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McKnight Monthly Meeting 11/12/14

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Board Meeting November 12, 2014

Approved December 09, 2014

Minutes McKnight Neighborhood Council

Meeting Called to order 6:10 p.m.


Board Members Present (9): Walter Kroll (Pres), Elizabeth O’Gilvie (Vice Pres), Brandi Gamble-Lucas, (Secy/Clerk),

Colin Kirby (Treas),  Tawreak Eddington, Donna Jordan, Elizabeth Stevens, Ben Swan, Jr, Paul Swenson,

{Elizabeth Lederman, Adm. Staff}.

Board Members Not Present (4): Lloyd Creswell (Asst Sec/Clerk), Greg Gavin, Bryan McFarland, Damian Phillips

Neighborhood Members: Ramonita Rosario, Todd Crosset, Elias Franklin, Joe Metzger, Jesse Lederman, Steve Piper,

Cheryl Piper, Tasha Moultrie-Phillips, Daniele Brown, Olivia Brown, Kyle Richmond-Crosset, Moses Hernandez,

Anne Richmond, Noel Metzger, Arthur Jones, Elliott Stratton, Richard Jones, Jesse Carman, Edward Mayers, Jillian

Mayers, Frank Robinson, Ed Zuckerman, Synthi Scott-Mitchell, Shelly Nichols, David Gaby, Margaret Gaby,

Qamania Awadd, Safiyesh Bey; (an additional twenty-plus who did not sign in).

Guests: Rhona, Murray, Brooke Sugaski, Michael Fenton, Ed Sabella, John Cusak, Dan Ashburn (McDonalds);

Wanda Givens, Michaelann Bewsee, Jessica Collins, Jacqueline Logan, Aaron Williams, Jose Claudio


Welcome by Walter K, board member introductions; audience introductions.


(Scheduled guest, Hao Wang, presenting an update on the program and property at 29 Ingersoll, failed to appear.)



