The Pittsfield Board of Trustees unanimously denied a rezoning application submitted by Wacker Chemical Corporation last week, ending a year-long development request from the chemical corporation to establish a new headquarters and research center in the township.
The decision arrived nearly a month after the board let the rezoning application die without casting a vote on the request. Trustee Yameen Jaffer, who was the lone trustee to request a reading of the requested amendment last month, was absent from last week’s meeting.
The five votes from the trustees received applause from a majority of the audience attending Wednesday’s board meeting, following an hour of public comment that saw township residents question why the chemical company’s request was still being heard by the public officials.
The proposed site by Wacker Chemical would have been an 18-acre regional headquarters that would have sat alongside Textile Road. The 140,622 square-foot proposed building would have been located across from the park at Marsh View Meadows.
Last week marked the sixth time the proposed development was discussed by public officials, having previously been heard by the Pittsfield Planning Commission in January, April, May and August. The first hour of the trustee meeting, which was dedicated to 24 residents who spoke out about the proposal during public comment, was a familiar sight to many who attended that night.
“Has anybody ever seen the movie ‘Groundhog’s Day?’” asked one resident nearly halfway through the public comment. “Because I feel like I’m currently living in that movie.”
Supervisor Mandy Grewal spoke before casting her vote against the ordinance, saying she came upon her decision after recalling her past 11 years with the board.
“My approach has always been pro-community. That is what I have done, will do and continue to do in my role as supervisor for the township,” she said. “I think the major question that lies in front of this board today is: would this development serve to better this community?”
Grewal said although she heard from residents who spoke favorably about the possible economic benefits a developer like Wacker Chemical could bring to the area, she said the proposed site would clash with Pittsfield’s 2020 Master Plan – a plan that stresses the preservation of wetlands and green spaces in the township.
“These analysis and comparisons, especially when made in light of this administration’s longstanding commitment, spanning more than a decade to promote sustainability and strike a balance between building and green spaces require me to vote against this proposed development,” she said.
Trustees Michelle Anzaldi, Linda Edwards-Brown and George Ralph, alongside treasurer Patricia Scribner, spoke in agreement with Grewal.
“I have issues with all of the environmental concerns that our residents have,” Anzaldi said. “The fact that our residents feel so strongly about this, it weighs on me.”