Holyoke, MA. Citizen's Group Forms to Fight Off Wal-Mart Superstore
A group of roughly 30 Holyoke residents gathered this past week to form a citizens' group that will challenge a proposed Wal-Mart superstore on Whitings Farms Road in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
According to group spokesperson Terri Laramee, who lives in Ward 3, the Wal-Mart plan is the "wrong size and the wrong place."The Wal-Mart site is on 18 acres that in 2009 was slated to become a Lowe's home improvement store. Some of the same residents fought that project in court, and Lowe's eventually withdrew from the project.
The new group, which has taken the name "Holyoke First," said it hopes elected officials and the Planning Board will realize that a superstore bigger than 3 footballs fields should not be located next to a residential community.
"Our needs as a neighborhood should come first," Laramee noted. "That's the essence of our name: put the needs of local homeowners ahead of companies like Wal-Mart."
"This is a Major Site Plan review," Laramee explained, "and that means the Planning Board has to look carefully at the impact of traffic along Whitings Farm Road, as well as protect the visual and environmental qualities of the surrounding neighborhood, the economic impact on city services--like police and fire---as well as the scale of buildings in relation to the neighborhood.
Residents feel that this huge project is not in harmony with the surrounding neighborhoods, which are predominately small residential and apartment buildings. "A giant retail shopping center and a residential community is a bad land use mix," Laramee said. "We expect the Planning Board to see that this is much too intense a land use to place next to all these homeowners. This is not a done deal by any means."
"If Wal-Mart wants to bully their way onto this site, we're prepared to fight for the value of our homes," Larmaee concluded. She said Holyoke First is setting up a local fund for people who want to donate to fight this inappropriate project.
"We don't have the deep pockets that Wal-Mart has," Laramee noted. "But we've got some pretty upset neighbors. Now, we'll find our what kind of corporate citizen Wal-Mart really is."
What you can do: Readers are urged to email Holyoke Planning Board chairman John Kelley at: firstname.lastname@example.org with the following message:
"Dear Chairman Kelley,
The enormous Wal-Mart project located on Whitings Farm Road is totally out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood properties.
This is a shopping center the size of 3 football fields, located along a two lane road. The Planning Board must retain a traffic engineer to peer review the study that Wal-Mart provides, because that study will claim that a major traffic generator will improve level of service along Whitings Farm Road, because this is what these traffic impact studies always find.
You also have to find that the scale of this project is in harmony with surround properties, which is not true even if you cut it in half.
This proposal is the wrong size and in the wrong location. It will not generate 'new' jobs, but merely capture sales from existing merchants. What it will generate is more crime and demands of police and fire resources.
I urge you to listen to the neighbors: this will harm the value of their homes, becuase this very intense commercial use abuts a residential zone, and the neighbors rely on the Planning Board to cut this project down to size---because the developer and Wal-Mart clearly have no interest in talking with the neighbors."