| Sarah Heinonen
EAST LONGMEADOW — The East Longmeadow Planning Board voted on May 16 to reopen the public hearing for a proposed warehouse at 330 Chestnut St., despite having voted to approve the project’s site plan with 19 conditions at the board’s May 2 meeting.
One of those conditions was to force traffic leaving the site to turn right. Planning and Community Development Director Bailey Mitchell said the town staff had concerns about the traffic causing too much stress in other parts of town, which had not been addressed. He said the Town Counsel had recommended reopening the public hearing to consider those issues and so the developers can submit a new site plan and traffic study. A request to reopen the hearing had also come from attorney Michael Pill, representing the Fields at Chestnut condominiums, which opposes the warehouse.
Planning Board Chair Jonathan Torcia said that he also had concerns about that condition. Planning Board member Russell Denver said he was in favor of reopening the hearing and allowing more information from the town and other “interested parties” to be submitted. Planning Board member George Kingston said he was concerned about discussing the issue as reopening the hearing was not on the agenda, but Mitchell said the case itself was listed and therefore the discussion should not be an Open Meeting Law violation. The board approved reopening the hearing for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 20.
Kingston recused himself from the rest of the meeting as he is “a lame duck,” and will be leaving the seat in June.
Deer Park Lane
Attorney Joshua Levine, representing applicants for a proposed recycling facility at the end of Deer Park Lane, presented a letter from the Central New England Railroad stating the tracks and crossings that would bring railcars to the recycling facility are being upgraded. Levine said new railroad tires are stacked alongside the track and are ready to be installed. The railroad is a key element to the operation of the recycling facility.
It was estimated it would take about two years for the line to be ready to carry railroad cars filled with sorted recyclable materials from the facility to their destinations. In the meantime, about eight tractor-trailers would be needed to haul away the materials each day, in addition to the estimated 60 trucks that would deliver debris to the facility to be sorted.
An Enfield resident said it would take longer than two years for the rail line to be operational because the residents would fight it.
Levine noted that VHB, the projects engineering firm, is pursuing a determination of applicability from the town’s Conservation Commission. This was an area of concern stated by residents from Enfield at a previous meeting on the project because the site abuts the Jawbuck Brook Reservoir, which feeds Shaker Pond in Enfield. In the meantime, Denver told Levine that the Crescent Lake Association in Enfield had an environmental engineering study performed. He asked Mitchell if a review by the Conservation Commission is needed and was told that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection “strongly recommended” one.
Enfield resident Leslie Cunningham said she was concerned about runoff from the site entering the reservoir and said there is no fencing to keep debris from running into the body of water. She also expressed concern that noise will echo downstream to the Crescent Lake neighborhood.
Levine explained that the nearby wetlands will be helped by a new drainage system posed for the site. Regarding the noise concern, he said “the noisy things at this location will be inside,” referencing the loading and unloading of trucks and railroad cars.
Enfield resident Angela Foss said that she had “major concerns” that the site was “wide open to the reservoir. “It would probably only take one spill to destroy our ecosystem,” she said, referring to Crescent Lake. She also said trees were cleared from the site in 2018, despite prior assurances that there had been no tree clearing on the site in over a decade. “I don’t know if I believe much of what they’re saying,” Foss said.
“Aspersions against my character I take very seriously,” Levine said. He also objected to the Crescent Lake Association flying a drone over the property, as Foss said it had. John Furman, VHB’s Springfield office manager, pushed back on Foss’s assertion that trees had been cleared from the property.
This hearing was also continued to June 20.
Attorney Charles Rogers, representing Pride Operating LLC, came back before the board to follow up on an issue first raised on May 2. At that meeting, Rogers had asked that a condition on the special permit for the gas station at 13 N. Main St. be removed as the company cited in the condition was no longer involved in the business. At that time the board had asked that Pride Operating LLC address safety concerns regarding pedestrian crosswalks and the entrances to the parking lot.
Mitchell said the DPW and the East Longmeadow Police Department reviewed the site and had no concerns regarding access and egress. Further, he said there was no way to “reorient” the site without acquiring more land.
Denver, who had originally proposed predicating the special permit change on addressing the traffic issue, said the former owner, Robert Bolduc, had acknowledged the driveway issue and promised to address it, however that did not happen. James Channing, general counsel for Pride Stores, quoted the minutes from the 2018 meeting Denver referenced, in which Bolduc stated it was a “difficult driveway,” but had not characterize it as “dangerous,” as Denver had stated.
Denver said the pedestrian crosswalk is painted into the driveway and Planning Board member Cassandra Cerasuolo agreed that it is a dangerous driveway.
“What are you going to do about it?” Denver asked Rogers and Channing. Denver said he would not vote to amend the special permit unless changes were made and reiterated that Bolduc had promised to address it. In the minutes from the 2018 meeting, Channing quoted Bolduc as stating he would like to do something about the driveway in the future but said he had made no promise. Despite this, Denver said refusing to amend the special permit was his method of ensuring the “promise” is kept.
Because only three Planning Board members were present and the law requires two-thirds of the board to approve special permit issues, the issue was also continued until the June 20 Planning Board meeting.