Select Board Examines 555 Hopping Brook Project

The Select Board opened its Monday, March 29, 2021 meeting at 6:30pm. The early start was to allow extended time to discuss the proposed development at 555 Hopping Brook.  Nearly 4 hours of the meeting was devoted to hearing presentations, comments, and questions related to the planned 800,000 square foot facility.

Coronavirus Community update

Fire Chief Michael Cassidy gave the weekly COVID update. The highlights are as follows:

Holliston’s positivity rate remained at 2.48% We continue in the Yellow for the ninth week in a row.
The State is seeing a rise in hospitalizations.
Chief Cassidy provided this graphic following a question last week from Mrs. Hein.

CARES Act Programmatic update

The Board approved the following requests:

Chief Cassidy is still awaiting word from the State regarding funds from the American Rescue legislation.

Warrants: The Board approved warrants totaling: $1,486,722,.58

Public Comment: None at this time

Comments from the Town Administrator: None this week. 

Annual Town Meeting Warrant Summary – The Warrant for the My 5, 2021 Town Meeting closed at 4:00pm

  • ZBA Solar Amendments; vote to send to Planning Board – The Board approved sending these amendments to the Planning Board.
  • Currently there are 38 Articles on the May Warrant – those highlighted in yellow below were added in the past week.

Board Business: The Board took the following actions:

  • Voted to turn down the right of first refusal on “Lot 5” of Finn Property
  • Appointed Justine Grassey Asst. ACO part-time joint with Ashland through June 30, 2021
  • Approved the Minutes of March 8, 2021 Meeting

Mr. Cronin laid out the ground rules for the discussion on the 555 Project.  A CRG presentation up to 45 minutes, followed by Board questions up to 60 minutes, and then public comments / questions.

Presentation of CRG – Proposal for 555 Hopping Brook: Mr. Frank Petkunas, CRG Regional Head, Peter Bemis, Bemis Engineering, Scott Thornton, Vanasse Assoc. (CRG Traffic Engineer), Robert Michaud, MDM (Town’s Traffic Engineer), and CRG Counsel Chip Nylen spent about 40 minutes bringing the Select Board up to speed on the project.

Mr. Petkunas led off with the following slides:

Mr. Thorton shared the following.  It is noteworthy that while this projects traffic is substantially less than what was previously approved by MEPA, traffic will increase between 2 – 5 % based on the identified land use code of a warehouse.  A State study of 12 intersections potentially impacted has yet to be completed.

The Select Board members each shared comments and questions with the CRG representatives.  This period lasted just about the 60 minutes that was allotted. 

Mr. Sparrell confirmed that CRG would own the building and lease it to an unspecified tenant.  Mr. Petkunas reiterated that the tenant will NOT be Amazon.  Mr. Petkunas pointed out that tenants will be sought when the building is ready to be occupied.  The Average Daily Trip count will NOT exceed 1,310.  Monitoring reports will be provided by a third-party to CRG and the Town (Planning Board).  The building will not have refrigeration, no automation, and no on-site fuel storage/distribution. 

Mr. Sparrell thanked the residents for their passion and asked that we all stay engaged in the process.

Mrs. Hein prefaced her segment by stating that to her the project is “all about trucks.” She asked if the facility would run 24/7.  Mr. Petkunas confirmed it would operate around the clock.  Hein was curious if the 2.3-mile trip from the nearest highway on two-lane roads was unusual.  CRG indicated that several of their developments are further from interstates.  Mr. Petkunas shared that key in his selection is the proper zoning and conducive topography.  Mrs. Hein asked that CRG conduct a comprehensive TRUCK traffic study showing truck volumes before and after development.  She asked if monitoring technology was legally binding.  Town Counsel, Jay Talerman, shared that if monitoring data showed non-compliance that zoning enforcement was possible.  Mrs. Hein raised questions about wastewater management and CRG responded that the State DEP is currently reviewing what type of wastewater management is needed for the project.  Lastly, Hein asked if the developer has been in contact with the MWRTA to explore mass transit possibilities for the industrial park. 

Mr. Cronin asked if all vehicles counted the same in traffic studies.  (The technical answer was unclear to me.)  Cronin asked if the cemetery at the intersection would be impacted by installing a traffic signal? The answer was no.  Another area of Cronin’s questioning was related to when truck traffic would most likely be entering / exiting.  That would depend on the tenant.  Mr. Petkunas assured the Board that no drones would be at the site.  Wrapping up the Board’s questions, Mr. Cronin asked that the condition of Route 16 be examined / improved prior to the development.

