Ken’s Food seeking variance to expand to east – April 21 ZBA Hearing

Above: The Route 9 distribution center for Ken’s Dressings is looking to expand east in apparent contradiction to justifications for its height variance granted in 2016. (images from Google Maps and variance application)

Ken’s Foods is again going before the Zoning Board of Appeals. This time, the business is seeking to expand its distribution center on its east end. The proposed expansion is 62,500 square feet.

The expansion would bring the building closer to a northeast neighborhood that expressed anger with the business back in 2014. But the noise issues appear to have been long resolved, and the application promises that the expansion would only increase improvements, not regress them. (Scroll down for more on that.)

The business is looking for zoning relief to allow the eastward expansion. While the application acknowledges a prior height variance, it doesn’t appear to explain why the business didn’t take advantage of that relief and is now seeking a different variance.

In 2016, Ken’s requested a variance to expand up to 65 feet, higher than normal zoning restrictions. (This followed a 2015 special permit that allowed the building to expand by 145,000 square feet in the front.)

At the time, attorney, Bill Pezzoni argued that water and soil issues prevented the business from expanding the building’s footprint enough to provide capacity needed. The ZBA agreed that special relief was needed. The height variance was granted with the condition that large pines would be planted on two impacted abutting properties to screen the view. 

Close to five years later, Pezzoni is seeking a different variance for his client:

The Applicant will be making a substantial investment in the internal operations of its business by purchasing additional equipment and will require a 62,500 gross square foot expansion to the existing facility building at the site. The added tax benefits and positive steps for non-invasive economic development provided by the Applicant will outweigh any adverse effects on the Town or the vicinity, as the Applicant is not altering its (i) operational location (other than the proposed expansion), (ii) activity type or mix, (iii) visual consequences (other than the addition to the existing building to the east), (iv) access, or (v) development rate. 

In the 2021 application, the building’s proposed height would remains at 34.6 feet. I looked back at the minutes and documents from the Planning Board Site Plan Review hearings and modification hearing and discussions in 2017, 2018, and 2019. All appeared to reference plans for a 2 story building. I couldn’t find an explanation for why the height variance wasn’t being utilized.

The new ZBA hearing is scheduled to take place over zoom on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 7:00 pm:

The petitioner(s) is seeking a Special Permit to allow the expansion of the existing building to exceed 50,000 square feet for the allowed and previously permitted purpose of wholesale distribution, storage and manufacturing in the Industrial Park and Residential A Districts. Relief is requested under Section 174-9, 174-25 (A) (2) and 174-8.6 (C) (1). A copy of the application may be reviewed at the office of the Building Department located at 9 Cordaville Road, Lower Level, Southborough, MA during normal business hours.

Ken’s Foods first time in front of the Southborough ZBA was in 2014. Hearings brought out angry residents that the new expansion would now bring them closer to. But that conflict stemmed from issues that seem to have been long resolved. The application seeks to assure that requested changes won’t disrupt neighbors’ peace.

In 2014, a loading dock on the north side of the business was disruptive to abutting neighborhoods. Residents objected to disturbing noises from the business’ overnight operations. At the time, the business was seeking a clarification to its special permit to allow 24×7 operations. The ZBA approved the request, but with conditions including sound barriers to mitigate the disruptions. 

In the 2016 hearings, Pezzoni said that the sound measures had worked. The attorney told the board that the sound barriers resolved noise complaints. Pezzoni also indicated that efficiencies through expanding on site operations (if the height variance was approved) would reduce late night trucks and related noises even more. In 2018, the business announced that it was removing the problematic, north side loading docks. In a 2019 Planning Board Site Plan Review hearing, the business confirmed that was a permanent closure. An abutter thanked the business for the resulting improved quiet.

The new application assures:

the proposed building expansion does not alter the location of truck activity, which continues to be buffered from abutters, and provides compatibility between the facility and residential abutters. . .

