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Deerfield to review zoning to kickstart industrial park growth

The industrial park off Route 116 was created in 1977 when the 73 acres upon which it sits was rezoned from agricultural to industrial use with hopes of attracting large manufacturers and to prevent the jobs they provided from leaving Franklin County.
(Recorder/Micky Bedell)

The industrial park off Route 116 was created in 1977 when the 73 acres upon which it sits was rezoned from agricultural to industrial use with hopes of attracting large manufacturers and to prevent the jobs they provided from leaving Franklin County. (Recorder/Micky Bedell) Purchase photo reprints »

DEERFIELD — Salvation may be on the horizon for Deerfield’s struggling industrial park.

The Deerfield Economic Development and Industrial Corp. will conduct a review of the town’s zoning bylaws in an effort to attract new tenants and spur growth within the park.

Members of the nonprofit corporation, which owns the park, came before the town Planning Board this week to pitch the possibility of changing the bylaws that restrict how land in the industrial park can be used.

According to DEDIC Chairman Paul Olszewski, the review will begin at the corporation’s Aug. 14 meeting. It will look at ways the bylaws governing the planned industrial district surrounding the park off Route 116 could be “tweaked or enhanced” to accommodate companies or corporations that want to produce and sell their products from the same location, which current zoning does not permit.

The industrial park was created in 1977 when the 73 acres upon which it sits were rezoned from agricultural to industrial use with hopes of attracting large manufacturers and to prevent the jobs they provided from leaving Franklin County.

For years, the park thrived as the home of a variety of large manufacturers, but as the industry in the area began to decline with more companies outsourcing their operations to foreign countries, the park began to follow suit.

In April 2013, hand tool and saw blade manufacturer Disston Tools laid off 15 employees, downsized its operation and moved out of a sprawling, 5-acre building that it rented in the park in favor of a much smaller facility in Chicopee. The building, built by Ingersoll-Rand tool makers about 35 years ago, has remained vacant, and is now in foreclosure.

Olszewski said making the park more friendly to retail-based businesses could see the building occupied once more and bring new energy into the park.

“We won’t just categorically say ‘no’ anymore. We’ll leave options open,” Olszewski said. “We have to think 40-plus years later, it’s not all about industrial anymore,” Olszewski said, noting that many of the industrial mainstays that had been in area for years, such as Millers Falls Co., its successor, Disston Tool, and Oxford Pickle have moved away.

Olszewski said many of the industrial district’s use rules would likely be changed to allow commercial activities to be conducted in the park under special permits. After the review is complete, it will be presented to the Planning Board at its Sept. 8 meeting.

Olszewski said the changes would make the park — which is located at the crossroads of Interstate 91, Routes 5 and 10, and Route 116 — more appealing to such ventures, in turn bringing new jobs, business, and tax revenue to the town.

Building Inspector Richard Calisewski noted that real estate developers that he has talked to in the past have expressed interest in bringing businesses into the park, but many have been turned off by the prospect of going through the process of changing the bylaws, which can take up to six months.

Calisewski said there are no companies or corporations currently considering the site as a potential home, but if the bylaws are changed, he is optimistic that it will attract some.

Adopting any new changes to the town’s bylaws requires the approval of voters at town meeting, Olszewski said.

“It’s about catching up with the modern day. There’s no industry like their used to be, so now we’re going to look at it for a more commercial use,” said Olszewski, of the plan. “The bottom line is to do what’s in the best interest of Deerfield.”

(EDITOR'S NOTE: SOME INFORMATION IN THIS STORY HAS CHANGED FROM AN EARLIER EDITION)

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