Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Am I Off Base, Or On Target?

There is a rumor that CVS is looking to build at the corner of Holland Road, and Route 20.

Nothing official, only rumor.  The same rumor also elicited the comment that CVS was nothing more than a corporation, and that corporations are not helpful, only hurtful to the local economy.


The people making the comments must feel that the only local people should own local business.  Problem is that no matter where you go, you are local, and that would mean all corporations should be excluded.

No Shell, Stop & Shop, Walmart, iParty, Marshalls, Staples, Cumberland Farms.  You get the point.  So why am I wasting anytime on this topic at all?  Well, because with all our positive attributes for corporations to set up shop here in town, I am still in disbelief that more have not.  We are a town that is bisected by two interstate highways, one US route, 20, and three state routes, 148, 131, and 49.  From Sturbridge you can get anywhere without having to travel the backroads of Central Mass, but more importantly, anyone in Central Mass, and beyond, can easily get to Sturbridge. We have acres of land available for industry, retail, and entertainment.

Let's review.  Exceptional access, lots of land, an easy drive from  most anywhere in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island yet we are nothing more than business No Mans Land.

What could be the common denominator that could possibly be such an influence on our communal welfare?

Maybe the same group that could  make it easy, attractive, and beneficial to businesses, is the same group that has been too restrictive making it unattractive for corporations to look here.

This is not just my opinion.  It is how the industry feels as well.  Sturbridge, as it stands, is a no go.

This all could be changing in the near future.  Springfield, West Springfield, and Palmer are all being actively sought by casino corporations.  Regardless of how you feel about casinos, when an industry sets up shop, and employs over 5000 people in one location, and is built within 25 minutes of 01566/18, it will stimulate a growth in the area not seen since the post war years. Unless the powers that be start planning for the future now, we will be run over by progress instead of being part of it.

It would great if we could do it without the threat of a casino on the horizon, but at this time, I think that is what it is going to take.

Take another sip of coffee, and discuss.


  1. Hi Wally ; You are dead on with that comment, at town meeting I got up and said "Commercial is not Criminal" and people need to relize that the only way to drop our tax rate without sacrificing our ammenities is to increase our commerical businesses. As for corporations they tend to offer more benifits than us small guys can do, they employ our citizensand contribute to our tax base where is the harm.

    Some day we'll sit down and I'll share with you a conversation I had with Mike Kitteridge ( former owner of Yankee Candle, now owner of Kringle Candle) about his experience dealing with Sturbridge.
    Scott Garieri

  2. WALLY YOUR DEAD ONWednesday, July 24, 2013


    Look at Palmer they are going to get a ONE BILLION DOLLAR Investment from Mohegan Sun with a Casino, Water Park, Hotels etc. The tax revenue alone from that one project could retire Sturbridge Debt like the wind. Our town was talking a small water park for like 4 years now in this study they did for Route 15, Mohegan can put the whole project proposal up withing the last few months to Palmer.

    Do you think when Brimfield will have its market week will the vendors and visitors stay in Sturbridge or Palmer with a Casino, Shopping, Hotels, Restaurants, Train Station etc. We have Sturbridge Village which we call a tourist attraction and its only opened on limited hours, to me thats like a part time business and the rest of our stores in the early evening are shut down.

    Just with only Mohegans project investment the real estate is going to shoot up there. Our Main Street is not inviting to visitors, everyone keeps saying its looking worn and aging. For 35 years we see nothing coming to improve the situation and only projects for hiking which you know bring no revenue to the town.

    And whats wrong with bringing in investment from outside investors? Its obvious Sturbridge is Over Taxed, Real Estate Values declining and Commercial Base hurting.

    But when we do get a interested party looking here we make them jump through hoops, and set up all kinds of barriers they run away.

    Look at Millbury, they want the Casino, Palmer is yelling bring it on in.

    But go to Cumberland Farms in Fiskdale and see how many scratch tickets they sell to the same people in the town who are throwing stones at the casino. Hey in my book its still GAMBLING, what is the difference you buying a scratch ticket or pulling a one armed bandit it has the same results.

    Watch if you do not see some of our cherished businesses get up and move to Palmer and we will see more following in their footsteps. But you cannot blame them, its like Donald Trump states "Its only business"...

  3. People from CVS went before the Conservation Committee 2 or 3 weeks ago and were told that the size of even the smallest building that CVS would be willing to build, at about 9800 square feet, would not be allowed in that area. They were also told another problem is the fact that there would have to be a high tapering wall behind the building, between the pharmacy and the river far down below - because, if they ever do build a river walk down there, people walking along the other side of the river would see that wall.