The Applicant’s past and present steps to mitigate any present and future perceived issues have been substantial and shall continue in its attempt to mitigate substantive issues raised by abutters and/or the Town.

Over the years, there have also been concerns from Deerfoot and Flagg road neighborhoods about the impact of Ken’s Food trucks on their streets. The application claims that expanding the building would reduce the number of truck trips to the facility:

As the proposed expansion will not increase traffic to/from the site, there is no substantive impact. The expansion will accommodate greater storage capacity and will decrease the number of deliveries coming to/from the Ken’s facility in Marlborough, which will offset any potential truck traffic transporting product from the site. Furthermore, the facility is
located on Route 9 and any increase in traffic to or from the facility would be negligible.

While the hearing notice was mailed to abutters, the Town hadn’t posted the notice to a page on the website dedicated to hearing notices.

Last April, the Town set up a special Hearing Notices page to temporarily replace the Town Hall bulletin board. It appears that few boards have been following through with using it. Town Administrator Mark Purple informed me this morning that he would be sending a reminder out to boards and departments. Since then, the ZBA hearing notice was posted.

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Bad for the Neighborhood
2 years ago

This is simply bad all the way around. That is an enormous expansion, the size of an entire independent warehouse. This will bring added clog, noise, disruption, and worst of all: tractor trailer trucks. So far, in spite of signs and redirecting efforts, these gargantuan dangerous trucks make their way onto local roads, including Flagg Road. Short memories need to recall the 18 wheeler being towed off the children’s footpath to Trottier School.

Enough is enough. This is overdevelopment of a commercial parcel infringing on good neighbors. The ZBA should not be granting a special permit to allow more clog, noise, and chaotic overbearing traffic.

2 years ago

Every time I drive by this site, I am amazed at the decisions that have been made. I am not a civil engineer, but I simply don’t understand the logic of the site design, specifically regarding the intersection. What we have is a major distribution center that has both incoming and outgoing big rigs on Route 9 that can only make right hand turns. As a result, trucks traveling eastbound on Route 9 must use the 85 exchange to turn around and enter the depot; and similarly trucks exiting the site can’t travel eastbound easily (i.e., use Flagg Rd. or perhaps even the 495 exchange?).
This ultimately means a lot of traffic on back roads and wear and tear on infrastructure / knocked signs / etc. as trucks make wide turns on roads that were not necessarily designed for them.
I am a pragmatist, and in general I would give them the benefit of the doubt insofar as their intentions – they have, it seems, rectified the noise complaints brought up. And the site isn’t really going anywhere.
But would it be too much to ask for them to work with the town and abutting businesses to create an entrance / exit to their facility that would be more direct, and thus avoid any risks of impact to our local roads? It would be a lot of work because of the involved agencies. But it would be worthwhile in the end, and the work could be a requirement to granting the variance.

2 years ago

As a resident of Parkerville Road (north) I frequently can hear diesel truck engines idling – at ALL HOURS OF THE NIGHT.

I had heard from another resident that Ken’s Foods had built some noise barrier to satisfy the concerns of the residents of Deerfoot Rd. (north) in their $1M+ homes. If there is a barrier, it is insufficient.

Realize that my location is on the other side of the hill (Deerfoot Rd.) and the sound carries at least this far. We, as a community, do not need or want a constant background of NOISE POLLUTION.

As Curious has noted above, we frequently have 18-wheelers pulling U-turns on route 9 at Middle Rd. – which is more than JUST A LITTLE DISRUPTIVE and, those that do not, use the 85 interchange – and SWING OUT INTO ONCOMING TRAFFIC southbound on 85.

On several occasions, I have witnessed 18-wheelers pull out onto route 9 and head west – AGAINST THE LIGHT FOR THEM. Again, a tactic which is more than JUST A LITTLE DISRUPTIVE.

It is time for the political “leadership” of this community to step up and represent the feelings, thoughts and wishes of the community.

The citizens keep speaking out – and BOS and ZBA just keep on ignoring them!

