Citizens’ petition to rezone Clinton St. site eyed for industrial park

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Citizens’ petition to rezone Clinton St. site eyed for industrial park
Drone photography shows 142 Clinton Street, which was once owned by Worcester Sand and Stone. (Photo/Tami White)

SHREWSBURY – A group of Shrewsbury residents is hoping to reverse a zoning change made in 2020.

During the Select Board’s April 23 meeting, Shrewsbury residents Robert Ryan and Christa Duprey outlined the purpose behind a citizens’ petition that will be brought to Town Meeting in May as Article 32. The petition aims to change the zoning near Clinton Street from a Limited Industrial Zoning District to a Commercial Business Zoning District.

The petition follows months of Planning Board and Conservation Commission public hearings regarding a proposed industrial park at 142 Clinton St. The proposed development would sit on 100 acres of Worcester Sand & Stone property and include two buildings totaling 921,728 square feet. The developer, 160 Holden Street LLC, is an affiliate of Boston-based developer GFI Partners LLC.

Residents have voiced their concerns about the project in recent months and have sent several letters to the Select Board outlining their disagreements.

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The article would effectively repeal an action taken at the 2020 Annual Town Meeting. At that meeting, a supermajority of voters chose to adopt an article that switched the parcel’s zoning from Commercial Business to Limited Industrial.

The developer had asked for the zoning change. The article was debated for roughly 10 minutes, with residents asking about the environmental impact of any industrial project on the land. The site sits within the Aquifer Protection Overlay District, which is meant to protect the town’s water.

“The cooperation with this new developer provides us an opportunity to make the area cleaner and more protected than what we currently have. The town’s well does not have sufficient protection, and we’ve made it very clear… that we will do everything that we can to put the proper protection in place where there currently is not any. I see this as an opportunity to improve quality, not reduce it,” Town Manager Kevin Mizikar said at the 2020 Town Meeting.

In May 2022, the community approved Article 35, which added additional amendments to Limited Industrial zoning, increasing the total building height allowable by special permit. The article spent nearly 30 minutes on the floor, but ultimately passed by a two-thirds vote.

“Given this thorough process there are real implications to changing zoning because certain individuals did not like a particular use that is currently being pursued by a developer. That is not a judgment about the proposed project — it’s a concern about the overall development environment in the town of Shrewsbury,” Assistant Town Manager Keith Baldinger said at an April 11 Finance Committee meeting. “Overturning zoning by changing the vote by the community’s legislative body only a few years ago would be detrimental to future economic development.”

The town will not move the article out of order, Baldinger said at the April 11 meeting.

At the April 23 Select Board meeting, Ryan and Duprey said that the town government had been helpful, allowing them to gather information about the property to make their case. Select Board Chair Beth Casavant commended Ryan and Duprey for respectfully exercising their democratic rights.

The Finance Committee on April 25 unanimously disapproved of the article.

On May 2, the Planning Board voted 2-2 on recommending the article to Town Meeting.

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