Hadley mall owners demand Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School stop using its parking lot

The owner of Mountain Farms Mall that borders the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School on Route 9 is prohibiting students, staff and visitors to the school from using its parking lot.

The owner of Mountain Farms Mall that borders the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School on Route 9 is prohibiting students, staff and visitors to the school from using its parking lot. FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 02-08-2024 8:34 PM

HADLEY — The owner of Mountain Farms Mall, which borders the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, is prohibiting students, staff and visitors to the school from using its parking lot, and has stationed a tow truck at the site on weekday mornings and afternoons to remove vehicles that violate the rule.

On Dec. 20, WS Development of Chestnut Hill, which owns the shopping center that includes Walmart, Barnes & Noble and Whole Foods, informed families, students and staff in writing that leaving their vehicles in the lot, and using the lot at the start and end of the school day, is no longer allowed. This came following multiple calls from tenants and customers about vehicles associated with the school parking in employee areas, as well as allegedly damaging the landscaped area next to the fence between the properties.

“Over the last several years, we have reached out to the school to request that staff, students and family members not park in the Mountain Farms parking lot during the school day or during pick-up or drop-off,” wrote Kyle Raynor, manager of asset strategy and development for WS.

Raynor noted the problems that have arisen. “On several occasions, we have had to repair damage to property caused by visitors of the school,” he wrote.

The recent communication from the mall has support from Richard Alcorn, the school’s executive director.

“We agree with Mountain Farms Mall management that mall parking is for the customers of their tenants,” Alcorn wrote in an email.

But with the closest section of the mall parking lot, in front of and alongside a Marshall’s store, just a few hundred feet away from the main entrance to the school, and a dedicated walking path between the buildings, students find it the closest place to park, especially during cold and wet weather.

Students recently appealed for the school to seek a resolution that could allow parking at the mall to continue.

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“These decisions will negatively impact a significant portion of the student population, since the school’s own parking lot is often congested for drop-off in the morning, and has far less than adequate parking space for students who drive to school,” the students wrote.

Unlike commercial entities, which have to provide two square feet of parking for each one square foot of building space based on Hadley zoning laws, schools are not obligated to meet that same threshold.

Still, Alcorn wrote that the school is trying to provide enough parking.

“PVCICS is working to secure additional parking spaces,” Alcorn wrote.

The students argue that the mall management’s decision may affect business for its tenants.

“The blocking of any student parking in the mall might also deprive the mall of a number of customers, since students and parents that previously went to the mall due to the convenience of already being parked there may now go elsewhere.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.