Saturday, April 5, 2014

Citizen Committee Annual Report

Steve - attached is the annual report on the Citizens Committee which was delivered to all town council members as well as to Town Administrator - this was done in January - thought you may want to see what the Citizens Committee has been involved with this past year - jppfeffer

Chairman Vallee:
Pursuant to your request for a report from the Citizen's Committee for topics and issues addressed this past year, please be advised:

1. Improvement to recycling site on Beaver Street (ongoing).
2. Acquisition of land adjacent to recycling site (ongoing).
3. Improvements at train station (ongoing).
4. Cook's Farm/Country Club/Gateway initiative (ongoing)
5. Davis Thayer/temp classrooms/Gateway initiative (ongoing).
6. RFPs for Pond Street , old town hall, other potential town-owned properties (ongoing)
7. Enhancing the cbd (central business district) aesthetically and commercially.  PRIORITY
8. Seeking a developer to consider a public/private venture for a major cbd redevelopment.  PRIORITY
9. Consideration of an "unkempt property" by-law for both commercial and certain residential properties (bank-owned, foreclosed, abandoned, etc.).
10. Maintaining/Improving/enhancing the town's properties, roadways and facilities; (ongoing and PRIORITY).
11. Review and reconsider adoption of R6 zoning as initially written by the town prior to changes made to restrict/discourage development.
12. Inclusion of Dean College as a potential partner in certain town initiatives.
Those items above identified as "ongoing" indicate Council action, monitoring or participation as necessary, as shall the Committee. 

The Committee, with regular attendance and input from the Planning Board and ZBA chairs, is supportive of rezoning on many (if not all) our arterial roadways, and particularly #140 in its entirety.  Rezoning major roadways to accommodate certain commercial and retail development in residential areas, consistent with the Master Plan, and cognizant of the town's history in which neighborhoods frequently had mixed uses, and  "mom and pop" stores to serve their needs,  would reduce extensive travel for small purchases (milk, bread, etc.) and decrease traffic congestion.  This is particularly true for North and South Franklin residents. (note: the issue of rezoning, too often an emotional issue,  impacting property values does not appear, in most cases, to be accurate.  We could not identify any properties devalued as a result of rezoning. In reality, the opposite resulted with properties on #140 that were residential, particularly in the area of 3 Restaurant, greatly increased in value once designated commercial/retail).  
It was offered at one of our meetings that Franklin was comprised of 80% residential property and 20% comprising all other classifications.  If so, it is obvious that our financial position is not likely to improve if our revenue stream is driven, primarily, by residential taxation. 
The Committee is supportive of expanding regional services and efforts whenever possible or beneficial.  It also believes the permitting process in Franklin, although somewhat improved, needs further improving if we are to compete with our neighbors.   
Housing, almost always in demand, should seek creative and alternative development as suggested in the Master Plan.  Allowing market forces to determine housing is preferred and there appears to be a large inventory of existing affordable housing in the community (as well proposed); a small percentage of luxury housing; senior housing appears to be a likely issue in the near future and will require consideration.  A review of R6 to allow for certain condominium development, eliminating the restrictions imposed to curtail development, is recommended.   The recent R7 zoning requires "stand alone" units and precludes duplex or quads as constructed in desirable developments as Chestnut Ridge, Spruce Pond, etc.  The fear of multiple condo development proposals, as alluded to in the R7 debate, has not materialized and is unlikely to materialize as history tells us development is market driven. 
Those items above identified as "ongoing" indicate Council action, monitoring or participation as necessary. 
The use of sub-committees, and a more aggressive agenda by the Economic Development Committee, are encouraged and necessary to complete the issues/topics noted above.  Simply, Council participation enhances projects and proposals toward completion.  Topics identified as PRIORITY, most of which are relative to the aesthetics of the community, cannot be too strongly emphasized.  Characterizing Franklin 's cbd as "seedy" (Boston Globe) is a negative difficult to overcome.  Every major developer or investor inspects our downtown before considering Franklin as a potential site; there has been some improvement, and the blending of the downtown reconstruction along with the depot site is encouraging, but more needs to be done and should be a priority of the Council.    
As suggested by the Town Administrator, there needs to be a "Team Franklin" approach to conducting the town's business.  Workshops for all those, elected, appointed and/or volunteering should be ongoing to educate and encourage for a unified response to the town's problems and initiatives.   Historically, Franklin has been most productive and successful when the Council actively participates in moving the agenda and issues forward.  Assuming the town administrator, well qualified and energetic, can accomplish all these objectives alone is unrealistic.  The use of sub- committees is both recommended and essential and, in the past, served the community well in meeting its' needs.  
Lastly, there needs to be an enhancement of the relationship between Dean College , one of the town's largest landowners, and the community at large, particularly in the greater cbd development.  Dean is the elephant in the room; we need to recognize and appreciate the symbiotic potential and aggressively move to enhance it; it is in our mutual interest to do so.  
These are mostly the issues, subjects and topics we discussed in 2013 and shall continue to monitor in 2014, along with new or emerging proposals. 
On behalf of the Committee, Robert Avakian, Andrew Bissanti, Paul Cheli, Matt Kelly, Judith Pfeffer and Robert Ficco, Esq., 
I am, yours truly, 
L.P. Benedetto, 
January 19, 2014.
Franklin Municipal Building
Franklin Municipal Building

Note: The Citizens Committee did get their own reference page set up on the Franklin website.

While there has not been a published meeting schedule, or meeting agendas, or meeting notes, it is anticipated that these deficiencies will be corrected.

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