Planning Board: More Questions Than Time – 555 Hearing Continued

(L-R) Planning Board Clerk/Agent Joshua Santoro, Board Chair David Thorn, Town Planner Karen Sherman

The Planning Board met Thursday, March 18, 2021 to conduct three Public Hearings.  Chair David Thorn convened the meeting at 7:03 pm.  The first order of business was a Public Hearing on Scenic Route Work at 164 – 168 Mill Street.  After opening the Hearing, Joyce Hastings representing the applicant, explained how it came to pass that mature trees and brush in the Mill Street right-of-way were erroneously removed.  She shared the plans to remediate the disruption.  The Board heard from Mill Street neighbor Deb Moore about the impact on the scenic nature of the street.

The Board approved the remediation plan with conditions: the stone wall be repaired to its proper state; and 5 2.5-inch trees be planted on each lot inside the property as near to the stone wall as possible.  Further the Board stipulated that the trees be of a type that will resist Gypsy Moth damage.

In a second Public Hearing, the Board approved a request for driveway work at 576 Highland as the property is also along a Scenic Route.

At 7:45 pm the Board reopened the Public Hearing on the proposed 555 Hopping Brook project. Chair Thorn began the Hearing by inviting Holliston Town Counsel, Jay Talerman (below) to advise participants as to the purpose of any Public Hearing.  The purpose of such Hearings is for the Board / Committee to conduct fact gathering to allow it (the Board) to close the Hearing and make an informed decision.  Talerman went on to note that not everyone will get a chance to speak during the Hearing. He concluded his opening guidance by saying that the Board’s review is ‘past the halfway point.’

Town Counsel Jay Talerman

With that preface, the Board heard CRG augmented plans.  Plans that have been changed and studies that have been expanded and reviewed based on input from previous Planning Board meetings on the topic.

The current plan, as depicted below, illustrates that the 800,000 sq. ft. facility will occupy about 23% of the 80-acre parcel.  There will be 180 truck docks and space to park 278 trailers.  The 30-foot berm (in darkest green) with an 8 foot fence on top and evergreens planted along the berm will obscure the building from being viewed by the residents of the Claybrooke development in Medway and attenuate sounds emitting from the facility.

The Board had asked CRG to present an illustration of an existing facility that would be comparable to the proposed Hopping Brook facility.  The property chosen was the Jordan’s Furniture warehouse built in Taunton seventeen years ago.  The facility matched the size and abutted residential properties.  It was not similar in its proximity to multilane highways.  Mr. Richard Shafer, who was involved in Taunton government at the time, shared that the Jordan’s facility was a win-win for the company and community.  He did not recall any neighborhood complaints following the construction of the warehouse.

The images below show what the surrounding berm and woods look like after 17 years.

Following up on the Board’s request for additional sound studies to include more Holliston neighborhoods, Greg Tocci, of Cavanaugh/Tocci showed findings from 59 Chestnut Street (R9) and Jackson Drive (Holliston Woods) (R10).  His data are displayed in the two charts below.  Holliston’s (and the State’s) sound by-laws apply to stationary sounds.  There are no standards for mobile sound.  Mr. Tocci concluded that sounds emanating from the proposed site would not exceed the authorized limits.  In some follow up questions from the Board, Tocci shared that the sound of a refrigerator is about 40 dB and that a normal conversation is in the 60 – 70 dB range.  Further he pointed out that outside sound levels decrease by 15 dB (windows open) to 25 dB (windows closed).

Next up was an update on Traffic generated by this project.  Once again, Scott Thornton of Vanasse Associates presented data intended to clarify ‘what was described by some at a previous meeting as ‘fuzzy math.’

First, the developer agrees to limit the number of daily trips to/from the facility to 1,310.  Using that as a benchmark, that would increase traffic on Washington at Hopping Brook by between 2.4% (east of H.B.) to 5.9%(west of H.B.).

The traffic studies have not yet been completed and reviewed by MassDOT and the Town’s engineering firm, represented at the meeting by Robert Michaud.

The developer proposes three actions to manage traffic flow related to the project:

  • Traffic signal at the intersection of Washington and Hopping Brook – below are action items related to the installation of a signal on a State numbered route.
  • The developer will install wayfinding truck route signage to and from I-495
  • The developer will monitor CRG-related truck traffic at three locations: at the facility; at the intersection of Washington and Hopping Brook, and the intersection of Washington and South Street.  The engineers provided that there are many technical devices available to be certain which trucks are which and report back to the developer – and the Town – on the findings.  The developer would include in the lease (into perpetuity) that the authorized truck routes must be used by CRG related truck traffic.

It was pointed out that the monitoring of these measures will be ongoing.  The cost of the monitoring will be borne by the developer. Mr. Thornton’s wrap up slides spell out the plan and are provided below.

At approximately 9:25 pm the Board having completed its questioning of the CRG representatives, opened up the floor for citizen input.  225 people were on the Zoom meeting and at least 20 signaled they wished to speak.  Mr. Thorn called first on Gary Donlin who had not spoken at the last meeting who asked if the traffic studies presented used the correct and the  latest update of the ITE standards.  Andres Vargas asked for confirmation that the 1,310 trip limitation would remain in effect – CRG confirmed that such binding conditions ‘run with the land in perpetuity.’  Wayne Griffin, owner and President of Griffin Electric located in the Hopping Brook park, spoke in support of CRG’s application.  He considers CRG to be a platinum tenant.  Griffin added that he has worked quite successfully with the property owner, Jon Delli Priscoli and finds him a good person.

As the established meeting curfew of 10:00pm approached, Chair Thorn once again called on Mr. Talerman to wrap up this session.  Talerman characterized the meeting as, “productive and a lot of useful information was gleaned.”  He suggested that CRG focus more on the mitigation and monitoring of noise / traffic related to the proposed facility.  How might the overnight sounds from this 24/7 facility be mitigated?

The Board voted to Continue the CRG Public Hearing until April 15, 2021.

Mr. Thorn apologized to the many citizens who were not heard.  He recommended that citizens write in their questions / concerns to the Town Planner Karen Sherman shermank@holliston.k12.ma.us.  All submissions received by one week prior to the next meeting, will be read by Mr. Thorn.

The meeting adjourned at 10:04pm.

Chris Cain

4 Comments

  1. Mary Greendale on March 20, 2021 at 10:15 am

    Well reported, Mr. Cain. Not an easy task. Thanks.

  2. Ann McElhinney on March 20, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    Just returned from a visit to review location and set-up of similarly sized Jordan’s Warehouse in East Taunton. This example shows clearly where an 800k sf warehouse SHOULD be located with direct access to/from highway in a very industrialized area including an airport and mall nearby, that does not have tractor trailers traveling on residential roads. The visit reaffirmed to me why ploppping something of this size and scale in Holliston makes no sense.

  3. Maxwell Emery on March 20, 2021 at 10:01 pm

    What is the difference between one big building and let’s say 10 individual buildings that equaled that size? It is an industrial park.

  4. Terri Stiffler on March 23, 2021 at 9:35 am

    This coming Monday night (3/29) the Select Board is supposed to be setting aside a big portion of their meeting for Public input on the 555 Hopping Brook project, and also the Planning Board said that during their next meeting (4/15) the Public will get to go first in the meeting and voice questions/concerns. It will be great to hear from the Public instead of the Developers for a change!

Leave a Comment





Categories