South Norwood Residents Score Initial Victory

On August 13th, Boch Automotive announced that it would drop its proposed development of one of the few naturally wooded parcels of land along the Neponset River in Norwood. However, residents should remain vigilant.

Anyone who doubts that local activism works should look to South Norwood.

Development of this parcel would have been devastating to the neighborhood, exacerbating local and downstream flooding, increasing polluted runoff into the river, and eliminating vital wildlife habitat in a busy suburban community. NepRWA was proud to stand with Norwood residents in opposition to the plan, and ultimately Boch Auto made the right decision on this parcel. (For more detail about the proposal, see my previous article.)

We encourage all interested residents to attend the next Planning Board Hearing:

September 10th at 7:10pm
Norwood Police Community Room
137 Nahatan St., Norwood, MA

There are two parcels of land  at 84 Morse St. that Boch Auto hopes to redevelop–one is being used to store auto parts and trucks, while the other serves as a de facto school bus lot. Boch Auto should not get a pass simply because an outrageous plan is now less outrageous. The company also shouldn’t get an automatic approval because (as someone pointed out at the hearing) it is a large property owner (and taxpayer) in town and its founder donates money to town programs to mitigate the impact of those properties. The Board must evaluate the remaining plan on its merits and hold it to the same standards as other projects—higher, in fact, since it concerns an environmental justice community.

So where are we? The Planning Board continued the hearing until September 10th at 7:10pm.

The Board will hear two related proposals in September:

1. Permission for car carriers to deliver and offload cars at Subaru of New England at 95 Morse Street.

Boch Auto and Subaru have jointly petitioned the Norwood Planning Board to lift a condition from the Special Permit governing use of this site. The 2016 condition prohibits car carriers from entering this property. The applicants have requested the change to address one of the most pressing concerns of both residents and board members.

Specifically, the concern is that car carriers create a significant public safety risk along the proposed route to 84 Morse St.. Residents and board members are concerned that car carriers are too large to travel through East Walpole to Washington Street; so much so that they will be unable to safely make the turn at the intersection with Morse St.. The thinking is this: if the condition on 95 Morse is lifted, car carriers can offload cars at Subaru of New England, and employees can drive each car individually to the proposed car storage lot at 84 Morse. St.. However, it’s important to remember that there was a reason that the Board imposed the car carrier prohibition in the first place; and there was no discussion of those concerns being addressed through the current plan.

2. Proposal to develop 84 Morse St. as an open storage lot.

This plan is constantly evolving in response to feedback from the Board. While Boch Auto must submit a revised plan showing the plan to leave the so-called “Saints lot” undeveloped, the remaining proposal is likely to remain the same. Boch Auto would like to develop the bus lot fronting on Morse St. and the building and back parking lot of the building just across the river from it into open lot storage for approximately 450 cars.

While the primary concern of residents and Board members over the original proposal was the presence of car carriers on Washington and Morse Streets, residents are not jumping at the new plan. This is because the plan for 95 Morse St., as filed, is less than clear about how well car carriers fit on Morse St., and whether they can safely enter and exit the Subaru property. (At least two residents testified that a single carrier parked on the side of Morse St. near Route 1 blocked most of the street, including the oncoming traffic lane.)  Additionally, residents are concerned about the increased traffic from up to 56 cars per day being driven from 95 to the proposed lot at 84 Morse St.

There are also several outstanding environmental concerns. First, Boch Auto submitted for the first time a summary report of environmental contamination at the developed lot at 84 Morse St. (to the east of the Neponset River). Without more information, it’s unclear how this contamination impacts the environment or how it should be remedied before redevelopment.

Second, the stormwater management systems (engineered systems to treat polluted runoff before allowing the water to flow into the river) do not appear to comply with state stormwater standards given the proposal to store cars on the land. Finally, the residents of this community are already overburdened with commercial and industrial land uses. The Commonwealth has recognized the neighborhood as an environmental justice community, and open lot car storage will only further burden the area.

We look forward to continuing to work with Norwood residents on this issue. We encourage all interested residents to attend the next hearing:


September 10th at 7:10pm
Norwood Police Community Room
137 Nahatan St., Norwood, MA

Kerry Snyder, Advocacy Director, Aug. 14, 2018

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