Hadley, MA. Lowe's Rezoning Plan Goes Down a Third Time.
Once a charming little farming community lying betweeen two college towns, the town of Hadley, Massachusetts has said yes to so much big box sprawl that its Planning Board is known as the "Hardly" Planning Board. But it may be that over-development has finally sobered even Hadley residents. Here's a report from town residents from their repetitive battle with Lowe's: "There's no shortage of democracy in Hadley, Massachusetts. On January 17th, residents voted down for a third time a request to rezone agricultural land so Lowe's could build a bigger store on Route 9. At the largest Hadley Town Meeting in a decade, 1,003 voters, or 28 percent, of the town's 3,581 registered voters cast ballots. The measure fell seven votes short of the two-thirds majority needed, losing 662-341. The rezoning measure also failed by slim margins at Town Meeting votes in August and October of 2003. In a break with Hadley Town Meeting tradition, the Town Moderator allowed presentations on both sides of the question for rezoning a portion of the Long Hollow Bison Farm to create 12.8 acres of new commercial land for
Lowe's. Following arguments for the rezoning by Lowe's publicist, Paul
Benjamin of Northampton, residents of the citizen's group Hadley Neighbors
for Sensible Development presented concerns and questions that remained
unanswered. Chief among these was the total amount of commercial square
footage that could be built. Lowe's argued that by voting for the rezoning,
residents would limit development to 181,000 square feet, which would still
be the largest store in Hadley's history -- the size of four football fields. However, Hadley Neighbors demonstrated, using the same ratio of
land-to-building proposed by the developer for the Lowe's parcel, that total commercial development could exceed 300,000 square feet because buildout restrictions were not included on adjacent parcels. Many residents expressed concern that the Lowe's site could be as large as the 323,000-square foot shopping center, with Home Depot as the anchor tenant, that is being planned
less than a mile away on Route 9. Lowe's developer Ron Bronstein, president of Paradigm Development of Colden, New York, said he has commissioned Berkshire Design Group of Northampton to begin work on the so-called "front-build" plan within existing zoning. "Lowe's is preparing to get a store built, and we'll do everything to get it built," Bronstein said. But as of January 30th, no work has taken place at the site and there is speculation that Lowe's is looking at other sites in Hadley. Besides the smaller 135,000-square-foot Lowe's building on land to the east of the existing bison farm, Bronstein said there will be another 76,000 square feet of retail development where the farm buildings are located. Bronstein also announced plans to build 21 moderately priced homes behind Lowe's, though his company does not specialize in residential development and Hadley's 10% home construction bylaw will limit construction to two homes per year."
What you can do: Reckless development in Hadley has all but choked off the main road that runs between Amherst and Northampton, causing many residents to avoid the road altogether. For more information on this effort to draw the line on sprawl, visit www.HadleyNeighbors.org