So How Should We Increase the Supply of Land for Industrial Development?

If I don’t think we should have annexed 530 acres located 3 ½ miles from our community’s center and 3 ½ miles from the interstate highway (neither here nor there), what do I think we should have done? I think we should have identified 120 acres next to our existing infrastructure, close to our existing amenities, and near to our existing business districts.

Perhaps you remember the “Troublesome Trio”, the late Ron Griffith, Alice Thomas, and myself. We were the three Planning Commissioners who advocated for serious and substantive exploration of alternative sites for addition to our inventory of industrial land.

We favored further consideration of sites near our existing industrial districts. Specifically, we wanted to consider sites between Dresden Avenue and Highway 3 at the north edge of town and sties between Armstrong Road and Highway 19 on the west edge of town.

Both of these locations are yards, not miles, from existing infrastructure. Both of these areas are connected to the existing network of roads. Finally, both of these potential sites have railroad access. This last aspect, railroad access, changed the Troublesome Trio into the Fulsome Four at the time of the vote, with then-Chair Greg Colby joining us.

As you may have noticed, I think the Northwest Territory is a bad location. I don’t think it will succeed, at least in our lifetime.

I don’t think this plan would pass a financial cost-benefit analysis and, at the very least, I don’t think it’s a good investment of $30 million of taxpayer money.

I also don’t think the existing transportation network is anywhere near adequate. This is also the lack of access to the railroad.

Finally, much of the land in the Northwest Territory is swamp, or, if you prefer, hydric soil. It will be difficult to develop, and, as local dirt work expert and Chamber board president Jim Gleason noted, it will be very expensive to develop.

Frankly, I’m not sure the project will pass an Environmental Assessment Worksheet. When I raised this concern, twice, at the Planning Commission, my concerns were dismissed by the Community Development Director with “Don’t even worry about it”.

The good news is that we’ve only spent $250,00 for the most recent consultant and probably about that much on staff time. There’s still time to change the road we’re on…we haven’t spent the $30 million yet.

Let’s sit down with Waterford and Bridgewater and tell them that Northfield needs 120 acres of industrial land. Let’s do more than just talk about regional collaboration, let’s work with our neighbors to meet Northfield’s economic needs in a way that also respects their vision of the future.

With more focused specifications for our industrial land development plan, a realistic project scale for our community’s actual needs, and an implementation approach that will produce quicker results and more feasible financing, we will not only be more likely to achieve our goal of producing more industrial land but help to insure that the ultimate project developments will be more successful.

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