NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 13, 2013

State, town square off over Route 1 sidewalks

SEABROOK — A real street brawl could be brewing between town officials and the state Department of Transportation over something as seemingly benign as sidewalks.

The standoff has come as a result of the road widening taking place on the northern stretch of state-owned Route 1, in front of the upcoming 500,000-square-foot shopping center under construction by Ohio-based Developers Diversified Realty Corporation. Sidewalks were in place in the area before they were torn up for the widening effort there to accommodate the increase in traffic expected when the retail outlet opens.

However, according to Planning Board Chairman Donald Hawkins, NHDOT is refusing to allow sidewalks to be rebuilt unless Seabrook takes full responsibility for the maintenance of the sidewalks. Hawkins said replacing the sidewalks after the road widening was included in the memorandum of agreement signed by Seabrook, DDR and NHDOT that brought an end to a lawsuit filed by the developer after the Planning Board rejected the shopping mall because of insufficient road improvements.

Having this come up now, Hawkins said, in the midst of the construction of the mall, appears to be the state and DDR going back on promises made.

The Planning Board sent a letter to DDR Vice President James Grafmeyer, who has shepherded the project through for years. The letter expresses the board’s concern over information it received that DDR “may not build the public sidewalks that were shown on the approved (site) plan.”

“While our Board is not part of any ongoing discussions on this subject with the State or the Board of Selectmen,” Hawkins wrote, “it is DDR’s responsibility to see that the improvements represented on the plan are completed, in order to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy. The Planning Board believes it is DDR’s responsibility to take all necessary steps to accomplish that requirement.”

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