    There is pollution in one area along the river, and who knows what it would cost us to remedy that for the riverwalk. There is a small part of the land along the river that is privately owned, and, so far, seemingly, the owners are not going along with the idea of letting people walk there.

    The benefits a CVS could bring this area, to my mind, outweigh the "problem" of potentially seeing a wall from the woods on the other side of the river - where people may, or may not walk someday.

    Many, many more people would find both a need and a desire to use a pharmacy in this part of town, than will ever go hiking there.

    The woman who attended the Con Com meeting, complaining about corporations and so called big box stores, was one of the most vocal people in town who opposed the building of the Center at Hobbs Brook. You hit the nail right on the head, Wally, when you suggested that such thinking, if successful, would deny this town places such as Stop & Shop, Walmart, iParty, Marshalls, and Staples. SOS fought, tooth and nail, to keep them out of town. There was such and uproar that they finally agreed to a town vote on the subject, and promised to abide by that vote. Well, SOS lost that vote. Did they abide by their promise? NO. They dropped their title, "SOS", and continued to fight on. These same people sit on many boards and committees in this town today...

  4. And on, and on it goes.

    In the meantime, other communities are shining. Sidewalks, and crosswalks abound, traffic lights with pedestrian crossing lights are common, retail, industry, and entertainment venues are not only invited in, and welcomed, but accomodated as well. Areas are conserved for people to enjoy, while simultaneously shared with those that would like to build and improve a region.

    The biggest, most positive improvement I have seen over the past year, or so, in town is all the fantastic work the Publick House done on its property. New paving, granite curbs, and wonderful landscaping show that the Publick House is deeply invested in the town, even as the town is bumbling about trying to figure out just how invest itself in itself.


  5. For Safety Sakes Fix the TownThursday, July 25, 2013

    We keep pouring money into the woods. Have we not learned that the woods are not safe.

    Molly Bish, Holly Piirainen, all this happened in our backyard. This is where rapists, pedophiles, and murders hang out undetected.

    Yet our committees are fighting for more funding for this. I hope they sleep well at night as someones, daughter, son, grandson, wife, could be in danger.

    You see on this latest case with Bulger where did they find Stephen Rakes body in the woods.

    And there is no way Police in this town can cover the woods, even using the military its hard.

    Even now the younger generation tell me that the Trek Area is used for drug sales, and yet we keep pushing this instead of working the Town where everyone lives.

    Leave the woods to the bears,and animals as that is their designated area.

    Keep our town safe for all..

  6. A couple questions? First how did that woman know that CVS was coming before the board? Why wouldn’t a 9800 sq ft building be allowed there the old factory (eye sore) that’s there now has to be bigger than that now? These hypocrites that fought against Wal-Mart and all the other shops, shop there.

    We have a town with a river that runs through it, but God forbid we are able to get near and enjoy it. Putnam has an amputhearter and water fires every other weekend , Providence unearthed a river and made it the focal point of the city and Sturbridge makes companies incur ridicules expenses “Just in case”,

    I spoke earlier about Mike Kitteridge I ask him about the potential of opening a Kringle Candle here in town, and he laughed. Mike went on to tell me when with Yankee he went to many towns with the hope of opening a store. One town was willing to relocated their town offices to have a Yankee Candle . He went on to say of ALL the towns he dealt with Surbridge was by far 10 time worse that any of the other towns.

    Because most of our Boards and Committees have been infiltrated with Anti- Business people is why we have high taxes and no commercial development. The best way for change is to step up and volunteer for these committees and boards

    Scott Garieri

  7. I watched the concom meeting and was not surprised at the hurdles that were put up for the cvs. It would not surprise me if they walk away. Its a pain heading to southbridge or even to the Ames plaza to get to a pharmacy. I remember as a kid going to the old pharmacy that was at Micnucks. It was an ideal place for one. If they were not to have a drive thru i would not care, i just want it on this side of town.

    I do not know who the SOS people were as i was not a full time resident when they were openly active. I can make a few guesses as to who they are.

    I really hope there is not much opposition to the CVS by anyone. They should have to work within the guidelines set out by the CONCOM but should also have leeway since this is not some small shop that few will visit. This is something that the majority of residents will benefit from. There are times when the CONCOM seems to get a little high on their horse. I hope they exhibit professionalism with this venture.

  8. Job Fair at SturbridgeFriday, July 26, 2013

    Maybe someone is looking for job this might help.

