions. The group will try to get as many signatures as possible to present them to the state Highway Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The group is asking the Highway Department to reject "big-box stores" over 100,000 square feet at payne’s Crossing unless the developer plans to widen the Route 24 overpass and Route 79 to accommodate more traffic. "The location of this site, just off exit 9 off Route 24, has the ability to strangle traffic on both South Main Street and Route 24, creating major safety and quality of life concerns for residents in Freetown, Fall River, Dighton and Berkley," the petition reads. "Further, any attempt at ‘phasing’ this project should be rejected unless the developer proves the roads will be widened in the future by posting a bond today." In another petition, the ABAC challenges the state not to allow any work on the project unless the developers meet Freetown residents first. Dunning said the petitions were motivated by word the ABAC received from a Highway Department authority that a meeting would take place between KGI Properties and the state. But Erik Abell, Highway Department spokesman, said he has not heard of any meeting that will take place between the developer and the state. He said the department agrees with the concerns from residents that Route 79 should be widened. "We still believe that mitigation will be needed in conjunction with a project of this scope," Abell said. "That would mean widening of Route 79 under the (Route 24) bridge to address the traffic volumes that will be brought about by the development. We have not seen plans to properly address a widening of Route 79 or a proper mitigation plan." KGI Principal Andy Rockett did not return Herald News calls to respond to the ABAC forum or Abell’s comments. Earlier in the week, Rockett said, he hadn’t heard about the upcoming petitions. He said the impact report will be filed at the end of this week with the state. Rocket said that according to KGI Properties’ traffic engineer Rizzo Engineering, there is not too much mitigation work to complete.
He said that when all is completed, the project will encompass some road widening and traffic signals, which will be part of a $3 million, privately funded improvement to Route 79. But the improvements will not be good enough unless "there are significant changes to the interchange of Route 24 and Route 79," ABAC organizer Suzanne Ashley said before the meeting. For more information, log onto www.assonetriver.com/abac.