Holliston Economic Development Committee Issues Letter of SupportJan 29, 2021 11:06AM ● By Theresa Knapp
The Holliston Economic Development Committee has issued a letter of support for the proposed property development within 555 Hopping Brook Industrial Park.
After several months of discussion, including meetings with the public, the EDC expressed its support in a letter to the Planning Board on January 7, 2021, the same date that board was holding a hearing on the proposed 800,000 square foot warehouse facility.
“It is our viewpoint that the proposed property development within 555 Hopping Brook Park would be a positive addition to Holliston’s local economy,” read the EDC letter. “It is well within the landowner’s rights to develop the property as currently proposed, with town approvals as required.”
The letter also said the proposed development could “add more than $1 million in new tax revenue to Holliston” and would increase the town’s industrial tax revenue by 26 percent.
According to the EDC, the property owner - listed on documents as “New Hopping Brook Trust” with John Mark Delli Priscoli as trustee (and represented by Michael Milanowski at the EDC’s December meeting), and the proposed tenant - listed as CRG Integrated Real Estate Solutions - have agreed to several town enhancements including a new traffic signal at the intersection of Hopping Brook Park and Route 16, improvements to the pedestrian crosswalks for the Upper Charles Trail crossings at Hopping Brook Road and Church Street, and a looping of the water line within the Park.
Residents from both Holliston and abutting Medway have expressed concerns about decreasing property values, effects on local businesses, and a steep increase in traffic along Route 16 and South Street. One person said residents should be considered “collateral damage” with a project of this size.
In its letter to the Planning Board, the EDC acknowledged traffic concerns and said, “The developer has agreed to a restriction that all truck traffic is prohibited from the use of South Street to travel to or from the site.” Residents say similar ordinances are frequently violated and not enforced. The EDC continued, “It is our understanding that this traffic will be traveling to and from the 495 interchange,” adding that a facility of this size, with an estimated tax value of $1 million, that does not send additional traffic through Holliston’s downtown, “is an economic benefit to the community.”
Medway abutters have also expressed concerns which the EDC acknowledged. “The EDC is aware that the Developer has agreed to pay $3,000 to every abutter in Medway and that the matter is a subject of litigation,” noting that issue is outside the purview of the Holliston EDC.
The EDC has previously stated their role is only advisory; they cannot approve or deny a project and only assess if a project provides an economic advantage or disadvantage to the town. In their letter of support, they urged the Planning Board to seek a commitment in writing from the future tenant to give preference to Holliston residents when hiring.
The EDC letter was prepared in advance of a Planning Board hearing held on the matter on Jan. 7, 2021. At that meeting, town counsel Jason Talerman, Esq. raised questions about the design of the project which he described as an “intense” high-cube warehouse and not a “general warehouse” as the applicant has suggested.
“The designers of the project have produced a design that shows 170 truck bays and 423 truck parking spaces. That’s big, that’s intense; that’s for a high-cube or an e-commerce facility,” Talerman said, noting a general warehouse would be “a very different project.”
Talerman also noted the traffic study conducted (and referenced in the EDC letter of support) was done on a general warehouse design and not the high-cube warehouse which would have a very different impact. He also said if the applicant does not know yet what type of warehouse they want to build, the project should be reviewed it under the most intense warehouse use.
“You’ve got a traffic engineer touting one thing and project designers designing something else,” Talerman said. “They don’t square up right now and that’s a big concern.”
The applicant’s counsel, Richard Nylen, Esq., said they are proposing a “customary warehouse” and not a high-cube warehouse, adding they take issue with the Planning Board (re)designing the warehouse.
“I find it interesting that the applicant is willing to confine themselves to a warehouse use but doesn’t want to confine themselves to the design of a warehouse. You can’t have it both ways,” Talerman said.
That hearing was continued to Feb. 4 at 7:00 p.m. when the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the 555 Hopping Brook Special Permit. The agenda and Zoom information, plus additional documents, can be found on the Holliston Planning Board website https://www.townofholliston.us/planning-board/pages/555-hopping-brook-information