A developer based in Fairfield, Connecticut has filed plans with the state of Massachusetts for a 160,000 square foot big box store in Greenfield, Massachusetts, the town that handed the retailer one of its best-known defeats 13 years ago. Even before finishing his preliminary review by the town’s Conservation Commission, Louis Cerruzzi, doing business as Greenfield Investors Property Development (GIPD), has asked the state for permission to file a single Environmental Impact Review, rather than a draft and final EIR. Of the 29 acres site, 19 acres would be developed. Although the developer does not identify the single large store being planned, according to Sprawl-Busters, a 160,000 s.f. store is one of the standard Wal-Mart supercenter prototypes. The town’s Conservation Commission will review the extent of buildable land at a hearing on January 9th. This superstore would be by far the largest retail building in the history of Greenfield. By comparison, it would be 2.5 times larger than the existing Stop & Shop further down High Street. This project is roughly 20,000 s.f. larger than the Wal-Mart proposed in Greenfield in 1993. The main difference between the 2006 proposed Wal-Mart, and the 1993 version, is that Cerruzzi’s plans include a large grocery store — just what Greenfield does not need. Given the fact that the central Franklin County region is largely stagnant population-wise, a new grocery component will largely take sales from Stop & Shop and Big Y, and to a lesser degree, from an independent grocer, Foster’s. A 160,000 s.f. Wal-Mart supercenter would need to make $80 million in sales per year, of which as much as $64 million will come from existing merchants, including its own Wal-Mart stores in Hadley, Northampton, Massachusetts, and Hinsdale, New Hampshire — all stores within 25 miles of Greenfield. The project would cover over 11 acres with asphalt, and have a parking lot that would hold 604 cars. It will consume 3.2 million gallons of water per year, and generate 2.9 million gallons of wastewater per year needing treatment. According to state officials at the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act office (MEPA), officials will walk the land during the week of January 8th, and accept comments on the project from the public until January 22nd. By January 29th, the MEPA office will then issue a “certificate” indicating the scope of the environmental impact review, and whether it is to be done as a draft review and final, or just a single EIR. According to Cerruzzi’s filing, the site contains 29 acres, and will alter 3,460 feet of wetlands. This data is inaccurate, as the site will alter more than 5,000 s.f. of wetlands, and the buildable area is incorrect. The north parcel of 10 acres, will not be developed, Cerruzzi says, because it is largely a wetland area. The developer says he intends to donate the northern parcel to the Friends of the Wissatinnewag, a native American group. There is a perennial stream on the property as well, and the water table is only several feet below ground. The developer says his project will require Major Development Review approval by the Greenfield Zoning Board of Appeals, with recommendations from the Planning Board. The “MDR” as it is known, was watered down by the Greenfield Town Council and Mayor Christine Forgey last year to make most of its provisions optional, instead of mandatory. No large project has ever been rejected by a Major Development Review, so the process is largely without content. The public has a right to receive a copy of the Cerruzzi plan from the developer at no cost. Comments from the public are due by January 22nd. The walk of the land by the MEPA office is also open to the public, and will take place sometime during the week of January 8th. On January 29th, the MEPA office will issue a “certificate” explaining the scope of environmental review that the developer must file, and whether or not a draft and final EIR will be needed. “This project faces multiple challenges,” explained Al Norman of Sprawl-Busters. “The parcel is polluted, it is marbled with wetlands, it has a very high water table, poor soils, and the size of the project itself is too big for the property.” Norman said that the wetlands location on the site have not yet been agreed to by the town’s Conservation Commission, and that the final buildable area may not be 19 acres at all. According the Sprawl-Busters, Mackin Construction company, which still owns the site, has been mandated to conduct a “public involvement plan” (PIP) for the clean up of the oil storage facility on the site. Mackin wanted to wait until the property was transferred to a new owner to remove the pollution. But because 14 residents of Greenfield signed a petition, Mackin must now make the cleanup of the “contaminants of concern” a transparent, public process. State law requires Mackin to inform the 14 residents of the status of the clean up. The spill took place in November, 2005, and has still not been cleaned up. A draft PIP is now being prepared, and a public hearing will be held in Greenfield sometime before February 28th, after which there will be a 20 day comment period, and the completion of a final PIP within a month after the comment period ends. “This public process will ensure that the Mackin company cleans up this pollution, and keeps the public informed of the process and the results,” Norman concluded. “It serves as a prod to make sure the landowner actually performs the clean up.”
Any Greenfield resident wishing to oppose the 160,000 s.f. Wal-Mart superstore, should email [email protected] Norman said the Mayor, the Town Council, the local newspaper and radio station will support any project submitted by Cerruzzi, so local opponents will once again be facing the usual line-up of Wal-Mart addicts. Norman said the Cerruzzi proposal is the wrong size and the wrong place, and will lead to more empty retail space downtown, and possibly a major collapse of the traditional retail downtown. “Greenfield is being transformed from a once family-friendly community into a bland, national retail chain center, with national logos and national restaurants dominating the marketplace,” Norman said. “Everyone’s hometown is turning into just another ‘chainstore town,’ with rising crime rates, rising traffic, and a deteriorating downtown.” To get a copy of the ENF, call Lauren Gallagher at 617-924-1770 x 1643, or email her at: [email protected] Comments to the state MEPA office should be sent to: Secretary of Environmental Affairs, 100 Cambridge St, Suite 900, Boston, MA 0-2114, Attn: MEPA Office, Briony Angus. Refer to EOEA project 13929.