Carvana dominates public comment discussion in Select Board, Planning Board

SOUTHWICK- Carvana dominated public comment in both the Select Board and Planning Board meetings July 12 and 13 as the July 20 public hearing drew nearer.

Though Carvana was not on the agenda in either meeting, comments and questions from residents in the public comment period of both meetings were overwhelmingly related to Carvana. 

Resident James Wong said during the July 12 Planning Board meeting that he was concerned that Carvana would fail and leave Southwick with a vacant 65.7 acre asphalt lot. 

“The market for used cars is high, but it is going to crash very quickly, based on the fact that they are going to have a shortage in car supply manufacturing,” said Wong, “So Carvana may not even be a viable business in three years.”

Residents in both meetings expressed concerns over whether Southwick’s fire department would be able to handle a fire at the Carvana facility. 

At the Planning Board meeting July 13, former Planning Board Chair Roz Terry spoke to give advice to the board after watching them over the course of the Carvana saga. 

A portion of Terry’s speech was cut off during technical difficulties, and could not be heard on the Zoom call. 

She said that the Planning Board should listen to everybody who gives their input in a hearing, while also conforming to their role of making a decision based on whether the proposed land use is legal and appropriate. She compared the Planning Board’s role to that of a jury. 

Terry’s biggest point was that the board members should call her with any questions on how to handle any particular applications. 

“Rely on us, rely on the other people in this community,” said Terry, “You are here for all of us, and I am still here for you.”

Other residents expressed concerns over the fact that two developments are being proposed that may require large amounts of water. In addition to Carvana, a 100-unit residential development is being proposed to be built at 42 Depot St. One resident cited high water usage figures for the residential development, to which Planning Board Chair Michael Doherty said that applications are often written with design standards in mind, rather than actual usage. 

“There are things called design standards, those are significantly higher than any actual use,” said Doherty. 

Another resident asked why the Carvana driveway would be on Tannery Road, rather than the larger College Highway. Doherty said that he was not sure of Carvana’s reasoning, but he guessed that the wetland area along College Highway may be one reason. 

While the Select Board was meeting July 12, the Agawam City Council met and discussed a proposal to send a letter to the Southwick Planning Board expressing their concerns over the project’s potential impact on Agawam. 

Doherty said that he was at the city council meeting. He said he appreciated that Agawam is concerned about Carvana, but he fears that they did not do as much research into the project as they could have.

One resident asked where the July 20 public hearing would take place, as the June 29 hearing had drawn a crowd far larger than Town Hall could reliably handle. Doherty said that there had been a plan to host the meeting at Southwick Regional School’s auditorium at 6 p.m., but that it had not yet been finalized.

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