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Opinion Piece Written By Bill Kallgren
When large developments by highly motivated and highly funded global companies want to move into a town, their town officials face immense amounts of pressure. To town officials, the promises made by a developer may, at first glance, be a solution to a long term local problem, when in fact the actual outcome may be significantly different.
Let us take for example the current traffic situation in Hudson, NH. The State built out the Circumferential Highway to deposit traffic from the F.E. Everett Turnpike directly onto NH Route 3A. Over the years this has enabled development both within the town, as well as neighboring towns, such as Pelham and Litchfield, to significantly develop residential neighborhoods. Best described as “bedroom” communities; most residents work outside of their town and commute to Massachusetts. My understanding of recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data is that ~85% of residents in Hudson work outside of town.
As with other adjacent towns also being “bedroom” communities, traffic and access to the local highways and interstates is essential for residents to commute to and from work. Albeit the current pandemic precludes many residents from commuting, traffic issues continue to be a problem.
Hudson gets the short stick. The State developed the Circumferential Highway which terminates at 3A and traffic is horrid during peak commuting hours.
A developer (Hillwood) and client (Amazon) have come to the table with promises to resolve the local issues, but without making more work for Hudson’s town officials, who are working overtime to comb through mountains of information on the proposal. From my understanding - Town Planning Board meetings are being added in December with many topics being discussed simultaneously per Hillwoods' request, apparently in an effort to get a conclusion prior to years end. Thus adding more pressure on the Town to comb through documents and listen to presentations around the holidays. While I appreciate the town’s efforts to hear public input, it is frequently abbreviated. This is meant as no disrespect to the town officials; rather it seems that the developer is exceedingly verbose in describing their position during town meetings, leaving little time at the end of the meeting for public input.
I am fearful we are on a path for the town officials to make a hasty decision. However, I am hopeful that our town officials are listening to public input - let us not be hasty.
For if we are too hasty, I fear this puts us in a similar situation regarding an Amazon development in the Chicagoland area called University Park’s “Condor” project. For the Condor project, town board members were given final documents less than seven hours prior to formal vote. Referencing records from National Public Radio reporting let us explore the details (a link to the NRP report is available at the end of this document).
In the annual “State of the City” report in September, long after Amazon had already broken ground on the warehouse and had been worked on quietly to approve six months earlier, University Park Mayor Joseph Roudez made the Amazon project a centerpiece.
“The $150 million Amazon facility under construction has already generated $1 million in village revenue in impact fees, and an additional $952,000 through permit fees,” Roudez told the roughly 200 attendees gathered at the Village Hall parking lot.
Village records show the impact fees will be returned to Amazon’s developer — with interest. They show the developer also will be reimbursed for land and construction costs up to $107 million from University Park’s future tax collections. The village also will make annual interest payments equal to 7% until Amazon’s developer receives the entire amount over 20 years.
Fees paid back to the developer WITH interest! Town Reimbursement for land and construction costs to the developer!
What is the take-away?
Let the town not make a hasty decision and please hear all public input. We may find that this proposal will not yield a net positive benefit to the town, but rather it could cost the town more in the long run if proper due diligence (weighing of all benefits and negatives of the project) is not conducted.
For the full story on the Condor Project, please refer to the National Public Radio article here.