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WESTFIELD — The Planning Board voted 5-2 to approve the site plan, stormwater permit, and special permits for Falcon Landing, after months of tension between the board, developers, and North Side residents over the warehouse proposal.

In a statement on the decision, Falcon Landing spokesperson Matt Watkins said his team appreciated the research and analysis done by the board into their application.

“Our project team worked very hard to put forward a sensible plan that was rooted in community input, includes robust environmental protections, and yields economic development benefits for Westfield,” he said. “We are excited to move the project forward.”

By contrast, Hampton Ponds Association President Susan McFarlin said she couldn’t understand how the project met the requirements for a special permit. In particular, she said it violated the requirements for the site to be an appropriate location for the project, and for it to not negatively impact the neighborhood.

“It also would appear that their decision was not based on substantial evidence,” she said. “It seems quite arbitrary. It felt as though the decision was not based on the hearing but on preconceived preferences.”

The residential organization has been campaigning against the project the past month, saying it will lead to overbearing traffic on Southampton and North roads; pollution of the air and the Barnes Aquifer; and impede efforts to clean up PFAS pollution in the North Side.

At the Feb. 6 meeting, opposition came from Southampton resident Karen Kirch, who said more pollution in the aquifer would be a “tipping point of no return” for Westfield. She also doubted a traffic report saying warehouse trucks would not travel on North Road. Many North Road residents fear trucks will drive there to reach Interstate 91 and avoid the tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

“These are not minor concerns as they involve public health and safety and that means safety for schoolchildren,” she said.

She also said developer Winstanley Enterprises had a history of tax abatement deals. Community Development Director Peter Miller told the board that he has not discussed tax abatement with the firm, and that Mayor Michael McCabe won’t offer it, especially for logistics-related projects.

On the other hand, Ward 2 Councilor Ralph Figy said any increase in taxes from the commercial sector would allow lower taxes for homeowners in the budget, which he said was important for residents on fixed incomes. He responded to opponents’ concerns of children breathing in air polluted from truck exhaust fumes, saying air monitoring systems show the worst air in the city is around Westfield State University, not Southampton Road.

He also responded to an email he received with a picture of a car accident that said the warehouse will increase them.

“Well, I’m glad they got a crystal ball, because I don’t,” he said. “If we make improvements to the roadways, maybe some of those accidents will not happen.”

Falcon Landing lead consultant Valarie Ferro said the developer has made several changes to its proposal in response to neighbors’ concerns. These include building only 60 of the 104 proposed loading docks, and holding back on 100 non-truck vehicle parking spaces unless needed by a tenant. As well, Falcon Landing will put forth $100,000 for a tree planting program exclusively in North Side parks and other public land.

Developers at the Feb. 6 hearing also promised to fund safety improvements to nearby intersections, including Southampton and North roads; Falcon Drive and Southampton Road; the entrance to Southampton Road Elementary School; and the Massachusetts Turnpike exit at Southampton Road. They will also paint a double yellow line on a 6,500-foot stretch of North Road where there is currently a broken yellow line. The improvements also include rumble strips in the center and blinking signs that tell drivers to slow down.

In its draft decision, the Planning Board required the warehouse not to have cold storage facilities, like the rescinded 2022 Target warehouse proposal. As well, it cannot become an Amazon-style fulfillment center that delivers products directly to residents. The board also required training for truck drivers to reduce their emissions, and that they be instructed only to use Southampton Road to reach the Interstate highway system, not North Road.

Watkins said Falcon Landing still has to review and revise the site plan drawings with city officials. The team meanwhile will ramp up advertising the site to potential tenants. The interior of the building still has to be designed, alongside the road safety improvements. Once that’s done, they “look forward to starting construction as soon as possible,” he said.

The Planning Board will file its decision with the city clerk within 14 days, at which point an appeals period will begin. Asked about an appeal, McFarlin said that she is exploring all options.

tlederer@thereminder.com | + posts