Gardner Voters will decide whether the city should annex BNSF Railway's proposed freight yard, after the Gardner City Council voted Monday to put the issue on the Nov. 7 ballot.
BNSF wants to build a $200 million intermodal shipment center on up to 1,000 acres southwest of Gardner, close to the Gardner Municipal Airport.
Under the plan, trains coming from Pacific ports would be unloaded at the site, with the goods trucked to other destinations or stored there. The intermodal facility itself would occupy about 300 acres, with the other property used for distribution sites, BNSF has said.
BNSF officials said they plan to proceed with the project regardless of the outcome of the vote. The railroad already has spent millions of dollars to buy several hundred acres.
Supporters say annexing the site would give Gardner millions of dollars in tax revenue and control over development in the area. Opponents have said the proposal would bring heavy truck traffic, pollution and crime to the area.