Victory for the People–And Common Sense
We celebrate a huge victory against special interests this week in my town of Hadley, Massachusetts: a retail development that was waaaay out of scale for the town, and would be illegal under current zoning, has been withdrawn.
Let me give some background. I’ve had some involvement with land and resource use/planning issues all the way back to 1972, when I was tangentially involved in opposing a nuclear power plant proposed two miles from New York City (where I was living at the time). Two years later, when I researched the safety of nuclear power for a school project, I realized just how dumb an idea that had been. Later, that was the subject of my first book.
Over time, I’ve been involved in a number of efforts around sensible development, including founding and serving as publicity chair for Save the Mountain, a group that successfully blocked a very inappropriate mountaintop development (bringing it from 40 houses going up the ridgeline to two at the bottom, and getting the remaining land protected forever).
This project, a Super Wal-Mart, would have added 6000 cars an hour, many of them crossing a very popular bike path with no traffic control. One of the streets is two lanes. The other becomes two lanes about a mile in either direction. And that corner is already facing two other large retail projects plus a large housing development. This in a rural town with a population under 5000 that already has a non-super Wal-Mart just a few hundred yards from the proposed new one–and when that was built in 1998 the company promised it would not be back for a larger one.
Wal-Mart pulled out because “Hadley [our town] had become too difficult” a place to build.
I translate that as the citizen opposition group, Hadley Neighbors for Sensible Development (in which I’m a proud participant), made it clear that this project would be opposed at every turn.
This development is dead, but the actual applicant was not Wal-Mart but Pyramid, a mall developer. It is unclear whether the developer can exercise the remaining four years of its grandfathering under the previous zoning with a different tenant.
I’m hoping that if Pyramid does come back with a different plan, that it is, in fact, a sensible development, in keeping with the nature of the town.