2 years ago
Reply to  NO!!!

I call bs you can hear engines idling at all hours of the night from Parkerville. You’re probably hearing the hvac units from the schools. If not you’re probably hearing rt 9, you know that highway that rolls through town?

As for middle road, completely agree. The state should have closed that off when they widened and repaved a few years back. It’s a nuisance and useless when the 85 exchange is about 200 yards away.

If Ken’s says the expansion is going not add traffic what so ever, let em expand. This town needs to start being business friendly to bring in tax revenues. We have multiple vacant buildings on rt 9 rotting and people are stomping their feet at one business wanting to expand. As for the neighbors, that building was there FAR before your house. Ya’ll moved there knowing that building was there. Zip it.

Bad for the Neighborhood
2 years ago

This special variance should not be granted, full stop. The negative impacts cannot be mitigated away. This is an enormous expansion, the size of a fully independent warehouse building and all that goes with that, including noise and truck traffic. The Route 9 / 495 intersection is already rated a Level of Service “F” location. How much more traffic and commercial trucks can be added to that situation? It is already dangerous on Route 9 and in terms of spillover to local roads.

Agree with Curious that the entrance area is bizarrely engineered. If a truck misses the entrance, it ends up on Flagg or doing a turnaround on 495.

That said, even addressing the entrance, that does not mitigate in any way the numerous list of negatives that this type, size, and location of this expansion brings in terms of dangerous and harmful impacts to the neighborhood. Raise your hand if you are sick of the same old, ignorant, ram it through bullshit. This is not a by-right matter. This is too much and too impactful. A special permit is not warranted in this situation and should not be granted.

2 years ago

I don’t have a dog in this fight but I do think it’s worth pointing out that Ken’s application clearly states that the expansion “… will not increase traffic to/from the site.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

I can only assume that Ken’s would gladly support major changes to Route 9 to allow east and west traffic into and out of their driveway. What a welcome change that would be to anyone who ever dealt with the traffic logjam created when 18 wheelers try to make a U-turn at Middle Road.

Kelly Roney
2 years ago
Reply to  southsider

Having a standard cross-shaped intersection with the warehouse driveway directly across from Crystal Pond Rd. seems like a good idea, one so obviously good that it’s hard to imagine why it hasn’t been done. But… there’s a property line issue and possible a wetlands issue. It seems to me there are ways to solve both.

What would the consequences be for Ken’s if the traffic increased? What if Ken’s vacated in favor of, say, Amazon, for whom huge warehouses are springing up everywhere?

2 years ago
Reply to  southsider

Yeah and park central’s traffic is the equivalent of 8 single family houses. I’m calling BS, more production, space means more trucks.

Bad for the Neighborhood
2 years ago

No!!!! Is spot on. It’s time for political leadership. More is always more, and in this case this is too much. These boards, namely ZBA, have run roughshod over residents concerns for years, creating chaos. Part of the art and science of the job is using common sense in knowing when too much is too much. It’s not just daytime truck and other traffic, it is noisy nighttime traffic too. This will add chaos to an already overbearing situation on local roads. No means no. This is too much for this end of town. It’s all about being a good neighbor.

2 years ago

You buy a house in a neighborhood adjacent to industrial zoned parcels on Rte 9 and then feel entitled to complain when these parcels are used as intended, denying the town of much needed tax revenue. If issues of concern have been mitigated, and this expansion will not add to those concerns and in some ways will improve them further, absolutely go ahead and approve the requested expansion.

Kelly Roney
2 years ago
Reply to  Petunia

I really don’t think the residential neighbors should have to sit quietly in the corner for an expansion of use. They may or may not be right, but “entitled” seems unfair.

D McGee
2 years ago
Reply to  Petunia

Wrong. If it were used “as intended”, they wouldn’t need a Special Permit.

tax revenue?
2 years ago

Funny Petunia should mention tax revenue. Take a look at the vacant office buildings along route 9 in Southborough. As each year passes, more tenants leave those buildings.

