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WESTFIELD — At the latest Planning Board meeting, current and former Westfield city officials spoke against the Falcon Landing distribution warehouse proposal. The project has faced prior criticism from North Side residents, who worry about additional truck traffic to Southampton and North roads, and its impact on the Barnes aquifer.

City Councilor Nicolas Morganelli said at the Jan. 16 hearing that he represented audience members who raised their hands against the project. Most of the audience proceeded to raise their hands. He said new developments negatively change the environment.

“Every time you pave, every time you build, every time you do that, you’re changing the landscape one parcel at a time,” he said. “It changes the water flow, it changes the infiltration, it changes how groundwater flows. It makes a big difference.”

Morganelli turned to the applicants and asked them to withdraw their application, which caused audience members to clap.

Former School Committee member Jeffrey Gosselin said that traffic was already bad on Southampton Road, with the existing trucks, schools, businesses, fire station and trailer parks. Previously, traffic engineer Patrick Dunford said the project will have 85 tractor-trailers going to the facility per day and 85 leaving.

“It’s a very, very difficult road to navigate,” Gosselin said. “If emergency services have to get up there, good luck.”

The project includes crosswalk improvements and flashing signs by Southampton Road Elementary School so children can cross safer. Gosselin said children will still be at risk because the lights won’t stop Westfield drivers.

“Those lights will not stop that traffic,” he said. “I can guarantee you because I live in the downtown. Hundreds of cars go through them time and time again.”

Ward 6 Councilor William Onyski told the board that he supports the residents of Hampton Ponds, and asked it to consider their concerns. The project has recently become the target of the Hampton Ponds Association’s “No More Trucks” campaign, which aims to pressure the Planning Board to vote down the project. Members of the residential organization brought protest signs and passed fliers among the audience.

City Councilor Dan Allie shared with the board before the meeting an opposition letter from a Holyoke city councilor. One concern of opponents to the project, carried over from a previous proposal by Target on the same lot, is that trucks from the warehouse will use Route 202 through Holyoke to get to Interstate 91 to avoid paying the toll on Interstate 90.

In their traffic study, Dunford said no engineers counted trucks driving north of Falcon Drive, where the entrances to the warehouse will be located. Specifically, at the busiest morning hour, they counted seven large trucks entering Falcon Drive from Southampton Road, and 12 leaving. The project, he said, will add five entering and five leaving at that hour. In the busiest afternoon hour, they counted seven entering and four leaving. The project will add four entering and four leaving at that hour.

“I don’t see it creating a notable impact or a significant impact creating problems,” he said.

Falcon Landing developers said tenants will have to commit to instructing drivers not to use North Road. Dunford said they predict 0% of truck traffic from the project will be on that road. However, he estimated 26% of employees will use North Road. The warehouse will come with 300-plus parking spaces for employees.

For impact on schools, Dunford said the risks for children remain the same regardless of the amount of traffic.

As for the aquifer, lead consultant Valarie Ferro said the building itself will be placed outside of the Water Resource Protection District, which crosses property lines. The proposal, she said, also eliminates 264 parking spots from the Target proposal, leading to 14 fewer acres of impervious surface. Tenants could request less parking still, as some spots won’t be built unless the tenant needs them. A total of 30 new impervious surfaces will be added by construction.

“Yes, there is an aquifer. Yes we’re applying for a permit and we have demonstrated we will be consistent with those provisions within that aquifer protection district,” she said.

Falcon Landing will return to the Planning Board on Tuesday, Feb. 6. Planning Board meetings are at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, Room 207, at City Hall, 59 Court St., Westfield. Also on the agenda is the expansion of a warehouse at 323 Lockhouse Rd. to add manufacturing; and a proposed Russian Evangelical Baptist Church schoolhouse near the Lapointe Road neighborhood.

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