Brouhaha over storage facility in Hadley bubbles
|Published: 02-08-2024 4:00 PM
HADLEY — A new climate-controlled storage building rising on commercial- and industrial-zoned farmland, affecting the vista of the Holyoke Range for those biking and walking on the nearby Norwottuck Rail Trail, is putting a 2021 Planning Board decision under the microscope.
Guest opinion pieces and letters to the editor printed in the Gazette in recent days have been critical of the board’s approval of the project on 4.2 acres of agricultural land on South Maple Street, both because it may affect people’s enjoyment of the nearby Scoop at the Silos at Maple Valley Creamery ice cream stand, but also because it doesn’t provide any relief for the pressure on housing stock in the region. The three-story, 97,000-square-foot facility is also immediately south of the Maple Farm Foods store.
At Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, members referenced this commentary during the final minutes, with William Dwyer, the board’s clerk, saying he is always happy to have conversations with people about the town’s planning process but that writing a letter in response would not be to anyone’s advantage.
Board Chairman James Maksimoski, too, said it’s not necessary to respond. “The article in the Gazette is an opinion, and that’s exactly what it is. Enough said,” Maksimoski said.
Commentary began when Aubrey Menard of Amherst wrote about the change in view of Holyoke Range from the rail trail and how by spring “in place of the view so many of us love will be the stark, industrial side wall of the newly erected Ideal Movers and Storage facility. Instead of natural beauty, a monument to consumerism; a 96,500-square-foot building for people to house their excess junk.”
That was followed by a column from Justin Pelland, a Hadley resident, who described the town’s outdated zoning that prioritizes commercial development over providing housing.
“At a time when the entire nation is in crisis over a lack of housing, it’s irresponsible and arguably negligent for the town of Hadley to continue to approve low-cost, unoccupied containers for junk instead of promoting land uses that benefit the town, such as public amenities and sorely needed affordable workforce and senior housing,” Pelland wrote.
Pelland also took to task board members for discussions at its Oct. 3 meeting, when Pioneer Valley Planning Commission representatives provided an overview of the state Chapter 40R zoning district that would accommodate more housing. Officials are interested in looking at a district that might include the former Econo Lodge, to be converted into affordable housing by Valley Community Development, as well as for the Hampton Inn Barn Shops, for a potential senior estates project.
Board member Joseph Zgrodnik expressed concern at that meeting that the Hampshire Mall and Mountain Farms Mall, were they to be included in such a 40R district, would turn vacant stores into apartments. putting at risk Hadley’s tax base.
Board member Michael Sarsynski spoke about the need to define Hadley’s relationship with Amherst and the University of Massachusetts rather than reacting to their decisions. He then called them the “blob to the east” and that “radiation” from the blob will affect Hadley, no matter what planning is done.
“We’ve got a blob to the east, and there’s no way to stop it,” Sarsynski said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, held via Zoom, Sarsynski displayed a poster from the 1958 movie, starring Steve McQueen, depicting the red blob and with the words “Indescribable. Indestructible. Nothing can stop it.”
“We’ll see if Mike gets any feedback for his blob poster,” Dwyer said.
“It’s just to correct it,” Sarsynski said, that one of the opinion pieces said his movie reference was to the 1988 remake, rather than the science fiction classic. “It was the 1958 movie which started Steve McQueen’s career that I was referring to.”
The tension between how development is done between neighboring communities was referenced during an Amherst Planning Board discussion on Jan. 31, where members continued to look into a new overlay zoning district to accommodate apartments and mixed-use buildings on University Drive and whether this should be extended south of Route 9, incorporating properties such as the Ginger Garden restaurant and the Five College Realtors office, located in a former home along Northampton Road.
Only members Johanna Neumann and Chairman Douglas Marshall supported this extension, with Neumann observing that it could leverage opportunities with the bike trail and put more housing closer to non-motorized transportation.
But member Jesse Mager said he is not in favor of having the four corners along Route 9 each have a Kendrick Place-type building, referencing that first impression people have when coming into downtown due to the recent mixed-use developments.
He said that it would be preferable to limit the development at the edge of the narrower part of Northampton Road before it rises past the playing fields at the Amherst College campus.
Similarly, Janet McGowan said she wouldn’t support having this development extend to Route 9.
“When I drive through Hadley and Route 9, I find it unbelievably depressing, and it’s just all this strip development. It reminds me of everything I left behind in Long Island,” McGowan said. “Then when I hit that intersection and start going up that hill, I start feeling good.
“You’re back in New England, it’s a beautiful town and that’s where I start to enjoy (Route 9).”Scott Merzbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.