Brockton manufacturer puzzled over denial of expansion proposal
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Ed Byers was sure the Brockton Planning Board would approve the $5 million expansion plan for the plant where he makes all-natural salad dressings, dips, and gourmet marinades.
After all, the city’s technical review committee of engineers and other professionals had OK’d the proposal in July with the suggested addition of an underground filtration system for roof runoff.
So Byers was shocked when planners rejected the 15,000-square-foot addition to Cindy’s Kitchen earlier this month, contending that the proposal, which he said would add 100 jobs to the local economy, lacked an adequate storm-water management system.
In an interview last week, Byers said he believes the rejection was payback for his recent criticism of the appointed eight-member Planning Board and Mayor Linda Balzotti after the city froze zoning on land next to his 40 Industrial Blvd. factory so that a power plant proposed by a national energy supplier could still be built there.
“Yes, I do feel that way,’’ said Byers, a leader in a local group opposing the power plant called Stop The Power. “I think they are trying to teach me a lesson about who is in charge here.”
Byers said he is puzzled that Balzotti, for one, has not reached out to support him, given that economic development and employment are two of her administration’s primary goals.
“I don’t get it,’’ he said. “Jobs are what it is all about. If I went to any other city or town in Massachusetts with this plan, they would be wining and dining me. There is something wrong here.”
Planning Board chairman Wayne McAllister did not respond to a request for comment.
Balzotti, meanwhile, said any link between the rejection of Byers’s plan and the power plant proposed by Advanced Power AG is “ridiculous.” She said the rejection came because the business owner wasn’t prepared for the Sept. 4 meeting and forced a vote that went against him.
“The Planning Board is a separate entity from the city,” she said, adding that as mayor she has no authority, nor should she have any, to influence such decisions.
“A question came up about drainage and Mr. Byers did not bring his engineer with him,’’ Balzotti said. “Shame on him. They recommended he come back in a month, and rather than be patient, he demanded they take a vote.”
Byers’s engineer, John Holmgren, owner of J.K. Holmgren Engineering of Brockton, disputed Balzotti’s take on the meeting.
“I don’t like to disagree with the mayor, but someone has given her some incorrect facts,’’ said Holmgren, who insisted he had a staff engineer assigned to the meeting.
“We are comfortable that we did everything we needed to do,’’ said Holmgren, who is also the engineer for the proposed power plant.
He said Planning Board members told Byers they wanted more from him, suggesting the storm-water improvements. But no one offered any fact or document to back up the need, he said.
“There was no quantitative information for what they want him to do,’’ Holmgren said. “They just said they want more. Eddie said absolutely not and insisted they vote.”
Byers’s attorney, Paul Glickman, has asked the municipal committee to rescind its decision and approve the plan. Glickman said the rejection at the very least fails to meet the due process standards of administrative procedure.
Because the city has no published standards related to water drainage, engineers made sure that Byers’s proposed addition adheres to the state’s standard, Glickman said.
He questioned why some of the newer members of the appointed panel are focused on making changes to infrastructure on property that has been in a subdivision since the 1980s. Oversight of the infrastructure isn’t Byers’s responsibility, he said.
“This decision was arbitrary, without factual or legal basis, and contrary to law and applicable regulation,’’ Glickman said.
Byers said he has strived for a lifetime to make things better in Brockton and wants to share his success by putting residents to work. He said he is hopeful he can get his project on the Planning Board’s Oct. 2 agenda to be reheard.
“I know we make salad dressing, but we are changing people’s lives,’’ he said, pointing to scores of jobs on his payroll that earn $9 to $25 an hour. Currently, Byers employs 100 people.
“Nine out of 10 businesses are failing, and we are booming,’’ he said. “I have to harvest the opportunity while I can.”
Balzotti said she sees no reason why Byers can’t expect to receive approval for his building addition if he returns to the Planning Board prepared next time.
“But it is not my role to interfere,’’ she said.
Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.