HUDSON — About a hundred residents want plans for a 2.6 million-square-foot depot on the site of the Green Meadow Golf Club scrapped, claiming the three-building complex will harm the environment, drive down property values and create traffic congestion.
Many of the residents expressed concerns and asked questions at a special Hudson Planning Board meeting on May 27.
About 50 people attended a site walk at the golf course on Saturday, including town officials, representatives from Hillwood Investment Properties, environmental and engineering consultants and residents.
Hillwood project manager Justin Dunn said the developer is listening to residents’ concerns, some of which are valid. Other claims are not based in fact, he said.
“In general, we at Hillwood heard the concerns and they’re very consistent throughout, especially from the direct neighbors,” Dunn said. “We’re taking those concerns very seriously and we’re looking at every way possible to mitigate the impacts of the development, and at the end of the day we feel we have very good solutions from all aspects.”
‘Quality of life’ issue
After the Hudson Logistics Center project was announced in late April, residents Jim Dobens, Scott Wade and Paul Groleau organized their neighborhood in opposition.
“We’ve kind of become the de facto leaders,” Wade said.
Groleau and Wade live on Fairview Drive, and Dobens lives on Eagle Drive. The two residential streets are adjacent to the southern end of the 370-acre golf course property, which owners David Friel and his brothers are selling to Hillwood.
Under the purchase agreement, Hillwood would buy the roughly 370-acre property from Green Meadow. Construction would involve about half the land. The rest of the property would not be used for golf.
Wade said he is not opposed to the sale of private property, but because of its location, the operation will disrupt nearby residents’ quality of life and exacerbate Hudson’s already troublesome traffic issues.
He said they won’t be happy unless the entire development is stopped.
The group has created a website, savehudsonnh.org, and a MailChimp newsletter, as well as lawn signs and T-shirts with the website address and a picture of a tractor trailer with a red line through it.
During Saturday’s walk, several residents wore the shirts while a handful of others stood at the treeline by their properties with homemade signs opposing the project.
Some of the residents have hired Amy Manzelli, a land use and environmental lawyer, to develop an opposition strategy.
Dobens said he has experience with logistics centers from his time in the military and working on e-commerce development at Procter & Gamble.
He suspects Hillwood’s projections of 150 to 200 trucks coming and going each day is significantly underestimated, based on the buildings’ size and capacity.
“That is a far cry from the utilization of their capacity,” Dobens said. “In my opinion, it’s less than 10% utilized.”
He said a more accurate estimate likely would be 400 to 600 trucks a day, which he said would be more than the roadways can handle.
“This is a battle of quality of life,” Dobens said.
Hillwood’s Dunn said the developer is updating its traffic studies and expects to release its findings sometime after the next special Planning Board meeting on June 24.
But he said the company stands by its projection of the number of trucks that will use the facility each day. He said those numbers are based on a specific tenant using the two one-million square foot buildings and a conservative estimate of use by whoever leases the third, smaller building.
Dunn said each company has a different pattern of truck use at their facilities, so Procter & Gamble may not be an apples-to-apples comparison. He said the projection will likely decrease once they have a second tenant lined up for the third building, because their estimates are higher than what the real numbers likely will be.
Dobens and other residents said they are not convinced by many of the claims and studies Hillwood has put forward.
Residents are concerned about significant runoff from paved surfaces, which could contaminate the nearby Merrimack River and groundwater with fuel and other chemicals. They also fear diesel trucks will add to air pollution.
Dunn said such environmental impacts are highly regulated by local and federal governments, and the company will meet or exceed those standards. He said Hillwood is conducting additional studies on air quality, sound and light pollution. He said it left roughly 60% of the site untouched to protect the area’s wetlands.
Some wetlands are impacted by a road crossing, Dunn said, but they are looking at ways to reduce that impact.
The site will not have a refueling station, and the developer plans to build storm water ponds to help catch and treat rain water, Dunn said.
Wade said the developers originally proposed a berm to buffer the residential area from the industrial site, which he said wouldn’t be high enough to obscure the buildings.
Dunn said after hearing those concerns during the initial public comment period, Hillwood plans to increase the size of the berm and add a sound wall to the top, possibly with vegetation. He said additional landscaping will help reduce sound and light pollution, and he said they won’t touch existing trees that border the residential neighborhood.
Wade said the average home in the neighborhood is valued at about $400,000. He said he’s bracing for a 5% to 15% decline in value, based on his research, and fears residents won’t be able to sell their homes after the depot is constructed.
Hillwood is commissioning a study on the project’s impact on area home values, but Dunn said the company has developed 35 similar logistics centers, some with adjacent residential properties, and none of them hurt home values.
“In past experience, we have not seen a decrease in home values directly related to industrial development,” Dunn said.
Some residents asked whether the project would overburden the town’s sewer and water systems. Town officials said during the site walk that the potential pipeline usage is being reviewed, but they don’t expect it to pose problems.
Dunn said the town will benefit from a major increase in tax revenue and the creation of an estimated 2,500 jobs. He said while the project has some vocal opponents, “a lot more” residents support it.