The Holyoke City Council will vote in full December 16, 2008 on the proposed zone change of an 18 acre parcel of land on Whiting Farms Road. The council vote will begin at 7:30pm in the counil chambers at city hall. The council needs 12 votes in favor of the zone change to enact the amendment.
Tonight the Holyoke City Council Zoning Ordinance Committee voted 3-2 in favor of recommending to the full city council the zone change of the 18 acre city owned parcel on Whiting Farms Road. The change will allow for the development of a proposed Lowes Home Improvement store. The full council vote will take place next Tuesday December 16th, 2008. A number of city council members separate from the ordinance committee were in attendance tonight, who all spoke in favor of the project citing the significance of the issues at stake. Those were primarily the state of the economy, likelihood of budget cuts from the state in the next year, and the headlines in todays news that Holyoke now ranks atop the highest poverty rate in the state. Grow Holyoke thanks them for their leadership and their sincere concern for the welfare of the entire city. The two ordinance committee members who voted against the zone change were Councilors Pluta and Lopez. Councilor Pluta cited traffic as the main concern for her vote while claiming the change was spot zoning at its worst. However, this claim is far from the fact. The proposed zone change is consistent with the citys master plan recommendations and is consistent with area land uses. Retail and commercial use exists in the immediate area; at the intersection of Whiting Farms Road and Lower Westfield Road, while the master plan explicitly states that retail development should occur in the area the locus. Councilor Lopez neglected to offer any explanation or reasoning for his vote.
However, there is still time. Help your city councilors see the light of what realities face their city in the years ahead. Right now Holyoke has the highest commercial tax rate in the state at 33.98%; receives over 60% of its budget from state and federal aid; has the highest poverty levels in Massachusetts; has an unemployment rate of 8%; and the highest teen pregnancy rate in the commonwealth, as we enter what economists predict as the worst recession since the great depression. And these councilors are worried about traffic??? (Traffic that will be improved by this development, I might add.) There is something inherently wrong here. If they really truly care about their constituents and are sincerely concerned with the future of the city that they were elected to serve, they will make the right decision to approve the zone change. But those such as Councilor Lopez need to here from you. Contact your councilors by phone or email and let them know that you are for jobs, you are worried about the future of the city, and this is one vote that they cannot afford to give away.
The 18 acre parcel of property on Whiting Farms Road has been at the center of some debate. The parcel is currently zoned for IP, which allows for industrial use. As most are aware the current zone change proposal would allow for commercial use of the property by right. The property is owned by Holyoke Gas and Electric whom with the help of the Holyoke Economic Development and Industrial Corporation have aggressively marketed the property for some 20 years as industrial use. Actions taken include the development of marketing brochures specific to the property, placement in New England Real Estate journals, formal solicitations to developers across the United States, and listed on the city’s property inventory list which is distributed to developers and interested parties seeking to locate to the city. Although the most desired development of the property, there has been little interest and inquiries for industrial use to date.
Manufacturing and industrial jobs have been migrating out of the Northeast Region for several years. As costs of labor and raw materials have increased, jobs have been lost overseas to China, India and other countries where manufacturing costs can improve profit margins. The manufacturing industry that has remained within the United States has moved south, where cheaper production and operational costs allow businesses to compete with foreign competitors. Manufacturing jobs are not as prevalent as they once were. These businesses provided a strong industrial base for much of the northeastern United States. Therefore, cities that once possessed a strong manufacturing base have been forced to adapt to the loss of manufacturing jobs and the realization that these much desired jobs are no longer a commodity in the region.
So, it not a result of a lack of effort that the property has not been able to attract manufacturing jobs, it is simply an issue of the changing times. If the city had a manufacturer ready to break ground on the property and bring much desirable jobs, Grow Holyoke would be all for the opportunity. However, the 18 acre parcel on Whiting Farms Road has remained dormant and a non revenue producing parcel for far too long. There is now an opportunity to bring a Fortune 50 company to the site. A company that brings stability and financial backing that ensures success in their investments. Contrast this to manufacturers that are vulnerable to the sudden swings in energy prices, increasing costs of raw materials, and uncertainty in the future economy; the stability of a successful company will ensure that their business will be around in 5, 10, 20 years and not leaving an eye soar of an abandoned site.
The zone change of the 18 acre parcel is an opportunity to generate revenue, jobs, and stability from a property that has remained vacant for years. The alternative is to leave the property vacant, clutching to the hopes of a miracle that one day a manufacturer will knock on the city’s door and ask to move to the property. Until that day comes, the city will continue on with the missed chance for revenue and jobs that are all so needed. Now we ask, what is really in the best interest of the city?
Contact your members of the city council and tell them how you feel. They need to hear your support. The vote is up to them, but they need to hear it from you. Lets help Grow Holyoke.
December 9, 2008 – 6:30pm City Council Chambers
Holyoke City Council Ordinance Committee to take up vote on the proposed zone change for an 18 acre parcel of property on Whiting Farms Road. The proposed zone change will change the land use from IP (industrial use) to BG, which allows for commercial use by right. Grow Holyoke is in favor of this zone change, as it will allow for a potential Lowe’s Home Improvement store to develop the site. The zone change will allow for the creation of approximately 140 full and part time jobs and the generation of approximately $350,000 in annual tax revenues for the city. The development will also allow for much needed vehicular mitigation to occur in the area that will help calm traffic and improve safety for residents and the children of the Donohue School located on Whiting Farms Road. -Updated 12/5/08
Hello and welcome to Grow Holyokes web blog, where you will find a great resource for information on projects, developments and other happenings that are going on in the city of Holyoke, MA. Grow Holyoke is a grassroots organization established by a combination of concerned citizens and local business leaders to help promote proper and healthy economic growth within the city. The group was formed out of concern for the high commercial tax rates and high unemployment rates that plague the city year after year. Again and again it has been documented that the citys high commercial tax rate, continues to be a hindrance to the attraction and retention of businesses and jobs in the community. This affects the number of quality employment opportunities, much needed tax revenue which support public services, and the overall quality of life of city residents.
Our message is to educate and inform the public and other business leaders about how their community is affected and what they can do to help bring change. Proper and responsible development is a good thing. Business attraction means more tax revenue to the city, allowing the city to lower tax rates, which leads to more businesses willing to operate in Holyoke, leading to more job opportunities, which leads to a healthier economy and ultimately a healthier population. Holyoke is a city with a rich history of public pride and responsibility to do what is best for the greater public good. It is time we recognize these attributes and help bring our city back. We hope that you will join us in our movement to inform, educate, and help raise awareness about these issues that affect all residents of the city and to help promote proper and responsible economic development in Holyoke.
If you would like to attend a Grow Holyoke meeting, join our mailing list or just inquire for more information, please contact Doris Ransford at 413-534-3376 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.