Deal in sight, some against outlet mall

MERRIMACK – People like Beth Burns, Mike Mills and Jamie MacFarland are what you might call diehards.

In the dozens and dozens of meetings between the planning board and Chelsea Property Group over the developer’s outlet-mall proposal, that small band of neighbors – give or take a few others – have stood in protest.

Their fight may be nearing its end, however, as the board, at last, plans to deliberate Tuesday on the 135-shop proposal slated for land west of Exit 10 on the F.E. Everett Turnpike. Deliberations could be followed by a vote.

As neighbors to the project, Burns, Mills and MacFarland have said they would be most vulnerable to construction and blasting, traffic and many other concerns.

According to an unscientific survey by The Telegraph, they aren’t the only neighbors opposed.

The Telegraph sent letters to 90 households listed on the town’s official docket of project abutters. More than 10 percent of those contacted responded: nine by e-mail – including one from someone who lives near the project, but is not on the abutters’ list; two by mail, including one who submitted anonymously; and one by phone.

The neighbors were asked if they wanted the mall to be built and why; how they thought it would affect the town of Merrimack and their own lives; and if their opinions had changed since the project was initially proposed four years ago.

None were in favor of the outlet mall, and the reasons why overlapped in many responses.

Many said enough local shopping is available with the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua and the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, plus the retail on Amherst Street in Nashua and Merrimack.

Dennis and Jane Farrell of 24 Whittier Road added their thoughts about other shopping plazas in town.

” . . . look at the large number of vacant stores in the current strip malls located in Merrimack!!” they wrote. “The old Shaw’s strip mall is just about totally abandoned and The Commons across from Zyla’s has new stores that come and go all the time. There is an entire strip of stores near the new Shaw’s at Exit 11 that have not been occupied as yet.

“Merrimack is becoming famous as the town with the empty (and ugly I might add) strip malls. Will the same fate happen to the Outlet Stores – who knows??”

The Farrells were among several who opined about the types of jobs associated with the mall. Bob Downie, of Danville Circle, wrote that he would “rather see the land developed to provide good paying jobs that actually produce something.”

Blasting, noise and pollution – which are regulated by local and state rules and which Chelsea has pledged to monitor extensively – continue to be sources of strife for neighbors.

“At the moment we have a nice dry basement – I don’t want that to change,” wrote Ellen M. Collins of Camp Sargent Road. “The houses in this neighborhood are older, but (they) have been well maintained and cared for and it’s not fair if some of us end up with significant foundation damage, cracked walls, etc.”

Then, there’s traffic.

“We are happy that it will create jobs and bring income to the town but what does that matter if you are dealing with noise from construction for at least a year, to be followed immediately with the inability to get to and from our home easily?” wrote Shelley Drake of Whittier Road.

Other folks pinpointed lesser-vetted topics, such as Bill Keating, of Douglas Street, who is concerned that the project has a single main entrance.

Jeanine Notter, of Whittier Road, discussed the stress of it all, especially during blasting.

“For every blast that we hear or feel, we will worry that our foundations are cracking,” she wrote. “Someone could have a heart attack; another could have a stroke, or a miscarriage. Someone could be driven mad and do Lord knows what. Stress is a serious condition that should not be ignored.”

Cheryl and Mark Guido, of Whittier Road, kept their answers simple.

The mall would affect the “small town Merrimack feeling,” they wrote. They put an addition on their house and planned to live in Merrimack “many more years.”

“Now,” they wrote, “we will end up moving.”