Public hearing Thursday for $2.7B data center project

Paul Corey of Servistar Realties speaks at the Sept. 7 Westfield Planning Board meeting. (AMY PORTER/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

WESTFIELD — A joint public hearing of the Planning Board and City Council will take place on Sept. 16 at 6 p.m. on the proposed $2.7 billion Westfield Data Center project on Servistar and Ampad roads, projected to bring in $11 million on average of annual payments in lieu of taxes to the city after full buildout.

The Data Center project is a hyper scale development with contracts to acquire 15 parcels from 10 different owners on 155 acres, 90 of which are developable, and the rest wetlands, according to Jeff Daley, president and CEO of WestMass Area Development. He said at a Sept. 7 presentation to the Planning Board that the project will build 10 data center buildings over 12 to 18 years.

Paul Corey of Servistar Realties, who was filling in at the meeting for Servistar Realities principal Eric J. Bartone, said the company is under pressure to secure permits for the project, as Connecticut plans to offer significant 30-year property tax and sales tax incentives to attract a data center to the state.

“I’ve never seen anything like this to pass the Legislature,” said Corey, a Connecticut resident, adding that the incentives are putting pressure on Servistar’s time frame. “It’s critical to get through local approvals on an aggressive timeline,” he said.

Servistar Realties, which Corey said is an expert in energy, has been looking for a location for the past two years in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, calling it a “complicated process.” He said they focused on Westfield a year ago. Critical factors in site selection were energy costs, long-term favorable property tax policy, sales and use taxes, a favorable regulatory environment and support of local and state officials for the industry.

A key consideration for the project moving forward will be a Chapter 121A/6A property tax agreement with Westfield, and long-term sales and use tax incentives. Chapter 121A of state law authorizes the creation of industrial projects in areas considered to be blighted open space or substandard.

During the Planning Board presentation, the team said the property where the project is located is a very difficult area to develop, and said several projects looking at the area failed to develop there, but called this project well-suited for it. They said the MGM casino in Springfield has a similar 121A agreement.

Following the Sept. 16 joint public meeting, the Planning Board will issue a report as to whether the project meets 121A requirements. The City Council will then vote on the 121A/6A agreement after reviewing the report and send it to the mayor to approve and forward to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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