Hampden, MA, Planners Reject Neighboring Self-Storage Projects

March 3, 2023

10 Min Read
Hampden, MA, Planners Reject Neighboring Self-Storage Projects

Update 3/3/23 – Justice of the Superior Court Michael Cahillane has ruled in favor of the Hampden Planning Board, which denied a special-use permit for the self-storage facility proposed by 16 Somers Rd. LLC. In his Feb. 17 summary, Cahillane said he based his decision on the argument from planning-board members Heather Beattie and Christina Brodeur. In their vote against the project, they referenced subsection 10.21.3 of the town’s zoning bylaws, which outline the purpose of the special-permit process “to protect the rural character, aesthetic qualities, natural, environmental, and historical features; and property values of neighboring properties and the town.”

Cahillane called Beattie’s case to preserve the area’s character “thoroughly detailed.” He also referenced subsection 7.71, which limits the “impact on community character and neighboring properties” and the 7.72.4 requirement that architectural designs be “compatible with the rural/historical character and scale of building in the neighborhood.” Basing decisions on aesthetics is “well-established,” Cahillane said, citing previous cases.

The town had no comment following the decision. The developer’s attorney, Raipher Pellegrino, has had filed an appeal. The process could take about a year, he told the source.

12/17/22 – The Hampden Planning Board rejected a special-use permit for the self-storage project proposed for 2 Somers Road for the second time, deadlocking with a 2-2 vote. The board addressed the application again after a Massachusetts Land Court judge ruled its earlier decision was “legally untenable, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable and otherwise beyond the proper exercise of the board’s authority,” according to the source.

The judge kicked the case back to the board with the option to approve the permit with the 21 conditions planners had previously stipulated, add or amend the conditions, or deny the request as long as the rejection was “supported by factual findings from the record.” In addition, the judge ruled that “the board may not deny the application because the plaintiffs cannot ‘guarantee’ that there will never be any future leakage of chemicals, hazardous materials, or other noxious substances prohibited or controlled by the conditions of the special permit.”

The two votes against the permit came from Heather Beattie and Christine Brodeur, who weren’t on the planning board during the previous vote and were recently seated to replace those who resigned.

Beattie indicated that she voted against the project due to her concern for potential contamination of the water supply as well as design incompatibility with the “rural” aesthetic of the town. Planner Jason Barroso argued Beattie’s reasoning for rejecting the permit was out of compliance with the judge’s order. “We’re going to get sued again, and I am sick of spending my tax dollars on this,” he said during the meeting.

Attorney Michael Pill told the source he expected the denial to result in the judge overriding the decision in favor of the project applicants.

The board is scheduled to meet on Dec. 19 to proofread the formal documentation of the denial and send it to the land-court judge.

3/4/22 – The applicants for a pair of rejected self-storage projects that had been proposed for 2 Somers Road and 16 Somers Road in Hampden have taken separate legal action against the town, arguing that public opposition led the planning board and board of selectman to deny both arbitrarily. One grievance will be heard by the Massachusetts Land Court, which acts as an arbiter in planning conflicts, while the other was filed with Hampden Superior Court, according to the source.

Michael Cimmino, attorney Daniel Garvey, Hampden Self Storage LLC and Hampden Farms LLC are co-plaintiffs in the land-court case. They’re represented by attorney Michael Pill. The town, both boards and individual board members were named as defendants. The town will be represented by attorney Jesse Belcher-Timme.

In that case, subpoenas have been issued seeking documents and financial records related to the GoFundMe campaign titled “Save Hampden: No Self-Storage,” as well as documents in connection with a Change.org petition and interpersonal communications between board members, town officials and several residents. Of particular interest to the plaintiffs is information about an individual who donated $5,000 to the fundraiser, the source reported.

The suit also seeks documentation in connection with the abrupt resignation of two planning-board members following public outcry on social media and the subsequent appointment of Heather Beattie and Christine Brodeur as replacements.

On Feb. 7, the town filed a motion to block the subpoena request for documentation. The most recent court date was scheduled for Feb. 28.

The superior court case is a civil-appeals suit brought by 16 Somers Road LLC against the town, both boards and their members. It contends the rejection of the project was “arbitrary” and “capricious,” and violated the state’s general law under Chapter 40, Section 15. The plaintiff has asked for a jury trial. A judgment isn’t expected in that case until Dec. 2023, according to the source.

12/15/21 – The Hampden Planning Board rejected a pair of self-storage projects proposed for 2 Somers Road and 16 Somers Road in separate meetings on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8, respectively. Special permits required for the developments were voted down 3-2 in both cases. Five votes were needed to pass, according to the source.

During the nearly five-hour meeting on Dec. 1, planners continued to debate concerns regarding the storage of hazardous materials, including amounts that would be allowable on site. They also discussed the possibility of spot-checking rented units at least once per year, the source reported.

