Nolumbeka Project: We feel coerced

  • Native land of the Friends of the Wissatinnewag along the French King Highway. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • David Brule on the native land along Route Two that has been protected. February 14, 2019 Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/19/2019 11:29:37 PM

GREENFIELD — David Brule, leader of the Nolumbeka Project, representing the Friends of the Wissatinnewag, informed city officials at a public hearing last week that they no longer oppose the rezoning-for-library deal after first objecting to potential commercial development around their sacred land.

Brule explained in his time allotted for public comment that his fellow board members, many of whom are city residents, were so in favor of a new public library that they had changed their mind and decided to support what some councilors have called a compromise.

“What I did leave out is that we feel coerced,” he said when reached Tuesday for comment.

Brule and the Nolumbeka Project had submitted to the Greenfield Planning Board several pages of letters that detail the underlying reason why the group, which is the largest landowner along the French King Highway corridor, has withdrawn its opposition to the deal that would exchange votes to rezone the corridor for a new public library.

“For me it’s a bitter pill to swallow,” Brule, a lifelong educator and library supporter, said. “Some people call it a compromise. We see it as basically being coerced and blackmailed into accepting this.”

The story behind the coerciongoes back decades, but the latest version can be datedto a dozen years ago, based on documentation the Nolumbeka Project provided city officials.

The key for them is ensuring the preservation of the White Ash Swamp, which is the 10-acre parcel at the northernmost end of the French King Highway overlay district. The story goes, as Brule tells it, that human remains of natives were dumped in this land.

Brule wants to make sure this burial ground, which is sacred to the Nolumbeka Project, is protected by all costs. The land has remained in the hands of the Greenfield Property Development LLC, which is the overseer of the Ceruzzi development that has proposed a 135,000-square-foot retail store next to this land.

The Nolumbeka Project cites letters supporting itsclaim to the White Ash Swamp from: the U.S. Army Corps in 2007; the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs in 2007; and letters from the Massachusetts Historical Commission from 2006 to 2009.

For years, Brule says, Ceruzzi developers have promised the Friends that will receive this land, but none of the promises have come to fruition.

Attorneys for Greenfield Property Development LLC did not immediately return requests for a comment.

“We have a very simple plan,” Brule said, “which is to seek once and for all, a way to ensure and protect those remains.”

The land has been “dangled” in front of the Friends of Wissatinnewag for years by Ceruzzi, Brule said, and now with this deal on a library and zoning changes, he feels they had to make a decision.

“That’s where we really want to put our efforts at this stage,” Brule said. “Our decision to not challenge the rezoning was based on that need to keep the progressive part of the town backing us.

Brule met with City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud, the author of this deal, between speaking with the Recorder in late February and speaking at the public hearing last week.

“No matter what, I want to continue to work with the Nolumbeka Project to make sure they get the land that is theirs,” Renaud said. “Nothing should disturb those burial grounds again.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264




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