WESTFIELD – Almost two hours into Thursday’s City Council meeting, the continued public hearing on the proposed Old Dominion truck terminal on Medeiros Way began with a presentation by engineer Timothy A. Coon and a representative of D. F. Chase, Inc., general contractors of Nashville, Tennessee. Area residents Jean Carpenter, Barbara Rokus, Constance Adams and John Keilch waited another half hour while councilors asked questions about the proposal before they were invited to come forward and express their concerns. Matthew Roman also waited to speak in support of the company.
During questions of fact, Root Road resident Constance Adams asked whether the proposed truck terminal would be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, an environmentally friendly certification, to which the contractor replied no. Adam noted that other sites were LEED certified, and asked why not in Westfield.
Adams also asked whether a traffic study, impact on turnpike traffic, or noise and pollution assessments had been done, which the representatives said had not. She also asked what the projected revenue was to the city, and whether a cost benefit analysis had been done. Neither could be answered, and Council President John J. Beltrandi, III said he wasn’t sure that was part of the application process.
Adams said as the granting authority, whether the City Council was considering any conditions to make the proposal more favorable to residents. Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski said the council could add whatever conditions they voted on.
Barbara St. resident Jean Carpenter noted that the proposed terminal is close to the aquifer, and asked whether any of the property borders were on the aquifer. Beltrandi noted that in the previous hearing, it was disclosed that the site is not in the Water Resources district.
When asked to comment, Ward 1 Councilor Mary Ann Babinski said while not over the aquifer the site is close to Zone 2, and that “close is important.”
Carpenter also asked whether any of the emissions had been tested, and said the trucks would be going by two schools (Southampton Road and Westfield Intermediate schools) and five ballfields. She said emissions are important, as she has been told a high percentage of Southampton Road students suffer from asthma. She asked if they could put in an air monitor between the two schools.
John Keilch of Root Road asked if there had been a tax adjustment given to Old Dominion for the project. Beltrandi said he didn’t believe they had asked for one, and At-large Councilor Dave Flaherty said they also may not qualify.
Keilch said that Medeiros Way already has fifteen trucks backed up at certain times during the day, blocking driveways to some businesses. He also said there is no parking on Root Road, but at 4:30 a.m. trucks will be parked on the road, adding that there are no facilities for truckers in the area.
Keilch also commented that the coverage on the property will be 75%, and that they will encounter water on the property, and may have to adjust their plans, as the solar farm on Southampton Road did. He also asked whether abutters were notified, and Beltrandi said they had been notified by the City Clerk’s office.
Barbara Rokus of Lockhouse Road asked who designs the routes the trucks will follow. The contractor stated that the company will follow MassDOT truck routes for deliveries to the site, and local routes for LTL deliveries. In response to another question, he said the in-cab GPS systems are controlled by corporate headquarters. He said the trucks making local deliveries would be (28) footers, and the ones coming to the site from the turnpike 52 footers. The company has stated that there will be on average 26.1 trucks coming and going in any 24-hour period.
Rokus asked about the five year expansion plan, and Coon said expansion will depend on the growth of the business in Westfield, and said they weren’t given a timetable on that. He said while the plans allow for expansion of the terminal, they also limit the size of the expansion.
Beltrandi then asked if anyone wanted to speak in favor of the proposal. Matthew Roman said the trucks that Old Dominion would be bringing are up to date. He also said he recently spoke to a state highway representative, who said the state has plans to redevelop Southampton Road, which is a state road that allows trucks. He said they will take into consideration an increase in truck traffic.
Roman also said the city should accommodate the company, and if they wanted to “wheel and deal,” might ask the companies on Medeiros Way to redo that road.
Speaking in opposition were the four residents who previously asked questions of fact. Adams repeated that since the City Council has the power to set conditions that they add that only the smaller trucks could exit on Root Road. She said when a 52 foot truck turns on Root Road during the night, it wakes her up.
“We are residents of the town too, and just because doing business with a trucking company is part of Westfield’s long-term goal because we want to be a logistics center, doesn’t mean the residents of the north end should have to suffer all this inconvenience and noise so the town can make money,” Adams said, adding, “If we’re making 90% of the dollars for the City of Westfield in the north end, and we’re experiencing 90% of the pain-in-the-neckedness, that really seems like an unfair equation. We should be getting more if we are generating more revenue.”
Adams, co-owner of Yellow Stonehouse organic farm, also pointed out that the city is “crazy” not to value the beauty of the north end and the aquifer, which she said has already been “poisoned” on one wing, although she said her water is pristine. “All I’m asking is for you to have some consideration. Add some conditions that can make it a win-win, and not always a win-lose,” she said.
Farm co-owner Keilch also spoke against the project, asking the councilors to make sure they are a good neighbor. “We don’t need any more bad neighbors,” he said.
Carpenter asked the councilors to put in the agreement an air monitor between the two schools, so they know how healthy the emissions are.
Rokus said unless someone lives on the north side, and already has to put up with the trucks from Lowe’s and the Home Depot, “You have no idea what we put up with until you can’t sleep,” she said. She also said the residents have been asking for an air monitor “for years.”
Onyski said to be clear on conditions, he has been working on truck exclusions for Paper Mill Road, which he said have to go through the state. He said you can put no turn onto Root Rd. in a special permit, but “it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.” At-large Councilor Dan Allie suggested they make the request to the company not to have the large trucks travel on Root Rd.
Ward 3 Councilor Andrew K. Surprise asked if the fueling station on the site would be using aqueous firefighting foam. The contractor said that there would be fuel protection, but no suppression on site, and would rely on the Westfield Fire Department in case of fire.
Surprise said he would like to see the condition that only environmental friendly chemicals be used on the site. At-large Councilor Matthew Emmershy also suggested they use environmentally friendly solutions such as beet juice for snow and ice, which he said is already being used by Wal-Mart, Stop & Shop and Big Y.
Babinski read a letter from another resident who was not able to attend the hearing, which talked about the impact on residential property values of increased truck traffic. “Even if this helps lower taxes, it’s not worth it to them,” she said, adding that people wake up, open their windows and smell the diesel fuel. “It’s about time we start listening to what’s happening to the people on the north side and what they have to put up with,” she said, adding, “Nobody’s disagreeing this is probably a top-notch company, but I’m going to vote no because we’ve been promised on the north side there would be no more traffic… but here we go, we want to get another truck company in that may expand.”
After more suggestions by councilors on conditions for the permit and on the positive ratings of the company, Beltrandi asked whether the public hearing should remain open or be closed and referred to Zoning, Planning and Development.
Flaherty, who chairs, ZPD said at the sub-committee they will consider the special permit, which has four conditions that must be met; the site plan, that has nine findings to be met, and the stormwater plan, which he said the city engineer already approved and they would vote up or down. He also said when it returns to the City Council, a super majority of nine votes is needed to approve all permits.
Of the four conditions in the special permit, Flaherty said for him, the hardest to vote on will be whether the plan adversely affects the neighborhood. “We promised these people, year after year, no more trucks,” he said.
Onyski asked whether the Council would be looking for a traffic study, which he said they would not be able to do if they closed the public hearing. Babinski said she would like a traffic study, but Allie said the 26 trips a day would not impact the traffic sufficiently to warrant a study.
Closing the public hearing also means that no new infornation and no more public comments may be taken.
At-large Councilor Brent B. Bean, II made a motion to close the public hearing, which passed with only Babinski dissenting. A motion was then made to refer it to ZPD. Flaherty said the meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Wed., Sept. 26, when he hopes to come up with a recommendation to send to the full City Council for a vote at its next meeting.