While some people are trying to lure businesses to the downtown area, Southborough can’t even keep businesses in the office buildings along the existing commercial corridor!

Where has the real estate tax money been going from the huge Madison Place complex? Despite all of those units being added to the tax rolls, our taxes keep going up. When will voters at the Annual Town Meeting (ATM) stop voting for increases?

Marijke Munsiff
2 years ago
Reply to  tax revenue?

So glad you brought up tax revenue. Expect Southborough’s residential taxes to keep trending upwards for years to come unless we get serious about attracting and keeping businesses in town.

Today, only 11% of the Town’s tax revenue is derived from commercial activity (an additional 5% from Industrial property tax revenue).

Of the total land use in Southborough, just 9% is zoned for commercial and/or industrial use. A tiny fraction of that is available for development. See “The State of Southborough in Facts and Figures” for more fascinating data:

In order to bolster the Town’s commercial tax base, relieve pressure on residential taxes and keep up with increased spending needs by the Town, it is vital that existing commercial zones in Southborough are utilized to its fullest potential.

The Downtown village as well as Route-9 are priorities and are interconnected. It isn’t a matter of focusing on one first and the other later.
Some of the issues that the town is aiming to address, related to Route-9 are:
– Restricted zoning
– Long permitting process
– Lack of wastewater infrastructure (which makes certain uses impossible, f.e. lab space)
– East-West traffic pattern
– Lack of amenities that company employees need (frequently noted by commercial realtors)

Southborough’s main competitive advantage over surrounding towns is our location and single tax rate. If the town is serious about attracting and keeping businesses in Southborough, the issues that have been identified for decades will have to finally be addressed: zoning and infrastructure.

Carl Guyer
2 years ago

So the myth of lower tax rates with increased commercial development continues.

As I have pointed out before, actual data shows a trend of increasing tax rates as the percentage of the commercial and industrial tax base increases. It is a weak correlation, but an increasing one.

So many continue to think there is a strong correlation between tax rates and commercial development pushing tax rates down as the density of commercial development increases. There is no sign of this in the actual data. The impact of commercial and industrial development has many facets to a community and cannot be distilled down to a simple idea tax money from taxing a commercial or industrial development translates to lower residential tax bills.

The real danger for a community like Southborough with relatively high average residential assessments is the trend of lower average assessed home values with higher percentages of commercial and industrial development.

Southborough’s actual real estate tax rate issue is the current situation where the residential tax is higher than that on 80% of the residential property in the state while our commercial and industrial tax rates are lower than 75% of the commercial and industrial property in the state. An imbalance created by misguided tax policy decisions and adds a considerable tax burden to residents to support this misalignment.

Almost all the communities with split tax rates are those with a high percentage of their tax base in commercial and industrial property. They don’t do this because they have the lowest tax rates in the state, they do this to relieve the residents from the impact of hight tax rates. Have you ever wondered why they do this ?

One of the chief opponents to correcting this imbalance is the town’s’ Assessor. Here in his own words is his reasoning for maintaining the state quo :

2 years ago
Reply to  Carl Guyer

We don’t live here for the commercial development. The tax balance inversion is a strong and valid point to address – it is right up there with “trickle-down” as an issue people seem to try to wish into reality. Data says otherwise.

2 years ago
Reply to  tax revenue?

Good point Tax Revenue?? When the school committee finally comes to their senses and stops the overspending and budget increases we might see some tax relief. Were you here several years ago when Charles Gobron stood up at Town Meeting and gave a speech to a raucous applause that you would think he was God? People need to realize the schools have the biggest budget. Ask to see the salary scale for the schools. Same type jobs as the town yet thousands of dollars more in salary for EACH person in the Superintendent’s Office. People don’t want to hear it. They hold the schools on a pedestal and to a point they should. To the point that taxes in this town for almost no services is ridiculous! I feel for the elderly who are on limited incomes and yet nobody does anything about it. My comment won’t be well received and I am ok with that. I worry more about my pocketbook than the people I will offend. Stop the schools and the reckless school committee who don’t even look at the day to day spending so we can finally get a much needed break. So, to answer the question….your money is going to the schools!

