Hopping Brook Conversation ContinuesJan 01, 2021 11:31AM ● By Judy O'Gara
Courtesy photo by Suzanne Lehmert Adelman.
The issue of Hopping Brook was once again before a town committee last month.
Mid-December, the town of Holliston’s Economic Development Committee met with a representative of the owners of 555 Hopping Brook Road, although a Planning Board meeting scheduled for the following night was cancelled due to weather conditions.
Michael Milanowski gave an overview of the agreements with the town to date, noting that the landowner (listed as New Hopping Brook Trust) will be selling the property to CRG Integrated Solutions. Although he said 70% of the time a company like CRG will retain ownership and lease the property to a proposed client, he left open the possibility that whatever company that comes in may want to purchase the property.
The facility proposed, which CRG hopes will be open by 2021 (and, he said, be on tax rolls by FY 2022), would run 24 hours, with the plurality of the estimated 300 to 400 workers (over half) in the first of three 8-hour shifts, about 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. or 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.
He noted adaptations in the original plans, including: a notice of project change to MEFA regarding use of a proposed second building from office space to the same as the first, reducing its water and sewer needs, a change in the water system to create a loop in the Hopping Brook area that the town of Holliston did not have before, mitigation at the Holliston Rail Trail that includes flashing signals and raised speed bumps, the installation of a new traffic signal the contractor will pay for that has been approved and reviewed by Mass DOT to reduce speed on Route 16 and an agreement by CRG Integrated Solutions to use only state-numbered roads to move trucks out, specifically not South Street.
On the economic side, the presenter noted that, at $1.20 in taxes per square-foot, the project, estimated at $100 million, would likely bring $1 million in annual tax revenue to the town. He added that final building plans must be in place for an official assessment.
He pointed out that the project, located on property that has always been zoned as industrial, is pending one more final approval by the Planning Board.
Matthew Coletti, of the EDC, questioned whether any businesses in town opposed the project, to which Milanowski replied that he was not aware of any. Later, residents balked at this, pointing to an earlier recorded meeting where Rodenheiser Plumbing objected to the project.
When the meeting was opened to the public, residents expressed to the EDC that they feared their properties would lose value due to this development. Milanowski replied he was unaware of any documentation that economic development has a negative impact on real estate development, and Peter Barbieri, of the EDC, added that he has not seen any reduction in values of residential properties in proximity to industrial parks. Residents disagreed, insisting their properties are already devalued.
Residents also balked at the South Street agreement, saying they see a high incidence of truckers skirting traffic laws in their neighborhood and questioning the enforceability of such an agreement and voicing safety concerns.
Members of the EDC noted that they needed to focus on the financial benefit or loss to the town. To that end, residents spoke up about shouldering the financial risk, with one commenting that these residents are seen as “collateral damage” in a project of this magnitude.
Before the meeting closed, Christine Carosella, of the EDC, suggested that she would like to hear from Holliston residents about what businesses they would like to see in town. If this is not the type of business residents want zoned in industrial parks, what is, she asked. A short discussion of a survey reaching out to Holliston residents was discussed.
The meeting closed with members of the EDC noting that they had no power of approval or disapproval over the project, that their province was that of looking at the economic advantage or disadvantage. They agreed to put together a letter, which Peter Barbieri would draft, by their next meeting, which they changed to Jan. 6, so that it would be completed in advance of the Jan. 7 Planning Board meeting. (At press time, the Planning Board meeting on Jan. 7 had not been announced, but was alluded to during the EDC meeting.)
Three more documents have been submitted to the Holliston Planning Board since its last meeting on 555 Hopping Brook Road. These are posted at https://www.townofholliston.us/planning-board/pages/555-hopping-brook-information.
Residents of the area near Hopping Brook have organized, with two Facebook pages, West of Hopping Brook and West of Hopping Brook Truck Traffic and Jake Braking. Resident David Bastille has created signs for the neighborhood, which read “Big trucks belong on the big roads.” Fellow resident Suzanne Lehmert Adelman is helping distribute these signs, available for $10 to cover production costs.
“We have a very big problem over here. We are under siege from these HUGE trucks, and it gets worse every day. We are doing our best, but let's face it ... they are bigger than us,” says Lehmert Adelman, a school bus driver for the town of Holliston.