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Hearing dates set for Data Center project

Westfield City Planner

WESTFIELD — The joint public hearing of the Planning Board and City Council on the Westfield Data Center Complex on Servistar Industrial Way has been rescheduled to Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers, when both bodies will consider the application for approval of the project under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 121A.

The next evening, on Oct. 5, will be the Planning Board’s public hearing on Servistar Realties LLC’s application for a special permit, site plan and stormwater permit during its regular meeting at 7 p.m.

Chapter 121A authorizes the creation of single-purpose corporations to undertake industrial projects in areas considered to be decadent, substandard or blighted open space. The statutes and regulations authorize the exemption of 121A projects from real and personal property taxes, and sets procedures for negotiating alternative tax payment on the developments, according to a memo to the Planning Board and City Council from Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. dated Aug. 10.

By allowing tax exemptions, 121A agreements are used to encourage development in minimally marketable areas, Humason wrote. At the informational hearing before the Planning Board on Sept. 7, the team representing Servistar Realties said the property where the Westfield Data Center project would be located is a very difficult area to develop, and several projects looking at the area failed to develop there.

Chapter 121A, Section 6, requires that a joint public hearing of the two boards be planned within 45 days of the mayor referring the project to the boards. In the memo, Humason set a date for the joint hearing on Sept. 16. However, Servistar Realties requested a postponement due to an illness, and the date was moved to Oct. 4.

Following the joint hearing, the Planning Board has an additional 45 days to discuss the application, prepare findings on the requirements of Section 6, and present a report to the City Council.

The City Council has 90 days from the joint public hearing to report to the Mayor as to whether they approve or disapprove the application.

City Planner Jay Vinskey said the rescheduled meeting on Oct. 4 is the joint public hearing of the Planning Board and City Council required under Chapter 121A, and has nothing to do with zoning, while the Oct. 5 public hearing at the Planning Board is the typical permit process for a special permit, site plan and stormwater permit.

Vinskey said if the Oct. 4 hearing closes that night, the Planning Board could discuss its findings on whether the project qualifies for Chapter 121A that same night; or, if the hearing were to continue, they could meet to do their Chapter 121A review at a later date. He said there are seven criteria under Chapter 121A, and the board would have to find that the project fits all seven.

Vinskey called the data center, “permitting wise, a pretty favorable project, relatively low impact for an industrial use, no trucks or a lot of traffic. I would think people would look at it favorably.”

Vinskey said it is “kind of odd” to have two hearings on different issues simultaneously before the Planning Board. He said the board will have to ignore the information it hears Monday, Oct. 4, before reviewing the project for a special permit on Tuesday, Oct. 5, as it is an adjudicatory hearing.

He also said if any abutters speak on Oct. 4, their comments won’t be a part of the special permit hearing on Oct. 5. Vinskey said the board will have to block anything inadmissible outside of the special permit hearing.

As for the site plan, he said the project is a phased development, and the Planning Board will only be looking at the first two or three buildings.

“It shouldn’t be too complex,” he said.

All of the applications for the project are posted on the city website at, under Planning, and Pending Applications.

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