Saturday, August 8, 2015

Pond St community takes exception to Councilor comments

Several members of the Pond St community took the opportunity to make their presence and feelings known at the Town Council meeting on Wednesday. During the Citizen Comment portion of the meeting, they made and reiterated several points that they believe some of the Councilors continue to forget.

Why take this action? As reported, the recent Economic Development Committee (EDC) meeting was conducted on Monday, July 27th beginning at 5:00 PM which is not exactly a convenient time for most working folks. To have some of the EDC members state something to the effect that 'since the community didn't bother to show up, they must not be too concerned about what's happening.'

As this comment has been made previously, and objected to as well, the Pond St community members took turns stating their case: 

  • They are united in objection to any development that will increase traffic. 
  • The traffic in that area is already a problem (text notes from 3/25/15 meeting or audio recording of same meeting). 
  • They understand and appreciate the need for revenue but also want to keep the neighborhood family friendly.
  • When one or two of the group show up, they are representing the group. Not all of the group can show up for all of the meetings.
  • They are willing to work with the condo proposal and would not want to see a new RFP for a hotel.

The EDC committee contributes to the problem by not being explicit about their intentions. They don't publish minutes of their meetings. They don't spend a few minutes explaining the process which would save them time in the long run (not everyone knows their process). Further, to have a Town Councilor state that the Town Council is not aware of the RFP responses (while technically correct) is stretching it as the EDC is officially made up of four Town Councilors and other Councilors tend to participate in the meetings. 

The EDC is a subcommittee of the Town Council. It will review and make a recommendation to the Council. The Town Council then as a whole will have an opportunity to discuss the matter before making a decision. Depending upon the nature of the discussion and decision to be made a public hearing made be required, or it may simply be an agenda item on a regular Council meeting. If the public hearing is required, there are notification requirements to be met.

Is the EDC really going back out with a new RFP? Was one of the developers asked to redo their proposal? It would be good to know. We'll find out some day if and when the minutes of the meeting are published. I do know experience that if it is the intent to go back out with a new RFP, that would require both an EDC vote and a Town Council vote. The Council met for the only time in August this Wednesday which means if there is to be a return, it won't happen anytime soon. 

The timing of the discussion and potential decisions also makes it highly likely that this sitting Council will not have the final say on the Pond St property. That would fall to the new Council decided on by the voters in the November election.

In other matters covered during the Wednesday meeting:

  • The rezoning for Dean Ave had its first public hearing. This seems to be a good move despite the convoluted and confusing answer I received about the potential tax revenue implications of the change from commercial to residential. I'll need to watch the video recording when it is posted (as of Saturday morning (8/8/15 - 7:00 AM), it was not yet made available).
  • The manager of the liquor license for Incontro  was acknowledged as changed. 
  • The Town Council approved a measure that will be on the November ballot asking the Franklin voters to approve NOT taxing farm animals and equipment. Apparently, the Town has neglected to do so for 25 years and in order to be compliant and officially not tax, they need the voters approval. If we fail to approve, it will cost more to implement the tax than the revenue would be received from it.
  • There was an update on the Community Opportunity Grant which will enable some funds for refurbishment of homes for folks who meet the income qualifications.
  • Town Clerk Debbie Pellegri provided an update on the timeline and process running up to the Town Election on November 3rd.
  • The purchase of the building and land at 275 Beaver was completed. An eminent domain process was also initiated to ensure the town has full and clear rights to the land for the records. Renovation of the building has begun. The funds for the sale of the building were the proceeds from the sale of Emmons St and other 'open space' funds available to Franklin.

The Thompson Press building - proposed to be rezoned from commercial to residential
The Thompson Press building - proposed to be rezoned from commercial to residential

For the full set of notes as I was reporting live from the meeting:

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