SOUTHWICK, Mass. (WWLP) – A local grassroots citizens group, Save Southwick, announced this week that they donated more than $1,500 to the Southwick Community Food Pantry.
The money came from what was left of the more than $28,000 raised to prevent the proposed construction of a Carvana vehicle storage and processing facility on 91 acres of College Highway farmland. Widespread citizen opposition to the plan lead to Carvana’s withdrawing its project application at the town’s July 20, 2021 planning board meeting.
In working to oppose the private business’s plans, Save Southwick announced the spending of their funds on the following:
- $12,074 on legal and consulting fees
- $5,734 on signs, t-shirts, and printing
- $1,633 on a successful fundraising dinner
- $924 on bank, GoFundMe, and website fees
- The remaining balance of $6,500 to be donated to Town of Southwick’s recently-formed master plan initiative.
“After settling the legal and consulting fees, we were left with a surplus of contributions,” Diane Gale, one of Save Southwick’s principals, wrote in a Dec. 20 letter addressed to Joseph Deedy, Southwick select board chair; Michael Doherty, Southwick planning board chair; and Marcus Phelps, Southwick master plan advisory committee chair. “We feel that contributing to the Master Plan will benefit every member directly and will ‘save Southwick’ taxpayers from a portion of that funding requirement.”
In September of 2021, following the “No Carvana” reaction, town officials named an 18-member master plan advisory committee to work under planning board oversight. This blend of Town, business, and residential representatives has been tasked with updating Southwick’s last official master plan, which was adopted in 1967.
“Carvana opened our eyes to the vulnerability in our bylaws. They were the first ones to come to town, but they won’t be the last if those vulnerabilities aren’t closed,” Gale said in an interview. “If we do nothing, Carvana can come back. Or a competitor can come in. Amazon warehouses are still expanding. All those huge, online distribution centers are looking for places to plant their feet… We’re not trying to change the zoning… Industrial growth is fine. It just has to fit Southwick. It can’t overtake the town.”