Hopping Mad about Hopping BrookOct 27, 2020 09:01AM ● By Jane Lebak
Local residents in Holliston and Medway are concerned that developer, CRG Integrated Real Estate Solutions, has no intention of working harmoniously with the community on its proposal at 555 Hopping Brook. Clear-cutting that began on October 5th in violation of a Town of Holliston Cease and Desist letter added to their apprehension.
On October 5th, Medway and Holliston residents awoke to the sound of trees crashing done, “one a minute” according to one of the abutters of 555 Hopping Brook Road.
It would take two days for the Town of Holliston to get a temporary restraining order against CRG Integrated Real Estate Solutions, only the latest in a series of issues surrounding the planned industrial development.
“They’re grossly in violation of so many different things,” says Mathtew Mnich, a Medway resident spearheading the fight against the development. “There’s a big groundswell of people that have amassed, not just in Medway as direct abutters, but folks in the town of Holliston and Milford as well. We’re applauding the board for their swift action, but asking them to revoke all the permits currently issued and asking them to start over.”
The development at 555 Hopping Brook Road has caused such turmoil that it has its own page at the Town of Holliston website as well as a Facebook group, West of Hopping Brook, that’s working to mitigate the impact on the town.
Plans for the site include three warehouses, one at 90,000 square feet, and two much larger ones at 600,000 and 800,000 square feet with 170 loading docks as well as space for 473 tractor trailers.
No one has identified the prospective tenant that requires 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space.
Holliston residents have raised three main concerns about the development and its impact on everyday life in Holliston: traffic, the environmental impact, and the lack of respect for the area’s character.
Such a large facility will inevitably increase traffic on Route 16, and also on South Street.
Mnich says, “Their traffic study was about 1,500 tractor trailer trips a day. That’s pretty astronomical in terms of the impact to a local community. But the Department of Transportation estimates over 7,500 trips a day.”
Traffic is a primary concern for Jan Klein, a nine-year resident of the Balancing Rock condominiums. Klein says, “I already sit five minutes on Balancing Rock Drive trying to get onto Route 16. The increase in traffic is unacceptable.”
To reach the closest highway, trucks will have to travel the length of the Hopping Brook development, turn onto Route 16, and then turn onto Beaver Street or Fortune Boulevard in Milford. Smaller vehicles may take South Street to Route 109, greatly adding to the traffic on a residential road.
Klein adds, “If they’re going to have that many trucks, why aren’t they developing in a place where trucks have direct access to a highway?”
The environmental impact begins with the effects of the increase in traffic, but does not end there. Increased traffic results in rising levels of particulate matter in the air.
Moreover, the original site plan calls for removing eight to ten thousand trees from the site, which is not without consequences in terms of runoff and erosion.
Mnich says, “The original site plan required a wastewater treatment plant. Since that original permit was filed, the developer instead went with collection ponds. What will that do to our well water?”
The Town of Holliston Planning Board has responded to this comment by Mnich, noting that wastewater and stormwater should not be confused. “The stormwater management design includes detention ponds as their best management practice. The original park MEPA filing included development of a wastewater treatment palnt for sewer. Individual septic systems are being proposed,” explains Karen Sherman, Town Planner.
The plan has no protocol for dealing with snow, nor for refueling trucks.
Mnich says, “There are three million square feet, flat footage, of hardscape. How do you plan to de-ice the hard pavement, and what to you plan on using? How do they plan on treating the contaminated water?”
Finally, residents are upset with the developers’ attitude toward the Town of Holliston itself.
For example, Holliston has many miles of “antique roads” still in use by pedestrians, but which may be lost as the land is developed. Mnich says, “They lead all the way out to the rail trail. Some people feel they have rights to still access those antique roads, but the developer felled trees preventing anyone from accessing those trails.”
The tree cutting is the most recent development. On September 29th, CRG began felling trees in violation of the guidelines, stating that because they weren’t removing the tree stumps, their action was lumber collection rather than clear cutting. The Town of Holliston issued a Cease and Desist under the Town's Stormwater Management and Land Disturbance By-Law stating that they do not have approval to clear cut, nor do they have the proper permits for lumber collection.
This leads to the morning of October 5th, when CRG brought two logging trucks onto the property and resumed cutting trees in violation of the Cease and Desist letter. The Town of Holliston applied to Middlesex County Superior Court to obtain an emergency restraining order, which was granted on October 7th with the hearing scheduled for October 16th (docket number 2081CV02415).
The court concluded that CRG could apply for a permit for tree-cutting from the Dept. of Conservation, but they cannot bar the town planner from access to the site. CRG needed to submit a detailed construction sequence plan for the Planning Board’s approval no later than 4 p.m. on October 22nd. As of Local Town Pages’ deadline, on October 21st, that updated plan had yet to be submitted to the Planning Board. In turn, the Planning Board was to hold a meeting regarding this submission no later than 7 p.m. on October 29, 2020. (The Planning Board suggests visiting the page on 555 Hopping Brook for any updates regarding their decision, and Local Town Pages will update this article on our website, www.hollistontownnews.com and www.millismedwaynews.com )
Residents are concerned that the development will cause irreparable changes.
“As you know, the Balancing Rock fell recently. Was it the vibrations of all those trucks day and night?” asks Jan Klein. “Add a few thousand vehicles, and then what happens to Holliston? I don’t understand why they’re going forward with this.”
Mnich adds, “I don’t think anybody wants to stand in the way of development, but it has to be done in a harmonious way. This project may go forward in one shape or form, but they’ve got to do it the right way. We want to make as many people aware of this as possible in surrounding towns. Know what’s going on. Get involved. Voice your opinion.”
The 555 Hopping Brook Place development will be revisited at the November 12th Town Planning Board meeting. Residents who are concerned about the issue can watch the meeting on Zoom. All details and documents, as well as details about the Zoom meeting, are available at https://www.townofholliston.us/planning-board/pages/555-opping-brook-information .
You can access the November 12th meeting by connecting to Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/288221782.Meeting Password: 13579. You can also join by phone only by calling 1-646-558-8656 then enter Meeting ID: 288 221 782 and when prompted for password enter: 13579.
Hopping Brook Timeline
November 16, 2019: Initial site plan created
March 11, 2020: Site plan approved
June 1: Zoning Board receives height variance application for 800,000 s.f. and 600,000,s.f. structures
June, 2020: Abutters are notified
June 24: Variance approved to increase building height (currently under appeal)
June 30: Application for Planning Board Special Permit for proposed 800,400 s.f. warehouse use and outdoor storage filed
July 2: Abutters notified of July 23rd public hearing
July 23: Planning Board public hearing opened and continued to August 6
July 30: Mass. MEPA Unit requests an updated Notice of Project Change addressing wastewater issues and traffic references
August 6: Developer requests continuance of public hearing; Planning Board continues hearing until September 17
September 17: Developer requests continuance of public hearing; Planning Board continues public hearing until November 12
September 28: Developer begins cutting trees; Holliston issues a Cease and Desist letter
October 5: Developer resumes clearing trees
October 7: Emergency restraining order again halts tree-cutting
October 16: Hearing at Middlesex County Superior Court regarding land-clearing
October 22: Deadline, according to court ruling, for CRG to submit detailed construction sequence plan to Planning Board
October 29: Planning Board meeting regarding updated construction sequence plan
November 12, 7:15 p.m.: Continued special permit public hearing for the proposed use and outdoor storage (Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/288221782.Meeting Password: 13579, or call (646) 558-8656, Meeting ID: 288 221 782, password: 13579