At this point the 231 people logged into the Zoom meeting were invited to join the discussion.  Chair Cronin asked that citizens use the time efficiently so those who want time will have it.  Mr. Ahern reminded citizens that all public documents related to the project are posted on the Town’s website -> 555 Hopping Brook Information | Town of Holliston MA.  Also, citizens can sign up on this webpage to receive alerts whenever new information is available.

Eleven Holliston residents and two Medway residents weighed in during the next 2 ¼ hours.  Generally, those who were recognized adhered to the conduct guidelines set forth for the session. It should be noted that the current property owner Jon Delli Priscoli attended this session and shared his perspective. 

Gary Donlin, representing a group of concerned citizens, shared extensive research during a slide presentation.  His presentation is best summarized by the questions posed below – which Mr. Cronin asked CRG to respond to in writing through Mr. Ahern.

Rami Mitri told the Board he has been frustrated in his efforts to get enough data from CRG to do a proper analysis.

Terri Stiffler spoke on behalf of the Stop555Hopping Brook coalition that has been working to dig into the details to inform the community.  She thanked the community for the financial support to engage a law firm.  Later, Ms. Stiffler returned to ask that a more thorough study be done on the impact of this project on vernal ponds in the area.  She felt that previous studies were not complete.

Virginia Roach, a professional engineer, asked questions about wastewater treatment and storm water runoff.  Her input tracked with the need for the Mass DEP review of wastewater.  CRG confirmed that the facility will not have a cafeteria which reduces the amount of wastewater.  CRG will install a loop water main that will increase the water flow throughout the industrial park.

Travis Hein asked why other recent CRG projects and other similar buildings in MA were identified with land use code 155/156 and Holliston’s project is 150 warehouse.  The use is determined by the landlord and conditions of the permit limit how much traffic is likely to be generated.

Donald Taylor asked that the Town Counsel review the Purchase and Sale agreement between Mr. Delli Priscoli and CRG to ensure that is airtight.  Dr. Taylor shared concerns about Mr. Delli Priscolli’s business practices in other towns.  Mr. Cronin redirected Dr. Taylor to stick to the 555 project.

Mr. Delli Priscolli introduced himself to the meeting.  He has owned the property in the industrial park for 23 years.  He has paid taxes on the property.  He asserted that he has worked collaboratively with Holliston’s Town Boards and Committees throughout his affiliation with the Town.  He views this a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to work with a “world-class developer” to reap a hefty annuity for the Town.

Eileen Muller also asked for a more comprehensive traffic study.  She asked what if CRG would sell the building – would the traffic conditions remain in effect?  CRG’s counsel confirmed that the deed conditions ‘go with the land’ to the next owner.

Andres Vargas noted that there are many ways to use data to support a particular point of view.  He is concerned about increase traffic and noise.

Barbara Ryan moved to Holliston for the quality of life and she is concerned how this project might negatively impact that.  How will the highways be maintained?

Atul Suri wondered how such a large facility would impact other Town services (fire, police).  Mr. Cronin responded that Town leaders are having discussions on the topic.  Mr. Petkunas added that the facility would have a sophisticated fire suppression system.

Joe Cooper asked if CRG would appeal a negative ruling if were to happen.  Mr. Petkunas said he didn’t know in this situation.  He noted that CRG has appealed other rulings.  Mr. Cooper asked if CRG were to win on appeal, would they honor the conditions of the permit.  Mr. Petkunas assured the Town that CRG would honor all commitments.  At this point, Petkunas reiterated that CRG is working very hard to meet all the expectations of the Town.

Steve McElhinney of Medway asked if there could be a hard limit rather than an average daily trip.  Also, would the ‘yard dogs’ (small cabs that move trailers around in the lot) would be electric.  Mr. Petkunas didn’t think the first was practical for tenants and yes to electric tugs.

Janet Sheehan of Medway ended the public portion of the meeting.  She is very concerned about truck traffic through Medway.  Her final message, “No!”

Mr. Cronin stated that Town officials will remain vigilant and encouraged citizens to stay engaged.

The meeting adjourned at 10:59pm. 

Chris Cain

2 Comments

  1. Ken Henderson on March 30, 2021 at 8:03 am

    Thanks Chris for organizing the vast amount of info into an understandable piece of news. We’ll stay tuned as the issues discussed get answers. Thanks again….

  2. David Dysert on March 31, 2021 at 11:38 am

    One of Mr Donlin’s points shocked me a bit: “traffic study estimated 30% of trips leaving HB park head eastbound”.

    (I happen to live west of HB park, and usually have a devil of a time getting onto Washington from my side street.)

    But, I love our little downtown and cannot see lots of semi’s driving through it. If eastbound traffic turns off on Summer St, Rt 126, it would not be too bad, but can there be an exclusion for the town center? The assessment of traffic “dispersion” does seem to be an important thing to study.

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