Thursday, April 3, 2014

"Citizens Committee" statement

As read by Judith Pfeffer, Town Councilor and one of three councilors on the Citizens Committee (half the total committee membership).

As an appointed member of the Citizens Committee, I have a statement on behalf of the Citizens Committee as regards the 150 Emmons Street property. The Citizens committee was formed basically to "encourage quality, visually pleasing, financially enhancing economic development for the benefit of our community. Projects that the Citizens Committee, to date, have impacted include:

  • Dump (recycling center) improvements
  • Acquisition efforts in land purchase from state, property next to dump
  • Dean College train station building improvements
  • Cooks Farm building project
  • Cleaning/maintenance of down town central business district 

The Citizen's Committee's position relative to the disposition of the old town hall are as follows: 
1. The site, bordered by two main arterial roadways, is better suited for commercial development, as part of an enhanced central business district and a revenue producing property than another town-owned, marginally/poorly maintained, economic drain on town resources 
2. The curb cuts should be done for the property while the road project is being done, so the openings will not have to be redone after the new road has been completed. 
3. Revenue from the sale of the site, could be used to construct a first class facility for the Recreation Department, and would allow for expansion of its' many programs, particularly those which have been downsized by the schools (arts, music, etc.) For years the Recreation Department has been moved from one site to another and is deserving of a facility that will serve Franklin, and its children, for years to come ... Rec dept. served 5700 kids in 2013, over 4000 in sports programs. 
4. The estimated cost alluded to in a prior meeting of one million dollars for retaining, re-constructing, and developing the old town hall site into a Cultural Center, not to mention the annual cost of maintaining said cultural center, in view of the anticipated costs of the new school, road improvement program and questionable economy makes no economic
5. Suggestions that the site is appropriate for a park, although well intentioned, is not practical for the following reasons: (1) the town owns, and maintains an underutilized site less than a mile away (Town Common); (2) the loss of revenue from both the sale and future taxes is economically unsound; (3) the town's history of property maintenance is abysmal, at best, and unlikely to improve under this proposal; (4) it is likely that the use of any park at that site would serve, primarily, the students of the college that surround it.  
Economic Development at this site: (1) will provide revenue for a building for Recreation Dept.; (2) The town, through the permitting process, will have input into any proposed development at the site, assuring the development is aesthetically appropriate and contributes to the "gateway"
initiatives under discussion; (3) As alluded to above, the town's recent history of owning and maintaining property, does not lead one to think adding to the current burden is either logical or prudent; this is one of sites referred to as "seedy" in the Globe's description of Franklin! 
6. There needs to be an ongoing blending of public-private development. The reconstruction of the central business district roadways will be a huge contribution to any revitalizing effort; the private sector needs to be encouraged to participate.
7. The Citizens Committee strongly recommends that a "REQUEST FOR EXPRESSION OF INTEREST" be initiated. Responses to this Request will be reviewed, discussed with and between the Council and brought before the Public. This will insure that this site will continue to
be on the forefront. The Request for Expression process will take months, and the follow-up RFP will take additional months. Waiting for the next few years to make a decision is not in the Town's best economic interest.

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