Showing posts with label citizens committee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label citizens committee. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Annual Report 2016: Franklin Advisory Committee

"The Committee met only three times in 2015 and most of our discussions and topics were related to ongoing issues and objectives begun in the preceding years. 

Updates and status reports, often from the Town Administrator, on a multitude of ongoing endeavors, such as: 
(1) the land swap with the Commonwealth at the recycle site; 
(2) improving maintenance and enhancing the appearance of the two train stations. There have been certain remedial repairs to walkways and parking lots, but little of significance since the building was painted and roofed two years ago; 
(3) South Franklin Congregational Church. Presently the building is secured and a decision how best to proceed and appropriate use remains with the Council. This historic property, along with the Ray Memorial library and Brick School are testament to the town's significant history and deserving of our attention and support; 
(4) The "Gateway" effort has materialized and we are witnessing new construction at the old town hall site with new roadway construction and removal of the temporary classrooms at Davis Thayer. Dean College continues to provide a positive image to the area with new buildings and landscaping. At the East end of town, an upscale housing development at the former Cook's Farm site along with land acquisition from the Country Club has dramatically enhanced the area so that entering from East or West projects a positive impression to our community;

Council actions that benefited the community in which we provided opinion or input, along with the work of the Town Administrator and staff, includes certain zoning and building issues, the Pond Street RFP and subsequent award for development, attempts to bring businesses into the downtown, supporting development of the former bowladrome and car dealership site on 140 as well as the former Thompson Press site, exploration of establishing a Neighborhood Commercial Development in South Franklin, and proposing the town move to acquire the land on 140/495, which currently houses a salt barn and storage site, and has significant potential and value to the community and was, at one time, acknowledged by the state as such. Obviously, the Council, Town Administrator and staff do the work and make the important decisions.

Our role is to create and/or add to the discussion, and to that end, I am obliged to the Committee and those members of the Council, staff and administration for their support and contribution; to the many municipal employees who are second to none; and the many volunteers and residents who help make our community a special place. 

Thank you all in behalf of the Committee. 

L.P. Benedetto, Chairman


  • Paul Cheli, Vice Chair
  • Judith Pond Pfeffer Vice Chair
  • Robert Ficco
  • Bruce Hunchard
  • Andrew Bissanti (2015)
  • Robert Avakian (2015)
  • Nancy Rappa (2015)

Associate Members:

  • Joseph Halligan
  • Paul Compton
  • Rick Circone
  • Deborah Pellegri (2015)"

view of the Cook's Farm development on Norfolk side of Franklin along RT 140
view of the Cook's Farm development on Norfolk side of Franklin along RT 140

Download and read the full Annual Report for the Town of Franklin FY 2016

Prior year annual reports can be found

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Electric Youth hit a high note before Council gets into the dirt

Do you recall this?

WHEREAS, the Town Council continues to explore ways of making improvements to our community; and 
WHEREAS, the Town Council would like participation by the citizens to provide valuable input. 
Now therefore, be it resolved by the Franklin Town Council that a Citizen Committee is established. Said committee shall consist of 5 to 9 members to be appointed by the Town Council. Said committee shall make recommendations to the Town council on how to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Franklin in areas including but not limited to enhancing citizen participation, aesthetics of the community, and business development, and other recommendations that the Council deems appropriate. Said committee shall make its recommendations by December, 2012. This Resolution shall become effective according to the rules and regulations of the Town of Franklin Home Rule Charter.

This was the resolution to form the creation of the Citizens Committee on the agenda for the Town Council in January 18, 2012.

Now the current Town Council is slightly different from the one in Jan 2012 but 6 of the 9 should remember this.

I was attracted by this because of the first objective: "enhancing citizen participation"

I applied, was appointed, was sworn in and then didn't attend a meeting as the Chair clearly indicated that the work would focus on the other objectives ("aesthetics of the community, and business development").

