Northborough Planning Board weighs next steps on warehouse moratorium

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

Trucks pass along Bartlett St. in Northborough. The Northborough Planning Board is weighing next steps on warehouse moratorium. Photos/Jesse Kucewicz
Trucks pass along Bartlett St. in Northborough.
(Photo/Jesse Kucewicz)

NORTHBOROUGH – The Northborough Planning Board revisited a potential warehousing, trucking and distribution moratorium during its Oct. 5 meeting.

The moratorium was originally proposed by Chair Kerri Martinek in August.

During the October meeting, Martinek said the board is still hearing concerns about enforcement. 

“In addition to the issues at hand, for the bylaws we have on the books, we’re having a problem enforcing because of whatever snag,” Martinek said.

Town Planner Kathy Joubert said there was a “significant increase” in compliance.

Recently, the selectmen heard from staff about steps the town has taken, including creating a safety zone at the entrance of the high school.

Joubert said she reached out to a land use attorney and communities that she knew that had moratoriums in the past. 

In general, the town can propose a moratorium. As part of a required presentation and discussion at Town Meeting, the town would commit to study the issue if the moratorium is approved, Joubet said. 

The maximum length of time that the courts have allowed is 18 months. They encourage moratoriums to run for a year, though, Joubert said. 

Joubert then brought the conversation back to the town’s master plan. 

“We created a master plan,” she said. “The board adopted the master plan. We now have an implementation committee. To then, now, say in the middle of that process, ‘We think that we need a moratorium on a particular kind of development’ is really contrary to this whole master planning process,” Joubert said.

She encouraged the Planning Board to talk with the Master Plan Implementation Committee, which two board members sit on, and other boards. 

Board member Anthony Ziton said the Planning Board was trying to slow things down to wrap its hands around “the current truck and traffic issue.”

“I see this as…tapping the brakes on a problem, an urgent issue we have at hand,” Ziton said. “Whether that gets rectified later through the implementation committee or not, hopefully it would, is a different matter.”

Trucks pass along Bartlett St. in Northborough. The Northborough Planning Board is weighing next steps on warehouse moratorium. Photos/Jesse Kucewicz
Trucks pass along Bartlett St. in Northborough.
(Photo/Jesse Kucewicz)

“You want to put no growth in industrial because of warehouses or trucking issues?” asked Planning Board member Michelle Gillespie. “I’m trying to grasp what you guys are trying to think about what you’re doing here.”  

Vice Chair Amy Poretsky said the town has received applications for warehouses. But in some cases, the project ended up being a trucking or distribution center. Therefore, a moratorium would probably have to limit warehouses and trucking, rail or freight terminals, she said.

Joubert said the town needs to be specific on what the issue is and whether there’s a way to address it within existing or potential bylaws.

“I think it’s a big jump, myself, to go to a moratorium,” Joubert said.

Martinek said that, while the selectmen are doing a lot of work, the Planning Board needs peace of mind that its conditions will be enforced. 

“If we’re still getting these applications, and we’re still putting conditions on, and they’re still not being enforced, does it make sense to continue to take them on or do we need some sort of moratorium where we can solve this problem…” Martinek said.

 

RELATED CONTENT: 

Contractor proposes support yard on Northborough’s Bartlett Street (communityadvocate.com)

Northborough Planning Board discusses warehouse moratorium (communityadvocate.com)

‘Safety zone’ to be created at Algonquin Regional High School entrance (communityadvocate.com)