Civic action group key in stopping “goliath” construction project “Stop 555 Hopping Brook” dedicated thousands of hours to the effort
By Theresa Knapp
Holliston residents played an integral part in the ultimate denial of a special permit for a large-scale facility that was proposed for the Hopping Brook Road Industrial Park.
On July 29, after more than a year of hearings, the Holliston Planning Board voted unanimously to deny the Special Permit application for CRG Integrated Real Estate Solutions which planned to build an 800,400 square foot facility on approximately 72 acres within the Hopping Brook Road Industrial Park on the Holliston/Medway town line.
Before the board issued its decision, Planning Board Chairperson Karen Apuzzo Langton said, during the process, the board heard from 68 individuals and received more than 167 written responses to the board from the community.
Among the most vocal opponents were members of the civic action group “Stop 555 Hopping Brook” which included residents of both Holliston and Medway.
“The project proposed for 555 Hopping Brook had been under the radar for many months and not many folks in Holliston knew about it,” says Terri Stiffler, one of the 19 core members of the group. Carshelle Larsen, also a core member, mentioned a February hearing to Stiffler and the ball started rolling.
During the Feb. 4 Planning Board meeting, Stiffler asked a question about the environmental impacts and whether MEPA filings had been completed.
“There were several discrepancies in their answers during that meeting that raised red flags and several people from Holliston and Medway were asking some really good questions that uncovered several issues,” said Stiffler.
That was a Thursday. By Saturday, a small group was organized, gathering information, and quickly gaining speed. Stop555 members reached out to several people who had been on the Planning Board call plus “several other groups who had started to work on various aspects of this issue” including Suzanne Adelman of “West of Hopping Brook” which was looking at inevitable project impact on South Street and other stress in the area.
By the following Tuesday, five days later, a core group of 12 members were on a call to discuss ideas and strategies, and the now-iconic “Stop 555 Hopping Brook” sign was being designed and produced by group member Dave Bastille.
“Over the course of the winter and spring, we delivered over 125 signs to the lawns of Holliston residents concerned with the impact that facility would have on our quality of life,” said Adelman.
During that first month, the core members, and others who joined later, “met four nights a week for approximately 2.5 to 3 hours each night, and several weekends to continue to strategize,” said Stiffler.
Shortly thereafter, the group created a website (https://.stop555hoppingbrook.com), a postcard to share with the community to raise awareness, added the Stop555 info to the West of Hopping Brook materials, and created a GoFundMe page to raise funds to hire a law firm (McGregor and Legere, PC) to help guide and inform the group.
Members received mixed messages -- “it’s a done deal,” “why bother?,” “you should start thinking about mitigation instead of stopping it” “-- but Stiffler said the group never gave up “and believed our town, and the environment on that plot of land, was worth fighting for.”
“We had assumed it would not pass but then we saw in the Holliston Local Town Pages the EDC [Holliston Economic Development Committee] had given the project a thumbs up...and many other people gave us the impression that it was too big of a fight and that it was a done deal,” said Stop555 member Eileen Muller, adding members had a lot of sleepless nights. “I learned that perseverance is key,”
In fact, the group persevered for the next six months. Members:
• Attended all Planning Board meetings and spoke and presented in some of the meetings;
• Wrote letters to the Planning Board and Select Board;
• Organized “an amazing group of committed picketers” who stood in front of the Planning Board meetings every Thursday night (rain or shine);
• Dug deeply into technical details of data provided from the developers and identified technical issues that were then brought to the attention of town boards and the MEPA group;
• Obtained and reviewed thousands of pages of public records with information on the communications between the developer and the DOT and MEPA group;
• Regularly updated their website and social media sites - including West of Hopping Brook and Holliston Happy - to keep and regularly updated the WOHB/Holliston Happy and other social media to keep the community informed
• Canvassed the town to raise awareness;
• Met with some State Representatives; and
• Reached out to local news outlets who were not covering the issue.
Group members credit town officials and employees who spent many hours on this issue, often beyond their regular work hours.
“They did an excellent job of reviewing all of the tons of paperwork for the project and giving the developer the opportunity to state their case. However, we knew they were all volunteers and one of our goals became to support them with the facts as we dug in deeply to each of the issues,” said Stiffler.
“That showed an incredible level of commitment to fighting this proposal,” said Stop555 member Anne Lindsay of the time the town dedicated to this project.
“I already knew that a small group could make a huge difference. I wasn’t sure if that would be the case with this kind of fight against this huge, well-heeled company,” said Lindsay. “I learned a lot about town government, about Holliston, and I met some incredible people who will remain friends. I also learned more than I care to know about the trucking, distribution, warehouse, and fulfillment world.”
Members say they have been contacted by other civic action groups in other towns who are seeking guidance in similar efforts. “We are willing to share our experiences to help other towns that feel as though they don’t have a chance to stop the Goliaths of the world who seem to want to bowl over small towns,” said Stiffler.
As of press time, the time for the developer to file an appeal had not lapsed.
To read the Planning Board’s full decision, visit