WESTFIELD – The City Council voted 9-3 on Thursday to issue a special permit to Old Dominion Freight Lines for a truck terminal on Medeiros Way, after receiving a positive recommendation from the Zoning, Planning and Development subcommittee.
Voting against the special permit, were Ward 1 Councilor Mary Ann Babinski, Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski, and At-large Councilor Nicholas J. Morganelli, Jr.. Nine votes were required for passage.
Prior to the vote, the Council reviewed and voted on five special conditions that ZPD had added to their recommendation. Two were approved, and three were eliminated.
The first two, proposed in committee by At-large Councilor Matthew Emmershy involved driveway design and barriers that would direct the trucks both exiting and entering the facility to and from Southampton Road, and away from the direction of Root Road. He said that ODFL had the exit already in its design, and were agreeable to the entrance design barrier.
Babinski asked what happens if they don’t abide by the rule. Emmershy said since the Council can’t legally restrict the routes, they can restrict through design and make it prohibitive.
The conditions were approved by the majority of the council, with Babinski voting no to both, and Surprise voting no on a design barrier to trucks entering the facility as he did in committee, due to concern about access to emergency vehicles.
Voted down by the Council was the 3-0 recommendation from ZPD, also proposed by Emmershy, that the sewer hookup for the company be extended to Medeiros Way.
“I’m opposed to this. They’ve already made arrangements to go the other way,” said At-large Councilor John J. Beltrandi, III. He said easements have been granted, and White Oak School will be compensated for the easement.
Beltrandi said there was no mention of this in the original plan, and it is an additional expense to the company, which is already spending “a lot of money.”
“We have sewer easements everywhere,” he said.
Onyski said he had served on the Planning Board for many years, and the item belonged on the site plan. “This shouldn’t be put in here now,” he said.
Also voted down was the special condition proposed by Surprise to have ODFL install an air monitoring system on site, which received a 2-1 vote in ZPD. Emmershy said he was the dissenting vote, asking how the Council could hold them accountable for air quality, and saying that their trucks would actually help to clean the air.
“I agree with Councilor Emmershy. They have the cleanest trucks in the country. This is an expensive reach, and unfair to require one company to do this,” Beltrandi said.
“I was on the fence with this,” said Morganelli, who voted for the air quality system in committee. “It wouldn’t hurt to have another air quality (monitor). I’m going to vote against this,” he said.
“We are worried on the north side about the truck pollution,” Babinski said. She said there are a lot of residences and schools in the area. She said that an air quality monitor at the school would be a good idea, and could be put in a community benefits agreement.
“You’re not going to stop trucks. I just don’t think it’s fair to task this company with it,” Beltrandi said.
“People keep coming to Council saying air monitors. I haven’t seen them at the Board of Health saying air monitors,” Emmershy said.
Morganelli said there are air monitoring stations in Springfield and Feeding Hills, but none in Westfield. He agreed that it wasn’t fair to put it on this company. “But as a body, we should look for a grant,” he said.
The fifth condition to cap truck trips for ODFL at 60, before requiring a return to the City Council, was also voted down. The company said their average truck trips would be 26.1 per day.
“We haven’t imposed this on anyone else,” Beltrandi said.
“What you don’t get is people have been promised time and time again no more trucks on the north side,” Babinski said. She said while the permit process was going on with ODFL, three more trucking companies have come in or expanded, the latest being Brockway Transport, which received a special permit from the Planning Board in July.
“These people deserve to have their considerations taken seriously,” Babinski said.
“If people were promised this, and you really want to stop all the trucks, where is the moratorium on all trucks? It hasn’t happened,” Emmershy said. He said stonewalling Old Dominion wouldn’t change anything.
“The vehicles are already here,” said Surprise.
Before the final vote, Babinski said that doing a cost analysis of new businesses and their impact on infrastructure and on quality of life, putting in a truck moratorium, an air monitors, and holding a roundtable on what people want to have happen in the city were all good ideas, most of which came up during the three public hearings on the ODFL project.
“If anything good comes out of this, I hope these things happen,” Babinski said before the vote for the special permit passed, 9 to 3.
Amy Porter can be reached at [email protected]