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Hopedale - Local Town Pages

Grafton & Upton Railroad presents site work update

GURR sign: Grafton & Upton Railroad sign outside the Hopedale terminal. Credit: Theresa Knapp

Originally scheduled to be a request for grant support

By Theresa Knapp 

Michael Milanowski, president of the Grafton & Upton Railroad, made a detailed presentation to the Select Board at its meeting on Sept. 29 regarding future plans at GURR. Though they were originally on the agenda as a “request for IRAP grant support,” the 30-minute presentation was deemed “for information purposes only” and no votes taken due to a pending lawsuit in the matter. 

Note, the MassDOT Industrial Rail Access Program (IRAP) is a competitive grant program afforded to railroads. 

A lawsuit was filed against GURR by a group of Hopedale residents earlier this year and just days before the Select Board meeting, the court granted a preliminary injunction for GURR to stop clearing trees from its site. 

This is the parcel map that was tied into the settlement agreement. Parcel A (lower area in blue) is 84 acres and Parcel D (upper area in blue) is 20 acres. These two parcels are slated to be transferred to the town with the remaining of the land to be developed by GURR. Source: GURR presentation at Sept. 29 meeting of the Select Board.

At this Select Board meeting, Milanowski said the railroad “continues to operate in accordance with the settlement agreement that was negotiated [between the RR and the town] in January and February 2021...We remain confident that any challenges to the settlement agreement will ultimately be rejected.” 

He further stated GURR is “focused on developing the railroad right-of-way, that’s the core of this IRAP application, and then connecting to the 18 acres of industrial land that are already owned by the Railroad that are not subject to the citizens’ lawsuit that is in place right now. And when, again we believe the courts will lift that, we will then move forward with parcels B, C, and E that are no longer subject to Chapter 61 land.” 

The railroad’s IRAP application is for $500,000 which it hopes would help fund development of the property to include warehouse uses (food grade, cold storage, and international intermodal), light manufacturing assembly, and transportation of aggregate materials (sand and gravel) by train. He also said this work could help with the current “break in the supply chain.” 

Milanowski said, ‘This project is slated to generate millions of dollars in tax revenue as well as create hundreds of new jobs, and it’s done in a way to protect the town’s current and future water supply..In closing, we believe this is a win/win/win solution. It provides an opportunity to bring commerce and jobs back to the United States, continuing to start in Hopedale while adding the additional protection to the land that was negotiated by the BOS.” 

Once the court case is resolved, the IRAP grant support will go before the Select Board, and public comment will be accepted at that time.