    Dear Friends of Mohegan Sun Massachusetts,

    Premier New England gaming operator Mohegan Sun is hosting an innovative new job and vendor community conversation series: "Working at and Working with Mohegan Sun." The new series will provide residents as well as business and community leaders with an overview and detailed information on potential careers and vendor opportunities in the resort gaming industry.

    During the workshop series, attendees will have the opportunity to hear from Mohegan Sun Connecticut employees in a variety of fields who will discuss their careers with the company. Specific careers include table games & slot operations, casino accounting & finance, security, food & beverage, marketing & public relations, casino representatives & hosts, materials management, transportation, engineering, environmental services, human resources, information systems and hotel sales & marketing.
    August 5th, 2013
    Old Sturbridge Village
    Federal Ballroom, located in the Oliver Wight Tavern
    1 Old Sturbridge Village Rd
    Sturbridge, MA 01566

  9. Well say bye bye to CVS, I never seen a Town or City who puts the plans first to the Conservation Committee. They will kill it with their demands before it starts. And if not this will be another 15 year project like Hobbs.

    Looks like we go to Southbridge for our prescriptions to CVS. No wonder Trader Joes and Panera do not want to come here, cannot blame them with this nonsense...

  10. And the powers, that be, insist that Sturbridge is business friendly. To who? The little boutique businesses who are already here, paying small wages to very few people while they and their friends appoint the "right" applicants to boards and committees to run the show?

    I have heard the poorest excuses for not appointing qualified people who have applied. AND I have also heard the poorest excuses for keeping out businesses that might actually do us some good. Business friendly? Depends which business!

    The little white posts between the parking area and the Cumberland Farms store each have a neat little colored reflective stripe to make them more noticeable. The new Cumberlands will no longer be allowed the colored reflective stripe. A condition from the planning board says the little reflective stripes on the white poles will also have to be white. 'Won't sho0w up much during the day, will they? I hope people don't drive or walk into them.

    The new Cumberlands is also planning to have an outside Red Box for movie rentals. It will be placed as far out of the way as possible and will be required to be "eye-browed" so any little light from it won't be seen from the road. How's that work for attracting business? Oh, yeah, that's right - Cumberlands is owned by a corporation, so who cares? UHG!

  11. Seems to me there's alot of complaints about anti-business people and the former SOS group, so the anti's are organized. Why isn't there a organized group that is for business? Instead of wringing our hands and saying alas and alack and going round and round let's doing something. Wonder if anyone is interested enough, or fed up enough to do something?

  12. New Cumberland farms?

  13. Yes, Cumberland Farms will be replaced with a new building, and it's not been easy for them because of all the picayune rules they've been given.

  14. Ginger,
    It's not so much "pro" business as it is a need for common sense and a desire for this to be a town in which it is possible for both the youngsters coming of age and the senior citizens to stay. A huge percentage of the people on the stage and in the audience of the Town Meetings are those who pull the strings. Try to get others to attend and they say they no longer believe that they have a voice. There are so many "appointed" positions in this town, and so many committees of those who appoint each other that the effect is like teenage cliques running the town, and anyone who opposes them is in the way of the steam roller.

  15. Ginger

    Your correct about organizing, it was tried with the MOS a few years back and had a good following. But these people "no to progress" still were putting up new barriers to make it hard to operate here via their committees and going to the Town Officials.

    Even this CVS, do you think they are going to build a wall and all this enviornmental demands this Conservation Group is asking. It might cost them 5 times the cost of the land and building they wanted to put down.

    And common sense would be this is a new building replacing a old dump. The difference in the City is this would be called "Urban Blight",but in Sturbridge we call these types of buildings "historical"

    With that kind of thinking watch and see the future, we always called Palmer a dumpy town without looking at our own backyard.

    Its a shame we have to be like this.

  16. I guess I'm not ready to throw in the towel and say CVS hasn't got a chance in Fiskdale. I'm going to have to do some research/homework.
    I haven't been following the perils of this closely enough but I do know some sort of a business draw in Fiskdale, in my opinion, would help other businesses in the area.

  17. Here Comes the Roadblocks to ProgressSunday, July 28, 2013

    Here is the minutes from CVS Proposal on the Con Comm website, does this look Business Friendly - Read for yourself and the answer is obvious NO....

    January 3, 2013 Meeting:

    R.J. O’Connell-CVS Holland Road Informal discussion:

    Informal discussion regarding 9 Holland Road with R. J. O’Connell Associates and Lucas Environmental regarding the proposed 9,800 square foot building.

     Commission members asked about moving the building to a different location on the property out of the 25’ and 50’.

