A marijuana sales shop wants to move into Ward Hill, but neighbors worry traffic caused by the shop will cause dangerous conditions in the already congested area.
Traffic and safety were among the chief concerns raised during a two-hour virtual community outreach meeting held last week via Zoom by owners of the Frosty Nug company, which is proposing the pot shop for 1181 Boston Road (Route 125).
The meeting, a step required by the state Cannabis Control Commission for any company looking to open a marijuana shop in a city or town, is usually held in person, but Frosty Nug received permission to conduct its session virtually, according to company President Mike Gettings. Nearly 30 attendees viewed the meeting by using Zoom software or listened over the phone. Participants submitted their questions in writing ahead of time or in real time using Zoom's chat feature.
The site of the proposed shop is across the street from the Clean Machine car wash on Route 125 and just south of two restaurants — Duffy’s Diner and Joseph’s Trattoria.
Several residents of the nearby Farrwood Green condominium complex near the North Andover line, a short distance from the shop's proposed location, joined the meeting. They asked how the company plans to address traffic congestion at the site.
"This section of 125 is already overloaded with traffic," neighbor Glenn Dowling said. "I live in the Farrwood Green complex and it is dangerous for us to enter Route 125 now. With this new business, it would make it impossible."
In an interview prior to the meeting, Gettings said an initial traffic assessment has been done by the Vanasse & Associates company, which recommended a stop sign be put on the shop property to guide drivers before they pull out onto Route 125.
Traffic consultant Scott Thornton said the study was conducted in January and February, before the COVID-19 crisis. He said the consulting firm talked to government leaders in Haverhill and North Andover and took into account construction projects in the area of the shop and their traffic projections. At the time of the study, Frosty Nug was made aware of three projects in North Andover: A mixed use development on Osgood Street, and two residential projects on Sutton and High streets.
The study also factored in the Amazon company's plan to move a distribution center into Osgood Landing in North Andover, Thornton said.
According to the traffic consultant, approximately 1,900 vehicles travel Route 125 in the morning and 1,300 are on the road each afternoon. Frosty Nug anticipates between a 0.5% to 1% increase in traffic caused by the pot shop, Thornton said. With the number being that low, the company does not believe the installation of a traffic light is necessary, Thornton said.
"This site would be a drop in the bucket compared to a Dunkin Donuts or a fast-food type operation," he said.
The Frosty Nug shop would be built in the existing footprint of the First Choice Auto Sales used car lot, said architect Matt Juros. The shop's exterior would have a "gracious, suburban feel," said Juros, who is following through on a site plan drawn up by developer Stephen Stapinski.
"We anticipate working with the Police Department and the city to ensure we have a safe operation," said the group's attorney Michael Migliori of Haverhill.
Frosty Nug plans to hire 16 workers, at least eight of them from Haverhill, Gettings said. The shop's annual tax payment to the city is projected to be between $240,000 and $300,000, he said.
Frosty Nug is the fifth company to propose a retail marijuana shop in Haverhill. The city has issued special permits to four shops already. A shop called Stem, in the heart of downtown, is the only one to open so far.