Proposed truck terminal goes before City Council

Engineer Timothy A. Coon of JR Russo presented the plans for Old Dominion at the public hearng. (Photo by Amy Porter)

WESTFIELD – A $3.3 billion company that wants to put a truck terminal on Medeiros Way in Westfield appeared before the City Council on Thursday at a public hearing for a special permit. Old Dominion Freight Line (, headquartered in Thomasville, North Carolina, focuses on local deliveries in each of its locations nationwide, which include Albany, NY and South Windsor, CT.
Engineer Timothy A. Coon of JR Russo in East Windsor, CT presented the plans submitted by D.F. Chase, Inc. for the special permit for a Business B Truck Terminal pursuant to (Zoning ordinance section 3-120.3(5).
Coon said the site will have 21 tractor and 124 trailer spaces, and a 50 space parking lot. The plans also include space for future expansion of a 44 space lot. The access to the site will be a new entrance drive off Medeiros Way with one-way circulation. Coon said the entire area will be surrounded by a security fence and gated access, and will access public water, sewer and natural gas.
Coon said before the public hearing, he presented the plans to City Planner Jay Vinskey, who made several notes, and advised him on what information the Council would need. The business will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trucks will take 26.1 trips per day, according to Coon, which he called “not a lot of traffic.” He said there will be a total of 45 employees in three shrifts of 15.
Coon said with regard to expansion, the site is being developed in anticipation of growth, but right now there are no plans for expansion. He said it is much more cost effective to plan for it.
He also said the site is not located in the Water Resources district. He said there are retaining walls along the property lines that may qualify as structures, but he had not yet heard back from the Building Inspector Carissa Lissee. He said if they are considered structures, they do not meet the required setback, and he would adapt this plans.
In response to Vinskey’s final comment, Coon said the front yard of the terminal, 300 feet, requires 10% grass and shade trees. He said he revised the plan for shade trees in the front.
Coon also said he recently received the comments back from the city engineer, but he did not have the time to address them before the meeting.
At-large Councilor Brent B. Bean, II, asked Coon why the company had chosen Westfield and why this location for the truck terminal.
Old Dominion Vice President Terry Hutchins said the company, which is headquartered in North Carolina, delivers to “Mom & Pop” stores, and already has terminals in South Windsor and New Haven. “Our company has grown. Last year, we made 3.3 billion, 340 million in revenue. As we grow, we are looking to put facilities in less denser areas,” Hutchins said. Bean responded that it sounded like the geographic area drew the company to Westfield. Hutchins compared it to airport hubs.
“We do have an issue in Westfield with water pollution in the aquifer. How are you going to handle the storm water runoff, and will you be using salt,” asked Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise.
Coon said they would definitely be treating the discharge and removing 70-80% of the solids before it goes back into their subservice filtration system. As for salt, the company representatives said they would follow municipal requirements.
At-large Councilor Daniel Allie asked whether the plan was in compliance with the city’s new lighting ordinance, a question Coon could not answer, although in his presentation he said the lighting would be contained to the site.
Ward 1 Councilor Mary Ann Babinski noted that the area is wooded right now. Coon responded that it’s the only woods in that area now. “So you’re going to clear all that,” Babinski asked. Coon said they would clear 70% of the land for the terminal.
“This is in a delicate area; not in the Zone 2 recharge area, but it is very close to it. Will the lights be on 24/7,” asked At-large Councilor Matthew Emmershy. Coon responded that he would expect so.
Emmershy also asked if they had identified the traffic routes in and out of the site, and whether they would be using Root Road or going directly to Southampton Road. Coon said he believed the main traffic route out towards Southampton Road would be used.
Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski said he would be going a little bit off topic in his remarks. “This isn’t going to the Planning Board, because it’s one of the few items the City Council approves. It’s ridiculous – the Planning Board should be doing this. All these questions, the Planning Board has ten times the experience. They go through these twice a month. All these questions – we’re shooting in the dark with this,” Onyski said.
Council President John J. Beltrandi said for the stormwater application, they would be depending on the city engineer, just as the Planning Board depends on the expertise of the city planner.
Onyski said that was only one of the components of the plan. He said regarding the traffic within the site, the Planning Board reviews those plans all the time. “We do this rarely,” Onyski, who formerly served on the Planning Board, repeated.
Currently, the Ad-hoc Business Development committee is reviewing an amendment to the city ordinances regarding special permitting, which would in this case put the permitting authority under the Planning Board.
Flaherty said he was going to make a motion to keep the public hearing open, because there were unanswered questions. In response to Onyski’s point, he said he believes the City Council as elected officials should hear the “hot topics.”
“I believe we’re going to have to keep this open. The question about lighting is a hot topic,” Flaherty said. Coon responded that they submitted an official plan, and received comments from the city planner. “The plan meets the ordinance,” he said.
Flaherty said they needed clarity from the city regarding the lighting. He said there was also a question about noise from the trucks, and expansion.
“My background is in construction. We don’t have any foreseeable future expansion. We have a plan. We are going to do a full lot buildout. Where they strategically locate these end of line vehicles – they’re being strategically placed so we don’t have to have huge trucking facilities, so we can have a smaller footprint, with less impact,” responded Hutchins.
Emmershy asked about the scale of expansion. Hutchins said in 2002, Old Dominion did $500 million in business, which grew to $3.3 billion last year. He said they could grow to $6 billion ten years down the road.
“We’re making a lot of local deliveries. We think we’re bringing a lot of good jobs with us. We’re trying to do the front work, because it’s so much more efficient,” he said, adding that they may or may not ever need to expand. He said Old Dominion grew 20% last year, but it was not even growth across the country.
“We’re trying to come here today because of the success of Old Dominion in other regions. It would really depend on the city’s ability to grow business; then we would grow with you. If you don’t grow, we won’t grow,” Hutchins said.
Beltrandi reminded the councilors that the special permit was for the current plan.
“Even with what they have, they’re not the only business up there with trucks,” Babinski said. She said she was concerned about noise from truck traffic going through residential areas, plus the condition of the roads. “Home Depot already moves a lot of trucks out of the area,” Babinski added.
Flaherty asked what the products would be. A representative responded that nothing is stored on site, and the majority of the deliveries would be to stores such as Wal-Mart, a Dell Computer store, or a restaurant. They said they could have a local driver, who would make 12 deliveries to Mom & Pop stores.
Beltrandi said the company has delivered snow plows to his business in the past.
When asked about hauling hazardous material, Hutchins said they haul “white out,” which is considered hazardous. He said there might be a placard on a truck, because some equipment might have gas in it. “We comply with all of the federal regulations,” he said. The drivers will be full-time employees of Old Dominion.
Hutchins said the trucks will have the newest updated equipment. He said at the command center in No. Carolina  can monitor every truck. He also said there are no jay brakes on the trucks. “The air coming out of our exhaust in most cases is cleaner than that going in. We don’t want to go into a city and pollute. You’re never going to see back smoke coming out of our trucks,” he said.
Hutchins also said the delivery area is 30 miles in every direction, and the drivers would quickly learn the routes, including the low bridges and truck exclusions, in response to questions by Onyski.
Ward 2 Councilor Ralph J. Figy asked whether they would be doing tractor maintenance on site, and was told that there were no plans at this facility for onsite service, apart from a local service coming in to change a tire, or drivers checking their oil and fluid. Not at this facility.
Flaherty made a motion to keep the public hearing open until the next City Council meeting on Sept. 20, and to refer it to Zoning, Planning and Development on Sept. 13 to review lighting, the retaining wall, and the city engineer’s comments.

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