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Salem Planning Board cautious on plaza waiver

SALEM — The Planning Board wants more traffic and parking information before it reconsiders lifting a condition on the size of a future business that could occupy the Namco pool supply store at the Stateline Plaza on South Broadway.

Although the Salem Namco store is still open at the plaza, the company itself has gone through bankruptcy proceedings and closed a number of locations across the East Coast.

Looking toward the future, the owners of the plaza recently requested that the Planning Board lift a condition on the property that limits how much of the 19,000-square-foot building could be used for retail if a new tenant were to come in.

The condition limits a new retail use of the property to 12,000 square feet of the building without additional board approval.

At issue are traffic and parking concerns, according to Ross Moldoff, town planning director. At the time, town requirements called for 987 parking spaces on the property, with the developer providing 613.

The plaza also includes an Aldi grocery store, a Lowe's home improvement center, and a Santander bank.

"That's a significant difference, and the zoning board granted that variance back in 2008," said Moldoff.

Moldoff said he was not in favor of the Planning Board waiving the size restriction. However, he noted that if there was a new tenant to occupy the Namco building, the owners could come back to the Planning Board for removal of the condition at that time.

Stateline Plaza project manager Andrew Manning presented the Planning Board with several aerial photos of the plaza parking situation at peak retail situations and noted that even on Black Friday of 2012, less than half the parking spaces on the property where in use.

Manning also stated that Namco is still a tenant at the plaza and there are no immediate plans for the store to close.

"Currently, Namco has a lease," said Manning. "But we want to make sure we have the flexibility to find the right fit for the (shopping) center."

Planning Board member Ron Belanger supported the request to remove the condition, but his motion to have it removed failed.

The board did agree to continue the hearing so it could get more information from the town's traffic

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