GREENFIELD — Following a joint public hearing with the Economic Development Committee on Thursday evening, the planning board voted unanimously to send a positive recommendation to city council on the planned expansion of the development area. industrial near road 2.
With only a few speakers present at the John Zon Community Center – all of whom spoke favorably of the proposal – the vote continues the process of expansion, which would take the form of rezoning 11 plots east of King Road and north from the French King Highway which is currently zoned as General Commercial, which provides an area for mixed retail. The process itself was launched by the Planning Board in September, following a presentation by Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, who argued that the zoning map review would allow for the growth of the advanced manufacturing base from the city.
However, the five-member economic development committee, which was short of two advisers on Thursday night, opted to wait until a next meeting to continue deliberations. Precinct 5 councilor Marianne Bullock said she was aware of several residents, including precinct 9 councilor and subcommittee member Derek Helie, who anticipated the meeting would take place in a format hybrid, which would allow for broader participation than an in-person meeting.
“I think we heard a lot of good information tonight,” Planning Council Chairman Charles Roberts said, adding that the issue should be given fair consideration in relation to the “deal” reached in exchange for votes for the library in 2019.
He was referring to the agreed relaxation of zoning restrictions for development on the French King Highway and for large-scale projects, in return for support for the new Greenfield Public Library. The deal was enough to convince undecided city councilors to vote in favor of building a new library, which is under construction on Main Street.
“In leaving politics and who voted for what and when, I think the intent was ‘Let’s try to stimulate economic development in this area,'” Planning Council member Nathanial Hussey said. “What hasn’t happened since then is any kind of economic development in that area, which I hear now there’s an opportunity if we change areas.”
Existing businesses in the Interstate 91 Industrial Park include Summit Ice, Valley Steel Stamp, Northeast Biodiesel, and BETE Fog Nozzle.
Speaking in support of the expansion, Valley Steel Stamp President Steve Capshaw said his company is ready to expand — but building land in western Massachusetts is hard to come by.
“We want to build where our people are,” he said.
The 11 parcels that this area encompasses, which total 40 to 50 acres, include land owned by Ceruzzi Properties where a 135,000 square foot big box store has long been proposed. This land is still rented by Stop & Shop.
“I understand people want retail,” Capshaw commented. “But that’s just a wish; it will never happen. …Stop & Shop will never let go of this land…if that’s something it has to compete with. Once it is zoned industrial, industrial companies can enter into a lease with them.
Wedegartner echoed Capshaw’s sentiment.
“The problem for the city is that we would like to increase our tax base, and the best way to expand our tax base and provide high-paying jobs is to attract as much manufacturing and industry as possible,” he said. she declared.
Although the planning board ultimately voted unanimously to send a positive recommendation to council, member David Chichester said he had hoped to see more people attend.
“I’m disappointed that we don’t have more people here at the public hearing,” Chichester said, “because I was really hoping to hear more reasons why we might not want to do this… to help to balance the ledger here.”
The economic development committee will discuss the proposed zoning change in more detail on Dec. 13, after which it will head to the full city council for a vote.
Journalist Mary Byrne can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.