    There was discussion about the location of the retaining wall and its proximity to the bank of the Quinebaug River. The retaining wall would reach a maximum height of 25’, with the base of the wall being at the top of the river’s bank.

    DB stated his concern with the lack of fire road in the back of building and that this design should be approved by the fire department.

  18. I do agree that roadblocks have been put in the way of corporations, and businesses here in town, but we need to be aware of what is excessive roadblocks, and what are merely speed bumps. The minutes posted above looks more like the ConComm just doing what ConComm's do everywhere: put up speed bumps so that some thought, questions, and answers can be obtained on a project before going forward. I don't understand the first point as it is written, and moving the building could mean anything. Being a true roadblock would depend upon where, how much, and for what reason it was ordered to be moved. A retaining wall along the Quinebaug is necessary no matter who builds on that site, not just CVS. Back in the day when the mill was built preserving the river was not a priority, only preserving the rivers power to operate the mill was. Retaining walls were not a priority. It is a steep drop to the water, so 25' is appropriate to keep the river out from eroding the bank. Large rip rap would work as well, but it would not be as pleasing to the eye. Now, that is a something that would have to be negotiated.

    A road encircling the building is something to be expected of any building being erected in town for safeties sake. All buildings require access from all sides in case of fire.

    So, as I see it, the above are not so much roadblocks, but just concerns, and speed bumps. If CVS would like to build at this site, and this site is a true gem for any retail store(s), then they will overcome the expectations put out there by the ConComm, and build; they know they will make back their investment.

  19. Lets Welcome CVS Not Put Up Walls.Monday, July 29, 2013


    I worked on projects like this, and they use top engineers to design the building and include the problems such as the retaining walls, fire safety, handicap access etc. Do not think they were not here walking the grounds and the entire site before drawing their final plans. They pay big money to these engineering firms for that. Just like our Town did when they were doing the Town Hall.
    Since when did this committee become engineers.

    There is standards and guidelines which the state and all have and these Engineers know the rules this is not the first CVS they are building nor will it be the last one.

    Instead of welcoming them to Sturbridge we start out throwing the stones at them.

  20. Went to Center Office Building to look at the plans that CVS submitted, admittedly I am not an engineer, but did look at many plans on my 9 years on the ZBA and my short time on the Planning Board. Seems to me a lot of the problems that CVS is having is their own doing, according to the plans,they want a curb cut to have a route 20 entrance instead of entering the site off of Holland Road. Imagine having a curbcut that close to the light at Route 148,accidents waiting to happen. They have a buidling in Charlton with entrance and exists off of Route 20 and also the side road. When I use that CVS I always use the entrance and exit from the side road, just seems safer to me. What's the big deal with CVS here in Sturbridge having the entrance off Holland Road? Think about it, how easy is it to make a left hand turn anywhere on Route 20 and how would you prefer to turn onto that site?Maybe instead of saying the Town if throwing up too many roadblocks, perhaps we should ask CVS what's wrong with an entrance off of Holland Road.
    I would like to see a CVS, I truly believe if they give up the entrance on Route 20 and use Holland Road they'd get the approvals they need.

  21. Having an entrance on 20 would be wrong, and not OK'ing such a plan is something the Planning Board would be expected to do. Of course, the corporation (CVS) will offer up plans that is the best for them. An exit onto 20 would not be best, either, but an entrance, and exit on Holland Road would be the best.

    Also, the town should put in the approval that CVS assist with the installation of a pedestrian activated walk light at that intersection since foot traffic from the neighborhood since foot traffic will increase at that corner.

    Betcha, they don't tho...

  22. CVS usually has stores that are quite a bit over 9800 square feet in size, but they were willing to build at 9800 square feet for us. Not good enough. They came back on June 18 and offered 9200 square feet. Still not good enough. They reduced the size of the wall behind the store (above the river) from 25 feet high and tapering, to about 15 feet high and tapering, and reducing its length from 200 ft. to 140 ft. Not good enough. Nope. Not good enough for our Conservation Committee. CVS folks again explained that a building smaller than the 9800 square feet would not allow them to carry products enough to be successful.

    Once again a person complained that it would somehow be wrong to allow them to build "a rectangle." (Read that as accusing CVS of being a big box store run by a corporation, which we are to consider a bad thing.) Another person who attended the Conservation Committee meeting(from the planning board) claimed that building a pharmacy there would prevent "river cooling." The Conservation Committee voted against giving them the variance they need.

    The CVS representative told the Conservation Committee not to depend on them returning for another try, and the CVS people left the meeting. We may now have lost the chance to get a pharmacy in Fiskdale.

    This is utterly ridiculous!