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EAST LONGMEADOW — After hearing the case for and against a warehouse proposed for 330 Chestnut St. for a second time, the East Longmeadow Planning Board came to the same conclusion it had in June 2023 — denied.

The project had been approved on May 2, 2023, reconsidered two weeks later and denied in June 2023. The petitioners, East Longmeadow Redevelopers LLC, brought the case to Land Court. The judge, the developers and the Fields at Chestnut Condominium Trust, which spearheaded the opposition to the project, agreed to return the issue to the Planning Board because the agenda for the meeting on May 16, 2023, was deficient and did not adequately inform the public of the discussion that would take place. The board reopened the public hearing on Jan. 16, striking everything after May 2, 2023, from the record.

At the final public hearing on the matter, on Feb. 20, Planning Board Chair Russel Denver explained that the board is limited in the factors it can consider in a site plan review. Among them are protection of the abutting properties, traffic and pedestrian safety, disposal of sewage and stormwater, protection of wetlands and agricultural land, landscaping, consistency with the town’s Master Plan and compliance with laws and bylaws.

As they had at previous meetings, members of the public, mainly from the Fields at Chestnut, made the case that the traffic associated with the project would pose a danger, specifically at the already busy intersection of Chestnut Street and Shaker Road.

Ralph Page suggested an automatic pedestrian warning light at the rail trail crossing and having a traffic engineer develop mitigation strategies for traffic at the Chestnut Street and Shaker Road intersection.

Roland Bolduc, a truck driver and vocal critic of the warehouse project, said tractor-trailers have gotten longer since the town’s streets were laid out and trucks would struggle to make the turns.

Jefferey Bandini of Bowman, who performed the traffic study for the petitioner, said that he could conduct a survey of the intersection to examine widening the road at the intersection. Denver pushed back on this, pointing out that the intersection is surrounded by private property, the owners of which may not want their land used for road expansion. Bandini said the street widening may be viable using the 10 feet on either side of the road that is owned by the town. Rachel Fancy, an attorney for the developers, said her client would create a fund, under the control of the town, for road mitigation.

Residents spoke about their concerns that there would be noise and air pollution, and deteriorating road conditions. Moran said the property values and the number of customers at local businesses would decrease because of the warehouse and the traffic. People speculated that the warehouse was designed to be an Amazon distribution center, despite repeated explanations from the developers and the site architect, Rob Levesque, or R. Levesque Associates, that no tenants had been selected for the warehouse, which could house up to four companies.

Four people in the crowd of about 150 indicated they were in favor of the project. Larry Rinaldi thought back to when manufacturing was “at capacity” at East Longmeadow businesses like American Saw and Milton Bradley. He said there was a lot of truck traffic, “but we survived.” Referring to speeding cars in town, he said, “I look forward to tractor-trailer traffic stopping this road rage in this town.” He also noted that taxes are going to increase to fund the new high school and said the town needs to increase its industrial tax revenue to help counter that.

The board reviewed and reapproved conditions that had been added to the project in 2023. These include a pre-construction rodent control plan, and air quality and noise tests to determine baseline levels that could be compared to readings after the warehouse was operational. Exhaust filters on trucks at the site were also required to limit pollution. A program to limit truck traffic on residential roads was required, as was monitoring of road conditions. If damage was found, the developers would pay to collect traffic counts and crash data, assess pavement conditions and the option of a right turn lane at the intersection with Shaker Road. Site plan reviews for any future tenants would also be required, allowing the Planning Board to restrict the number of trucks per day and the hours of operation, among other aspects.

After closing the public hearing, Denver and Planning Board members Peter Punderson and Cassandra Cerasuolo discussed the project.

Punderson said the board is charged with reducing traffic congestion, but instead, the warehouse would “make one hell of a mess.”

Similarly, Cerasuolo said that the project was not in keeping with the board’s responsibility to “protect and enhance” the economic and environmental life of the town.

Denver acknowledged the warehouse was an as by right use in the Industrial Garden Park zone. However, he said he was most swayed by Bolduc, whose award-winning safety record lent credence to his testimony about truck traffic safety issues. He also pointed to the town’s Master Plan, which includes a goal to reduce traffic congestion. He further stated he did not believe the intersection at Chestnut Street and Shaker Road could be widened.

The vote was 3-0 to deny the site plan. Although Planning Board member William Fonseca attended the meeting, he abstained from the discussion and vote as he was not a part of the board during the project’s initial site plan review. Denver noted that he expected the matter to be brought back to Land Court.

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