Town Meeting votes to keep Clinton St. an industrial zone

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Town Meeting votes to keep Clinton St. an industrial zone
Drone photography shows 142 Clinton Street, which was once owned by Worcester Sand and Stone. (Photo/Tami White)

SHREWSBURY – Clinton St. will remain industrial.

At roughly 11:00 p.m. on May 20 – the first night of Shrewsbury’s Annual Town Meeting – the town’s elected assembly voted down Article 32, a citizens’ petition which would have switched zoning along Clinton St. from industrial to commercial business. After a whirlwind voting process, the article failed to get the required supermajority, ultimately falling short, 128-40.

In 2020, Town Meeting overwhelmingly voted to rezone the Clinton Street area from commercial business to limited industrial. In 2022, Town Meeting reaffirmed its commitment to limited industrial zoning, adding additional amendments to the bylaws that seemed to suggest an industrial building – or something of the sort – was likely to be constructed.

The public’s attitude toward the area shifted once a two-building industrial park at 142 Clinton St. was proposed. The project — which would occupy 100 acres of Worcester Sand & Stone land — does not have a tenant yet and would include 524 vehicle parking spaces, 180 loading docks and 71 trailer storage spaces. The developer, 160 Holden Street LLC, is an affiliate of Boston-based developer GFI Partners LLC, which has worked with the town of Shrewsbury on several other projects.

Residents quickly organized a campaign to stop the Clinton St. project, speaking at almost every government meeting to ask questions. Facebook groups formed and raised over $1,600 to continue to advocate against the project. Residents – led by Christa Duprey and Robert Ryan – have been concerned about the project’s environmental impact; the project site is in the town’s Aquifer Protection Overlay District. Traffic and sound pollution have also been frequent topics of discussion at Planning Board meetings.

In an attempt to stop the project, residents brought Article 32, a citizens’ petition, to Town Meeting on May 20. The article would have effectively reversed Town Meeting’s 2020 zoning change, bringing the land back to commercial business zoning. The Finance Committee unanimously recommended against the article, with the Planning Board split.

“We believe commercial businesses… offer more protection to the aquifer recharge area than industrial businesses do… We have to ask ourselves what would happen if the aquifer was impacted with the [industrial development]. What would Shrewsbury do?” Duprey told Town Meeting in a five-minute presentation, referencing research she had completed with the help of the town.

In several Planning Board meetings, attorneys representing GFI Partners have argued that any development on the land would be more environmentally friendly than the current Worcester Sand & Stone site. In other public meetings, town government officials argued that changing the zoning could potentially impact Shrewsbury’s ability to attract business.

“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.

“There are implications that need to be considered by this body… I think changing zoning to prevent a particular type of use that is permitted under the existing zoning will have a chilling effect on development within the community. We strive each and every day to build a commercial tax base. [The rezoning] is something I have had concerns with,” Town Manager Kevin Mizikar said to Town Meeting members, adding that he would not jeopardize the aquifer’s protection.

The petitioners disagreed.

“I’ve heard some people saying [the petition is saying] no to business. No. This is saying no to destroying our aquifer,” Ryan said.

After roughly 45 minutes of debate, Anthony Mastromatteo, of precinct 10, and Caroline Macomber, of precinct 9, moved to switch the zoning from industrial to residential zoning. Town Meeting briefly considered the amendment, but ultimately voted the updated article down. After another 10 minutes – and a standing, roll-call vote – Article 32 failed to get the supermajority required to pass.

If Article 32 would have passed, it’s unclear what the potential impact to the project would have been. During the May 14 Select Board meeting, Mizikar announced that GFI Partners filed a preliminary subdivision with the Planning Board. With the filing, the developer is afforded a seven-month period in which it maintains rights to use the existing zoning of the property, according to Mizikar.

In comments at Town Meeting, Ryan alluded to pursuing legal action.

The Community Advocate is providing real-time updates about Shrewsbury’s annual Town Meeting at Oak Middle School. For more information, and to see updates, follow us on Facebook or visit www.communityadvocate.com.

See previous Community Advocate reporting on the Clinton St. development:

Town Meeting to Consider Rezoning
Residents Disapprove of Project
Proposal Begins Planning Board Process

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