Both applicants indicated they’d acquired $1 million in environmental liability insurance to protect against potential spills and water contamination. Though it was generally agreed that amount of coverage was sufficient for self-storage, planners also agreed the two businesses would have to carry continuous occurrence-based insurance, which would ensure carriers would have to cover a claim regardless of when it occurred or was discovered. Planners also indicated an annual certificate of insurance would be required, with a review of terms every five years.

Applicants have up to 30 days to appeal the board’s decision. Planning chair John Matthews indicated he expected the matter to wind up in court, regardless of whether the special permit was approved or denied, according to the source.

11/30/21 – Hampden residents continue to strongly oppose a pair of self-storage projects proposed for abutting parcels. A group called Save Hampden raised new concerns about water-supply contamination for the development at 2 Somers Road during a Nov. 10 planning-board meeting including the possibility that illegally stored, hazardous materials could leak or spill into neighboring wells, according to the source.

As part of a revised set of plans submitted by attorney Daniel Garvey and Robert DiBenedetto, a representative from engineering firm Frydryk & Douglas, the facility would be 100 feet from all wells, with retention basins lying outside the water-retention district. During back and forth with residents and planners, Garvey agreed to provide written documentation of what is covered by the developer’s insurance policy regarding wastewater contamination and other potential health hazards.

During public comment, resident Mark Feeney argued that infiltration bases must be more than 100 feet from neighboring properties to allow residents an opportunity to move their wells. Planner Jason Barroso indicated he’d get clarification from health officials.

There was also some discussion about the developer’s plan to use impermeable asphalt with the infiltration system as opposed to permeable, which the developer for the project at 16 Somers Road has proposed.

Planners decided to continue the hearing to Dec. 1 to gather more information, including whether Hampden’s engineering consultant, Tighe & Bond, would approve the wastewater-system changes to the project and the liability protection from the developer’s insurance company.

Other changes to the 2 Somers Road proposal included insertion of 50-foot setbacks, shortening of two 30-foot storage buildings to 20 feet, and the elimination of two other buildings. The changes were made to accommodate board and resident requests, Garvey told planners. The alterations have lowered the size of the project from 54,000 to 43,000 square feet.

9/3/21 – Robert Howarth and Phil Schneider, members of the Hampden, Massachusetts, Planning Board, resigned after residents publicly accused them of improprieties related to special-permit requests that would pave the way for a self-storage project. Though residents had been vocally opposed to the development, some took to social media to criticize board members and how they were handling the planning process after a meeting in which Howarth indicated he’d met privately with the applicant, according to the source.

The self-storage facility is proposed for two adjacent properties at 2 Somers Road and 16 Somers Road, with an entrance at 23 E. Longmeadow Road. The planning board held a public hearing for the first parcel on July 28 and another for the second parcel on Aug. 11.

Hosworth cut short the Aug. 11 meeting due to excessive heat but revealed that he’d spoken to the permit applicant in advance. This caused residents to suspect a deal was being made behind closed doors.

“This man [Howarth] is beyond disrespectful, rude and dismissive,” resident Heidi Hannington wrote on a community page a week after the meeting. “Clearly speaking to the landowner without the knowledge of the rest of the board not only breaks rules set forth by this town, but is also dishonest and makes one wonder if this person thinks he stands alone waiting to make a payday by getting this project pushed through—unbelievable even for small-town politics.”

After other inflammatory comments were posted online, Howarth, who served as board chair, and Schneider submitted their resignation to town administrator Bob Markel. “After over a combined 80-plus years of living in this great Town of Hampden, and many years of public service to the Town of Hampden through various boards and committees, we have come to the conclusion that the time spent and effort given by us is no longer appreciated or understood by the townspeople that we have so diligently served,” the men responded in writing.

The matter has complicated decision-making on the special permit due to legal timelines. Four of five board members are required for a vote on special permits. In addition to two members resigning, associate member Richard Green is ineligible to vote because he has property that abuts the target self-storage site, which leaves only two eligible voters.

As a result, planners are in a race to get new board members temporarily seated until the next town election. The public-hearing process for the special permit for 2 Somers Road was scheduled to close on Sept. 2, though the petitioner allowed a waiver to push the deadline back to Sept. 8, according to the source. Candidates can submit applications until Sept. 7.

To keep pace and have new members seated in time, a joint session between the planning board and board of selectmen has been scheduled on Sept. 8, the same day planners must meet to decide on the permit. If the planning board is unable to adhere to the timeline, the special permit would be “constructively granted,” Markel told the source.

The planning board is also scheduled to hold a continued public hearing on the permit for 16 Somers Road on Sept. 15.

The Reminder, Hampden Planning Board Again Denies Permit After Judge Annuls Prior Vote
The Reminder, Cases Brought Against Hampden in Wake of Self-Storage Controversy
The Reminder, Self-Storage Facilities Voted Down by Hampden Planning Board
The Reminder, Hampden Planning Board Hears About Storage Facility Wastewater Concerns
The Reminder, Two Resign From Hampden Planning Board Amid Controversy
The Reminder, Judge Supports Hampden Planning Board Against 16 Somers Rd. Self-Storage

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