2 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

I’m sure the comment is made in jest since you must realize that the “Teacher’s Union” is not publicly funded, but agreed that the amount of money going to schools is huge and each dollar should be as closely scrutinized and negotiated as every other dollar spent by the town.

Frank Crowell
2 years ago
Reply to  Jack

No Jack, I really wasn’t kidding. Yes, the union is paid for by dues paid by its members, but they can leave the union. We could incentivize them to leave as well. Or how about a public/private school for a different K-8 experience. We have an extra school for that. I am sure the Fay School is itching to help. We can call it the Southborough Charter Hybrid Option.

just saying...
2 years ago
Reply to  Resident

Have you been to the Superintendent’s office? There aren’t enough people working there to move the tax needle in any material way. And many would say that our school system is ONE of the reasons that people are selling their homes at significant increases above asking price on the day they put their home up for sale! New buyers reportedly always mention the school system’s positive reputation.I know there are also other reasons but I am certain that my kids received a great education in our public schools and realistically, material cuts to those budgets will result in teacher layoffs which I definitely oppose. I’m happy to live here and would even pay a bit more in taxes to expand some services , e.g. Transfer Station hours…just sayin’…

2 years ago
Reply to  just saying...

Yes I have been to the Superintendent’s Office. With the salaries those people make they could easily cut over $100,000 out of the budget. They are grossly overpaid for the jobs that they are doing. Compare a payroll person at the Supt office to town hall. There is a difference of about $20,000 per year!! Take that times 3-5 employees and you have $100,000. That doesn’t even start to look at all the other employees there. With over 20 employees in that office you would be surprised. Then let’s look at teachers on top of it. Our teachers are certainly not underpaid. The salaries are public people. Look at where your money is going. You wouldn’t run your own business without the looking at places to cut spending so why allow the town to keep picking from your pocket. Yes, the teacher’s union comes into play and believe me they play hard. Don’t for one second think that the negotiations between the union and the Superintendent are not for any of our benefits. He has one agenda and it is HIS and always HIS. He learned from the best in Christine Johnson, he is just sneakier about it. Time to call to arms the school committee that WE ELECT. Time to hold them accountable for what they are signing up to do. If we don’t they will continue to run rampant as they have been for many years. ENOUGH!

just sayin'
2 years ago
Reply to  Resident

So Gobron thought he was God, Christine Johnson was deceitful and always did what she wanted and Greg Martineau is just like her but even sneakier. How nice of you.
I don’t think this blog ( or anywhere else for that matter ) is a proper place for name calling… but I was sorely tempted today!

Bad for the Neighborhood
2 years ago

One look at the nonsensical bla-bla above should convince any taxpayer to disband this pro developer voice and arm of a so called EDC. This town is simply too small and easily ruined by overdevelopment. Voters on this end of town understand full well what a disaster overdevelopment brings and certainly has the right to object. This is a “special” permit and not a matter of right, and should not be granted. And many residents were here first.

It’s all about reducing carbon footprints these days, recycling, and reusing. Taxpayers absolutely do not have to pay for developers infrastructure and increase their profits. Glad the subject of taxes has come up. Time to stop subsidizing commercial owners and time for a split rate. Let them pay their fair share. Tax Revenue? is right on point: adding development did nothing to slow tax increases at all. That is a valuable lesson for voters.

This town is tiny and half of it is water. It is already overburdened by the clog and emissions from two major roadways, Route 9 and 495. The town doesn’t need more development or an EDC, particularly one that has zero track record. Save tax dollars by cutting their budget to zero. Split the tax rate and cut the ridiculous school budget. Taxpayers and voters, just say no to increases at annual town meeting. We can start saving money by sending this EDC packing.

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