I find it interesting that had the committee focused on their original objective the whole town of Franklin might actually be in a better position.

Instead we continue to find Town Council meetings where everyone has only part of the information yet feels compelled to 'right the situation'.

Indeed, Wednesday night one of the projects that the Citizens Committee got involved in was raised for discussion during the presentation by the Panning and Committee Development Dept.

  • A family is looking to sell their property
  • The development proposed requires a new zoning bylaw
  • The development requires a special permit from the Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, and Conservation Commission
  • All the hearings are currently underway
  • Advice to the Planning Board by the Town Attorney was taken out of context
  • Should this matter be discussed as it is (was last night) with the hearings underway?
  • Should members of the Council who recused themselves from the zoning discussion still be making comments on the matter?
  • Apparently the developer is unaware of some critical procedural matters applicable to all of MA and not just Franklin (demolition of a structure categorized as 'historic')
  • Apparently, the Council forgets from time to time that it is a governing body and should not be running the day to day operations of the Town

If the Citizens Committee had focused on "enhancing citizen participation," folks would be more informed on process and procedures. The level of communication and information sharing would be improved. Decisions and discussion would be based upon all the facts and not just part of the story or biased viewpoints.

We'll see... there is always hope... We need to stay out of the mud piles. No one ends up with a clean shirt after playing in the mud!

So the Electric Youth performance to open the meeting Wednesday evening was the high note. It all went downhill after that.

Electric Youth performing for Town Council
Electric Youth performing for Town Council

The full set of my notes reported live during the Wednesday meeting can be found here

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Live reporting - Citizens Committee

Larry Benedetto
Citizens Committee

we'll be back in July (July 9th) to do some house keeping
I am going to have the whole the committee here
the citizens committee seems to be defined to represent the whole community
we don't want to slight anyone

recent debate about whether we should be related to the Council or not
complaining about the open meeting laws and meeting notifications
also consideration of associate members, to help maintain the quorum

would like to involved in the 'fast tracking' zoning initiative

we'd like to get involved in the Davis Thayer removal of the modular units
we'd like to get into the Downtown train station

hopefully have an update on the land swap with the State about the land next to the recycling center

we are on the cusp of some good things
our experience is this, when Mr Nutting is involved in the project, it moves smoothly

Jones - can you see if the Committee would be interested in addressing parking downtown
Nutting - I have spent the past 6 months working with the Downtown Partnership on parking, and will be coming before the Council with an update

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Franklin Voices: Lawrence Benedetto - Chair, Citizens Committee

Greetings:  Allow me to begin by introducing myself and explaining the purpose of this email.  My name is Lawrence Benedetto and I Chair the Franklin Citizen's Committee.  I am sending this independent of the Committee, although I may share its content at some later time.  I obtained most of your email addresses as a result of your participation in the recent 150 Emmons Street hearing.   
Although there may be disagreement in the desired disposition of 150 Emmons Street, I suggest we are all in agreement in doing whatever is best for the community at large.  Further, I want to encourage your further participation in certain endeavors that are upcoming, several of which the Committee has been partner to or will likely take the lead on. As you may know, the Committee is appointed to and answerable to the Council.  Our charge is to seek quality development that is aesthetically enhancing and financially beneficial to the community.  Our composition is made up of three current Councilors, two former Councilors, a former State Representative and myself.  
It is my belief that the more citizen participation we have  the better the ultimate results.  But, unless it is a hot-button issue, or a NIMBY matter, most Council meetings are unattended, press coverage is minimal, the citizenry is absent.  One purpose of this email is to arouse interest; it is an opportune time, Franklin has potential to excel.  