  • McDonald’s proposed relocation from 782 State Street to the corner of State Street and Thompson—Representatives from the Springfield law firm of Shatz, Schwartz, and Fentin , representatives from McDonald’s corporate Boston office, and owner/operator Dan Ashburn, returning from an initial presentation at the October meeting to answer more questions from the Board and neighborhood residents.
  • Walter K gave a brief summary of the presentation previously given at the October meeting, and let McDonald’s representatives know that residents were interested in hearing more about the issues of public safety, lighting, trash and traffic.
  • John Cusak, the McDonald’s site engineer, displayed a site plan, explaining that the property was made up of two parcels, with a large buffer of trees which would be fenced in to prevent loitering and serve as a buffer for abutting residential properties. The parking lot would accommodate 46 vehicles, with access from both State and Thompson Streets, and an anticipated flow of vehicles of 80% from State Street and 20% from Thompson.
  • The light fixtures are designed with downcast lighting, and the speakers are automatically adjusted for the ambient noise level in the surrounding area at any given time of day.
  • Board member Brandi G expressed concerns as a Thompson Street abutter about the increased traffic on a residential street, the increase in noise, littering, and rodents combined with the spill-over of noise and problems already generated from the newly opened Family Dollar store; the poor service and behavior of many of the employees at the current location; and most importantly an anticipated increase in violence and robberies that the McDonald’s would potentially bring, particularly if allowed to operate 24 hours a day.
  • Owner/operator Dan Ashburn stepped forward to address these concerns. Gave background on his 12 years of ownership at the current location, noting every restaurant has its ups and downs, and that his goal is to make it better, and that the restaurant has a high turnover in employees, but that he is always working on improving things.  Noted that he has security at the store 100% of the time, and that he did not believe McDonalds creates crime, but he deals with it as it comes, observing that this area is one of low income and high crime.
  • His goal is to make the most out of his investments, and anticipates 65 new hires for the relocated restaurant, with 10-12 managerial jobs, which he feels benefits the neighborhood.
  • Board member Elizabeth O reported similar concerns about employees poor service and behaviors; and that in the days prior to this meeting she had left numerous messages for Mr Ashburn which he had failed to return, and asked what could be expected a year from now with that level of non-response. Ashburn reiterated a commitment to help and to support the community, that he was investing two million dollars in the project, and that he was trying to run a family restaurant.
  • Board member Ben S asked how many of his other restaurants were located in residential neighborhoods. He responded that he had a restaurant in Southwick that might be, and that the one on Summer Avenue abutted a residential neighborhood but conceded the fact that the entrances and exits are off Sumner and do not impact the residential streets directly in terms of traffic.
  • Board member Walter K asked how many restaurants he owned overall, about delivery truck schedules, dumpster removal, the volume of drive through traffic, and their plan for taking care of litter. Mr. Ashburn owns eleven McDonalds overall, and four of them are in Springfield. Delivery trucks can be scheduled at the store’s discretion, as well as dumpster removal. The lot is cleaned 4 to 5 times a day, and adjacent streets at least 3 times a week. 60% of their business is drive-through—projected number of 1200 cars per day by volume.
  • Two dozen neighborhood residents and several representatives from community groups stepped forward to voice their concerns about the proposed relocation. A summary of comments, concerns, and/or responses:
  • Multiple concerns expressed about the poor quality of food served by McDonalds—particularly in a community which has few healthy food options readily available—McDonald’s employees disputed this and claimed to eat in the restaurants regularly.
  • Proximity of restaurant to schools and a residential neighborhood in a city with asthma rates 2x the state level. Increased local air pollution from the increased number of idling cars. Response: Site engineer claimed that these would be pass-by trips, and restaurant would create no new traffic and that the amount of idling was insignificant from an engineering point of view.
  • Observations that traffic will be heavily funneled off of State Street and onto Thompson into the residential streets of McKnight because of the congestion at the Thompson/State Street intersection. No response.
  • Questions about the security of restaurant employees with 24 hour operation. Response: Employees are not allowed to go outside at night and are locked in.
  • Observation that overnight hours will draw large numbers of club-goers when the bars close; drug dealers, and loiters with no place else to go. No response.
  • Observation that the use of the property location is not “smart growth”, that it is prime property, and should have a different caliber of business; and does not fit in with the State Street Corridor development plans. Questions about whether the design of the restaurant can be adjusted to something consistent with the historical architecture in the area. Response: No.
  • Observations that neighborhood residents do not just drive through McDonalds, they walk through the neighborhood and are subject to the voluminous litter generated by the restaurant into surrounding areas.
  • Numerous and serious concerns expressed by homeowners on Thompson and nearby streets about the property value of their homes plummeting as people sell and move out, and the downward spiral it creates which deteriorates the neighborhood.
  • Multiple and serious concerns expressed about the fact that fast food restaurants are crime magnets, generating twice the amount of violent crime than regular restaurants, with the parking lots as inevitable staging areas for the underground economies, fencing goods, drug dealing and loitering in general.
  • Serious concerns expressed about Develop Springfield’s handling of the property, and its perceived failure to follow through on its community partnerships and promises to suitably develop the property according to community’s best interests.
    • At the conclusion of comments, Walter K brought the request by McDonalds for a letter of support to the City Council before the Board for discussion and vote. Elizabeth O proposed the following:Discussion: Liz S agreed that there was no question that it should not be 24 hours a day; and the design should be modified to fit into its historic surroundings; but that she felt the neighborhood would be in a better place for negotiating these details if they did not oppose it altogether. Ben S felt the residential abutment still made it an inappropriate location for the restaurant; that it was prime real estate and there was no need to jump on the first proposal that came forward for the property; and that “more of the same” was not a move forward.
    • Walter K took issue with the fact that the developers and owner/operator were willing to spend $2 million dollars for their own investment purposes and profit, but unwilling to make any concessions to neighborhood requests; expressed little if any investment in their relationships to their actual neighbors, and had no real response to the many quality of life issues raised by residents. Paul S stated that he could not support the motion to oppose the relocation as stated.  He felt the Board and the neighborhood should work with the owner of the franchise to make the relocation a success.  While he understood the immediate neighbors’ concerns and agreed that it’s unnecessary to have this McDonald’s open 24/7, he felt perhaps the Board could offer their support with this qualifier in place, as well as other qualifiers (security, noise litter, etc). He felt the situation could be monitored and changes made to improve operation as long as the owner was willing to work with the neighborhood. Elizabeth O felt any negotiation would be a loss for the neighborhood; that the casino approval had significantly changed the playing field, and that other, better options for the property would become available.
    • Motion: (that) the McKnight Neighborhood Council opposes the relocation of McDonalds from its current location to the new location at Thompson and State Street under any terms.
  • Walter K called the vote for the motion to oppose supporting the relocation under any terms; Yea—6; No—3.


  • Motion passed.
  • An additional motion was made by Ben S, and seconded by Tawreak E, that Elizabeth O should draft the letter of opposition and submit it to the Board for review and approval before sending it to the City. Unanimous vote.



  • SECRETARY’S REPORT: (Brandi Gamble-Lucas)MOTION: (BS moved) to accept as presented; (TE seconded); (WK called); Unanimous vote.
  • Brandi G submitted the minutes for October 14, 2014. Call for corrections or additions.
  • TREASURER’S REPORT: (Colin Kirby) MOTION: (BS moved) to accept as presented; (TE seconded); (WK called); Unanimous vote.
  • Current on hand balance is $4832. Budget summary distributed.


  • December Meeting Plans—agreement to host annual holiday pot luck, and short business meeting. Liz S to invite Pottenger children’s chorus to perform.


  • Housing & Code (Colin Kirby)MOTION: (CK moved) as stated above; BG seconded; Walter K called: Unanimous vote.
  • Colin K presented a plan whereby developers, businesses, or group homes who come forward in the future with proposals be required to flyer within a radius of four blocks surrounding the area to inform neighborhood residents about their plans prior to the meetings at which they make their presentations. The flyer would also be posted on the website.


  • Liz S passed out a copy of the letter she sent to Mayor Sarno urging him to include funding for the entire Highland Rail Trail throughout the City (including the McKnight piece) in the City’s host agreement now that Casino funds will be available; and urged other people to submit similar requests to the Mayor.

8:00 ADJOURNMENT:   MOTION: (BS moved) to adjourn; (TE seconded); (WK called); motion carried.