(Photo courtesy of CPS Daily News) A digital photo of a skyline with the amazon logo in front of it.
Editor Note: This story has been updated since it was first posted on Oct. 12 to include the perspective of Hillwood, the developers of the Hudson Logistic Center. Nothing was removed from the original story. – Oct. 21, 2020
A group of residents in Hudson, N.H. have banded together to stop plans of turning the Green Meadow Golf Club, what they call their “most valuable 400 acres of green space,” from being developed. The proposed plans include three distribution buildings, two of which would be used by Amazon.
The group argues that the Hudson Logistics Center, proposed by Hillwood Investment Properties, will have immense environmental impacts, create traffic that local infrastructure cannot support and lower the quality of life for residents in Hudson and surrounding areas.
“It is really a battle of the quality of life in Hudson,” said James Dobens, a Hudson resident and one of the founding members of Save Hudson. “When you look at facilities like this — and I am well versed in logistic centers—you are going to impact the town in multiple ways that all roll out to impacting the quality of life.”
Save Hudson aims to educate Hudson residents and the surrounding groups about these types of facilities and to encourage them to take action Dobens said. Their website provides information about the facilities proposed, what goes into them, different points of view and a petition to prevent the development.
“The sheer magnitude of this project is not going to affect just Hudson but the cities of Nashua, Tyngsboro [and] Pelham. I think what people need to understand is the sheer size and magnitude of the project.”
Dobens said they believe that the facilities will generate traffic that will stretch out to neighboring towns and that the pollutants and runoff generated will pollute the air and possibly even the Merrimack River, which towns like Lowell use for drinking water.
“The Hudson Logistics Center will be a good steward of the environment,” said Gary Frederick, Senior Vice President at Hillwood in a statement to the Connector. “The proposal will only have minimal impacts on the Merrimack River while enhancing, protecting, and preserving its 250-foot shoreland area.”
The Lower Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee said the project’s wetland impacts “appear to pose no threat to the public resources to the Merrimack river,” and noted that the project’s, “river shoreland protection is quite satisfying,” said Fredrick. The plans for the logistic center will include a storm water management system to remove oils and sediment from storm water, limiting wetland and wetland buffer impacts to less than three acres and allocating 60 percent of the site to green space.
Fredrick says that Hillwood is also proposing to convey dozens of acres to high-value wetlands and wildlife habitat to Hudson’s Conservation Commission for protection and management and mitigate the impacts to wildlife by engaging in a monitoring and management effort to ensure the protection of existing and restored habitat.
“I firmly believe that if more people understood the scope of the project, that is going in and the impact it will have, not just on the town, but to the region and the environment, I think more people would become actively involved.'”
Through his work at Procter and Gamble, Dobens has worked with companies like Amazon and is familiar with the type of fulfillment center that is being proposed. He says the projections that Hillwood has given about the utilization of the facility are too low and would be a complete underutilization of a facility this size.
“Contrary to statements made by a representative from the Save Hudson opposition group, the roadway infrastructure, with our proposed improvements, will indeed support the Hudson Logistics Center. The signalization and roadway improvements we are proposing will address existing traffic problems on Lowell Road while also mitigating additional traffic from the center,” said Frederick. “Our traffic impact study and trip generation projections have been reviewed and accepted by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and the Nashua Regional Planning Commission.”
Frederick says the study projects 240 tractor trailer trucks and 40 box trucks entering and exiting the site on an average day and projections sated by Save Hudson are not grounded in fact and are thirty times higher than their numbers.
Save Hudson has also conducted a study on the impacts that the facility will have on property values. They found that Hillwood had underestimated the impact on property values in similar studies by looking at communities that had much smaller facilities or where property value was already low.
Dobens says the Friel family, who owns the land, has every right to sell it, but he believes they also have a responsibility to the town and community not to reduce the quality of life in Hudson. He says there are other developments that the land could be used for that, with the right help from the state, could help the community.
“Let’s develop it responsibly,” says Dobens. “Let’s protect the wetlands. Let’s protect the Merrimack watershed. There are development and things that can go in that are not going to impact the environment and quality of life the way that this is.”
Fredrick said that in respect the quality of life for the Hudson residents, the logistic center will infuse millions of dollars into the local economy.
“The project will create 1,400 high-quality jobs with generous benefits, 994 indirect and induced jobs and 833 construction jobs. These jobs will inject $81.5 million in annual wages ($1.5 million in payroll each week) into the local economy,” said Fredrick. Additionally, Fredrick said that the center will generate more than $5 million in annual property tax revenue the town could use to reduce taxes or fund community betterment projects. He says the development will also contribute a one-time impact fee of nearly $2 million to the town.
Dobens said that the resulting tax revenue wouldn’t be worth the degradation of Hudson’s quality of life. He adds that the unemployment rate in Hudson is only 3%, and assuming that those numbers include people who can’t or don’t have to work, it’s likely that the workers would have to come from somewhere else. He says that the jobs wouldn’t be quality and that the workers would be paid 14 to 15$. Dobens says these jobs wouldn’t pay enough for some to affordably live in Hudson and would lower Hudson’s median income.
As of right now, Hillwood has made no plans to start development. Dobens says before they can start, they need to complete traffic, feasibility, cost and impact studies in addition to securing approval from the state and wetland permits. Dobens says there are also a lot of questions that the community wants answered.
Dobens said students and Merrimack Valley residents should learn more about what this facility is and create awareness about what it is going to do and its long-term implications.
“We all want those boxes when we order them to show up at our doorstep the next day, but there is another side behind it as to how does it actually gets there,” Dobens said.