Public outcry over Hampden self-storage facility continues

Nov. 3, 2021 | Sarah Heinonen

HAMPDEN – The Hampden Planning Board began their Oct. 27 meeting by naming John Matthews, who had been serving as the interim chair, to the permanent position. The board went on to continue its special permit public hearing on the self-storage facility at 16 Somers Rd.

Viable Business

Planning Board member Heather Beattie asked the petitioner, Attorney Raipher Pellegrino of 16 Somers Rd., LLC, how the town can be sure the business would be successful considering a competing facility will be located next to it. Matthews admonished Beattie to keep her comments to the 16 Somers Rd. project only, as the other site is a separate matter.

Planning Board member Jason Barroso asked Pellegrino if he would submit a letter from the bank issuing a loan for the project. Pellegrino opposed this. He defended the company’s plan as “economically viable” and said the finances were outside the Planning Board’s purview. He also pointed out that the board had not asked any of the other businesses before them that night for their financials. Barroso pointed out that the success of a business is written into the special permit bylaw, but moved on.

At Barroso’s request, Pellegrino explained that the company had considered other uses for the land, including an assisted living facility. That option was infeasible due to a lack of town water and sewer. There were other uses considered, including leasing it as a car sales lot, but Pellegrino said the company looked for something that would be commercially successful and have a low impact on the town. He said the company had gone “out of our way” to adjust to the town’s requirements.

List of Requirements

“I’ve given this a lot of thought and there’s some things I’d be pushing for,” Barroso told the petitioner. He presented a list of changes to the plan, including a maintenance plan for the grooming of the arborvitae, that the plants are no more than four feet apart and there be no more than two feet from the top of the fence to the roof of the storage units.

Barroso asked for a solid, vinyl fence where the two residences abut the facility. Matthews agreed, and said a chain-link fence between the facility and homes was a “non-starter,” as it was “too industrial.” He asked for an 8-foot vinyl fence by the residents and at the front of the property. Pellegrino argued that 8-feet wasn’t in keeping with the historical nature, but agreed.

He also asked for a baseline water-quality sample of the two residential wells, paid for by 16 Somers Road, LLC. Pellegrino objected to this and said you would need to test the facility to know where any contaminants came from. He also disagreed that the company should pay for the testing, but acquiesced to the requests.

Barroso asked Pellegrino to leave undisturbed the 50-foot setback where it abuts homes. As it was presented, the fence and arborvitae that surround the property would have been located in the setback. Barroso said he wasn’t concerned with the areas of the property that abut businesses.

Pellegrino noted there were 100 additional feet between the setback and any of the homes but conceded it was an “acceptable” and “fair” ask.

Beattie included a yearly maintenance record for the permeable asphalt on the list. Addressing a concern frequently cited by residents, she asked Pellegrino about insurance to protect against environmental damage due to hazardous material stored there without the owner’s knowledge. He explained that his general insurance policy contains an environmental rider. “Any abutter in the town would be covered,” Pellegrino told her.

Matthews told Pellegrino that he wanted the septic system moved onto the site, despite an agreement to house it on a neighboring property. “I’m not going for a septic on someone else’s property,” Matthews said, adding that an easement would not be allowed.

Pellegrino responded that he will do whatever the Planning Board asks.


Before the attorney for the Save Hampden citizens’ group, Seth Wilson, spoke, Matthews advised him that there was no legal requirement that both lawyers be given equal time to speak, as Wilson had insisted at previous meetings. The lawyer conceded this and began laying out his objections to the project.

Wilson said that the facility would have a “significant impact on, if not destroy, the rural character,” of the town. Referring to the earlier conversation regarding the business’s success, he said it was a valid concern for the board. Wilson also doubted the facility’s insurance would cover hazardous material leaks.

He emphasized that each member of the Planning Board needed to make an individual decision on the matter. He said he had submitted legal cases, not to threaten litigation, but to give the board a basis on which to deny the special permit.

“The whole purpose for the public meeting is for any concerns to be heard in a fair context,” Wilson said. Barroso pushed back, stating that the people speaking at a meeting were there to give the board all pertinent information and not necessarily to have their opinions heard.

Wilson continued. He said the “complete consensus” of the residents in the room should let the board know where the townspeople stand on the issue. He added that no resident had come to speak in defense of the self-storage units. “The loudest voice in the room is what’s not being said,” Wilson remarked.

Barroso addressed the citizens and acknowledged their opposition, but he explained there are only four legal reasons the board can deny a special permit and opposition isn’t one. Wilson countered that property values and rural character were on the list.

Barroso questioned Wilson on whether the appearance of the business or its purpose was the problem. The attorney responded, “both.” Barroso pushed, “So even if it looked like a New England farmhouse,” Save Hampden would be opposed? Wilson hesitated, but after members of the crowd shouted out that they would be, he confirmed it.

Wilson brought up that there was talk among residents about purchasing both 16 Somers Rd. and the adjacent parcel under consideration for self-storage, 2 Somers Rd. Finally, he said, the technical aspects of the project should be considered apart from the rural character and property values.

Resident Mary Grasetti objected to the “aesthetic value.” She said, “The cities have been plundered and now they’re coming to the small towns.” She did not clarify who “they” were. Grasetti cited an article from the website,, which stated that self-storage fires should be treated as hazardous waste situations.

Resident Mark Feeney read from the state regulation governing special permits, MGL Chapter 40A. He said the facility falls under hazardous waste restrictions on what businesses can be sited over an aquifer because the owner can’t control what is stored there with complete certainty.

Feeney also said that the self-storage business is not commercial in nature and, therefore, doesn’t comply with the zoning.


Pellegrino responded to Wilson’s remarks and confronted the narrative of Hampden as rural. He noted the nearby gas station with a lighted “neon” sign, rows of trash trucks at McNamara Waste across the street from the property and abandoned equipment nearby. “You have not heard one expert come in and say there would be property value degradation,” Pellegrino pointed out.

He also told Matthews no one had contacted 16 Somers Rd. about selling the land. Wilson contended that Save Hampden was “in conversation” with the town about it. Board of Selectmen Chair Donald Davenport later confirmed to Reminder Publishing that the organization had inquired about circulating a petition to conduct a Special Town Meeting on purchasing the land, but said nothing had been submitted.

Next steps

When Matthews tried to set a date for a continuance, a resident told him, “It seems like you’re not listening.” Resident Jeff Grasetti asked Matthews when they would address Feeney’s comments. Matthews explained that the process allows for discussion and deliberation only after the public hearing is closed. Once it is closed, no new comments or documents can be submitted. “All deliberations are done in the open,” Matthews said.

The public meeting was continued to Nov. 17 at 6:15 p.m.

Other Matters

The Planning Board handled other matters on Oct. 27, as well. Linda Bond, co-owner of Mountain View Restaurant, was approved to permanently expand the seating for the seasonal eatery. The tent at the rear of the property that had been approved under COVID-19 rules was allowed to become a part of the business’s site plan, so long as there was enough parking for the increased seating. Bond elected to remove one four-person table after it was discovered that the parking lot was two spaces short. The business now seats 92 customers total.

Home offices were approved for Xpress Junk Removal at 711 Main St. and a mobile massage therapy business at 25 Potash Hill Ln. Neither office will have customer access, deliveries or employees.

Daniel O’Brien petitioned to have two separate parcels joined into one property. When asked why he said it would be simpler, then quipped, “someone might want to put self-storage units there.” The change was approved.

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