Opinion

Letter to the Editor: More data needed on Lynnfield cinema

As residents of Lynnfield, we are blessed to live in one of the most beautiful towns in Massachusetts. In fact, Lynnfield boasts some of the best amenities in the state, including an exceptional quality of life, terrific public schools, great public safety, robust property values, beautiful landscapes and a caring and welcoming community.

My family and I moved to Lynnfield in search of these unparalleled qualities. For those of us who have traveled the country, we can attest that Lynnfield is a unique place. It is why I find the consideration of a movie theater for Lynnfield both puzzling and concerning.

As someone who relies on data to make informed decisions, I am unclear as to the benefits of a movie theater for our town. After researching the movie theater industry and, separately, the history of the theater proposal in Lynnfield, I remain concerned and continue to have more questions than answers.

Below is a list of some of the questions many residents are pondering. These inquiries merit clear, data-driven responses as the vote to approve a movie theater approaches on April 29, 2019.

  1. Given that Lynnfield residents already enjoy wonderful indoor and outdoor amenities, how will a movie theater enhance the town’s quality of life?
  2. Since residents have access to at least four movie theaters within 16 minutes or less by car (Reading, Woburn, Danvers and Revere), why are developers proposing a movie theater for Marketplace?
  3. According to data from www.the-numbers.com, movie ticket sales, box office ticket sales as well as concession sales have been trending flat. Is the movie theater business competitive given the rise in disruptive technologies? Is a movie theater viable in Lynnfield over the long-term?
  4. Do we fully understand how the movie theater will impact the traffic patterns and population trends given Marketplace’s popularity? At a minimum, a five-year impact analysis should be conducted and made available that demonstrates the traffic, revenue, and resource impact to Lynnfield, including tax revenues and costs associated with annual growth in pedestrian and automobile traffic.
  5. What pressure (financial and systemic) will a new movie theater introduce and place on the town’s public safety resources (police, fire, EMS)? A one-time mitigation investment may not address the long-term consequences of the ongoing demands on a growing Marketplace development that has already exceeded the original estimates.
  6. How will recent development activity at Marketplace (new medical facility, additional restaurants, etc.) impact taxpayer’s property taxes and local resources and costs (water supply, public safety, traffic patterns, etc.)? The new medical facility and the adjacent vacant lot is likely to attract more traffic and potentially more demand for housing over time. Has the town, or movie theater proponents, completed an economic and fiscal impact analysis of these developments to understand and assess their impact?

Finally, residents should read RKG Associates’ Financial Impact study submitted on March 29, 2018. Their brief memo includes speculative assertions that merit more analysis, or public release of their data and methodologies. For example, the report states that a movie theater would generate an “estimated $324,600 in tax receipts representing an increase of $248,400 annually over the current taxes ‘as is’ as unimproved land.”

This statement raises questions. Are there economic models or experience that support RKG Associates’ assumptions and are there models or data that estimate the commensurate increase in costs that taxpayers may bear to support a movie theater and its ancillary effects? Does a $248,400 increase in estimated new, annual tax revenue offset the costs of increased water use, more public safety needs, higher traffic, etc., over time?

It’s important that residents continue to seek transparent and data-driven answers to these important questions. If we do not have satisfactory answers, we should not approve a movie theater proposal. Alternatively, if the answers are not forthcoming, we should vote to postpone the movie theater proposal until we have strong data that both enables us to assess the proposal’s impact to Lynnfield and facilitates an informed decision regarding the future of our town’s limited resources.

David Morales

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