© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA - The Board of Selectmen praised a proposed private sector partnership with local authorities in which a high-tech surveillance system will monitor traffic scofflaws at Redstone Plaza.

During a gathering last week in Town Hall, Main Street attorney Steven Cicatelli, representing Chestnut Hill property manager WS Development, explained the shopping plaza owners plan to spend at least $40,000 on an advanced surveillance system equipped with facial recognition, infrared sensors, and license plate scanning capabilities.

The petitioner outlined the arrangement while appearing before the Board of Selectmen to seek an extension of a special permit granted a few years ago, when the landlords detailed a series of renovations and changes at the Main Street strip mall by the Reading line.

That extension, which gives WS Development two more years to complete a planned expansion by the rear of the Marshall's store and renovate two vacant storefronts by Target, was unanimously approved on Tuesday night.

The new monitoring system is to be placed at a rear access road by the new Target store, where residential abutters have long complained about motorists illegally exiting the property through a one-way entrance in order to avoid traffic signals on Main Street.

Under a new partnership with local police, who facing manpower limitations have struggled to catch one-way violators, the property manager will now forward all records of infractions directly to authorities.

"People are not obeying that one-way. We had a meeting with Safety Officer [Joseph] Ponzo, and we proposed the state-of-the-art surveillance system. It has facial recognition and can clearly [record] a registration number," Cicatelli explained. "It also has heat sensors, so it can tell how long a car has been running."

"[According to Police Chief James McIntyre] that is in his opinion a Chapter 90 restricted way violation. It's a $50 fine, and it's a surchargable offense. He indicated if we emailed the video to his office, he would prosecute," the local lawyer furthered.

Cicatelli was joined at the public hearing by WS Development manager Andrew Manning, who is charged with overseeing the Stoneham property.

According to Manning, not only will the new system be utilized to track those who ignore the exit prohibition, he also intends to monitor tenant compliance with dumpster pickup and inventory delivery restrictions.

On an almost weekly basis, local police field noise complaints from abutters regarding idling tractor-trailers and trash-truck hydraulics. As is the case with the one-way problems, patrolmen often can't identify those drivers, who have often departed the area by the time police respond.

However, the early morning trash hauling and delivery routes are clear violations of both local bylaws and the terms of Redstone Limited Partnership's special permit.

According to the WS Development manager, with the new system, he fully intends to crack down on future violations by citing store tenants for defaulting on their leases.

"In all our documentation with tenants, we control how they're supposed to operate. Where necessary, we've actually defaulted tenants," said Manning. "It's a very sophisticated system that we intend to use to get rid of all this [prohibited activity]."

The Board of Selectmen enthusiastically heralded the new partnership, which they say will go a long way towards solving longstanding issues with the traffic violations.

According to the town officials, as long as the public is given notice of the surveillance system use, they have no problem with throwing their support behind the prosecution of offenders.

"I think the surveillance camera is a great idea. As long as there's signage, I have no problem with it. If people know they're being recorded, that's what you get for going the wrong way," responded Selectman Shelly MacNeill.

"That's huge," later remarked Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Wilson. "Right now, it's frustrating, because it takes a resident [to run out and try to snap a photograph and then lodge a complaint]."

There was some disagreement as to the timing of pursuing court summonses.

According to Selectman George Seibold, he'd like to see tickets being issued almost immediately, as an instant crackdown would in his opinion put a quick end to the driving behavior.

However, Wilson and Colarusso objected to that course, as they believed police were better off issuing warnings first.

"I like the warning. Let people first know they're doing something wrong. We're not trying to make money; we're trying to change behavior," said Wilson.

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