Holliston Planning Board discusses proposed facility at Hopping Brook Road
By Theresa Knapp
The Holliston Planning Board met in March to continue discussing a special permit for CRG Integrated Real Estate Solutions which had proposed a 1.5 million square foot building at 555 Hopping Brook Road. That site was recently identified as a planned Amazon Distribution Center by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.
In February, in a report entitled, “Hidden and in Plain Sight: Impacts of E-Commerce in Massachusetts,” the MAPC noted the “planned” facility could be between 1 million and 4 million square feet.
The MAPC report was not discussed at the Planning Board’s virtual March 18 meeting which was attended by more than 200 viewers. The majority of the 1.5-hour hearing focused on updates from the developer, leaving little time for questions from the public, many of whom had their virtual hands raised for most of the meeting.
Planning Board Chairman David Thorn apologized for time constraints and the board voted to start its next meeting, on April 15, with public comment.
The report was not mentioned nor was Amazon as a possible tenant.
Frank Petkunas, Senior Vice President at CRG, in sisted “We don’t know who the tenant is...but we design the buildings to basically attract certain types of tenants.”
He also said the developer could include wording in the future lease that would restrict the use to a warehouse and not a distribution center or high-cube building; he said those restrictions would apply to any occupant -- now or in the future -- of the building.
“Whatever conditions are imposed during this hearing process, we will make part of the lease,” Petkunas said. “We’re trying to make this as best we can.”
CRG engineer Peter Bemis, of Engineering Design Consultants, described the project which includes revisions that have been made based on board feedback.
80-acre parcel at 555 Hopping Brook Road
North: Hopping Brook Solar Field
East: Claybrook residential neighborhood
South: Hopping Brook Industrial Park (approx. 9 acres)
West: continuation of Hopping Brook Industrial Park (approx. 100 acres)
820,000 square foot building
Set back 315 feet from the street, 200 feet to the west, 355 feet to the east, and approx. 1,600 feet to the north
Two parking fields (one north with 200 spaces, one south with 200 spaces)
180 truck dock spaces
278 trailer parking spots
Noise and traffic issues were also discussed.
CRG sound consultant Greg Tocci, of Cavanaugh Tocci Associates, said they installed two additional receptors to capture noise levels and said that those sites, further away from the building, showed “fairly low sound levels.”
The board commented that sounds like a truck passing by and a trailer disconnecting will make the highest noise, and could wake someone in the middle of the night.
Tocci said, “What makes a sound annoying is what the sound represents, sources that can be identified...a lot of the objections to the sound is related to it being able to be identified because it doesn’t blend into the background.” He said any noise people would hear would be less than two people talking or a refrigerator in use.
CRG intends to create a 30-foot berm with an 8-foot fence and evergreen trees to shelter it from abutters.
CRG’s traffic engineer Scott Thornton, of Vanasse & Associates Inc., discussed traffic including a proposed traffic signal at the entrance to Hopping Brook Road and Washington Street, and installation of multiple signs to direct truck traffic.
CRG is also willing to restrict the site to 1,310 vehicle trips per day, and will pay for GPS monitoring to be sure that truck traffic stays to designated routes.
The board also heard from CRG guest Richard Shafer, with Shafer Development Services about a project CRG and the City of Taunton built in 2003.
Shafer was Taunton’s Economic Developer at the time CRG constructed the Liberty & Union Industrial Park at the intersection of Routes 140 and 24. That development included a warehouse of similar size for Jordan’s Furniture. Shafer said the development was well-received because it generated additional tax revenue -- including approx. $7 million excise tax -- per year.
Board members noted the Jordan site is different in many ways including its direct access to highways, not traveling through residential neighborhoods with narrow roads, and the vehicles at the Holliston site will likely not be registered to the 555 Hopping Brook Road address.
Town Counsel Jason Talerman said “there’s still a lot of work to do,” adding “we’re past the halfway point.”
After the meeting, resident Terri Stiffler told Holliston Town News said she would have asked several questions related to the traffic model used, adding that, in the ITE Manual, the proposed limit of 1,310 trips per day is associated with a much smaller (200,000 sf) building.
Resident S.T. Woodrow would have asked, "Since the project is described by the developers themselves as speculative -- because they cannot disclose a tenant and because so much data is still undermined or has been revised within updated statutes -- why isn't the impact being measured by standards for the most intensive use?"
The hearing was continued to April 15, 2021.