To this end, allow me to share with you past agenda and possible future agenda issues and some limited successes we, and the Council, have been able to provide:  
1. Gateway initiative.  Cook's Farm on the east entrance to Franklin and focus on the Davis Thayer site on our western end; recognition of, and compliments for the improvements and beautification of Dean's property adjacent to Davis Thayer.  We all recognize and remember those places we see that have "a pretty downtown" or "attractive village".  Although things are improving, it was not too long ago the Boston Globe characterized downtown Franklin as "seedy".  Certainly the train station fills that billing. 
2. Train Station roofing and painting.  We have worked two years to achieve the small improvements that have been made.  I cannot tell you how many hours have been spent in that endeavor.  THERE IS A MEETING ON MONDAY, 28 April at 0800, WITH THE T TO SEEK ADDITIONAL MAINTENANCE ON BOTH FRANKLIN STATIONS.  FRANKLIN ONCE HAD A PICTURE-POSTCARD TRAIN STATION, WE WANT THAT AGAIN.  WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT AND PARTICIPATION.  Details available at the Town Administrator's office. 
3. The town has a substantial investment at Chilson Beach and at the synthetic soccer field there.  The cleaning up of the former dump site (now recycle center) and improvements are commendable.  The next objective is the acquisition of the land between the center and I-495 so that the town can expand our recycling efforts as well as any future green initiatives that may arise.  The town is now in the process of meeting with the state to arrive at a mutual agreement.  AGAIN, YOUR VOICE AND SUPPORT IS WELCOMED IN THIS IMPORTANT TASK. 
4. Franklin's composition of taxable property is 80% residential; 2% commercial according to information offered at one of our meetings.  When we have children to educate, seniors to provide for, and significant municipal obligations, it is imperative that our tax base be expanded and to this end our position is "quality development that enhances our community aesthetically and financially", as alluded to above.  
5. Our position on 150 Emmons Street was to return it to the tax rolls, eliminate an expensive blighted building, create a development complimentary to the town and college and use the proceeds for a permanent home for the Recreation Department on town property either at Chilson Beach or Wachusett Street (Verna property).  Last year the Recreation Department served approximately 5700 children of the community; 4700 of which were athletic programs, the remaining services were in child care, music and the arts.  Our children and our seniors need to continue to be a priority and sound business decisions will allow for that. 
6. The proposed addition to the library and an historical enhancement/improvement of the Brick School are future agenda issues that I am confident will be forwarded and supported by the Committee.  Thankfully, the library appears to be moving along; the Brick School is another matter. 
7. We have reviewed certain permitting and zoning issues as well as soliciting the input from the Planning Board and Zoning Board (regular attendees) to allow Franklin to compete with its neighbors for desirable projects.  We have considered proposing a by-law for "unkempt property" and withdrew it to allow for additional research and consideration.  It is likely to appear again. 
8. The town's history of maintaining its property, although somewhat better of late, is abysmal, to be kind.  The destruction of a 41 year old high school, the condition of 150 Emmons Street, the weed infested downtown and major roadways in the summertime, the lack of maintenance on the Union Street project (one million dollars, plus), are a few of the topics we have discussed and will revisit this year.  The logic of creating a public beach and soccer facility across the street from a poorly maintained municipal dump was perplexing, to say the least! 
9. The development of a performing arts facility in the central business district (cbd) is certainly welcomed.  There is much discussion about the anticipated road construction that is upcoming.  The Committee has raised the issue, and sent forward, suggestions that it is an opportune time to approach Rockland Trust, the largest landowner in the cbd, for consideration of a public-private endeavor, which should include parking for the downtown businesses as well as arts center and general rehabilitation/reconfiguring of the area. IMPORTANT! 
10. The Downtown Partnership has done a good job in past years planting flowers and trying to enhance the cbd.  I cannot emphasize too strongly how simple flower boxes and landscaping, along with regular maintenance of trees and weed control, can positively impact a community's appearance and reputation.  The town needs to do more in this regard in partnership with the business community. In closing, the above represents some of the work we have done, in partnership with the Council, Town Administrator and staff and community supporters.  Obviously, much more needs to be done.  
Franklin, recently designated as "the safest small city in America" has tremendous potential and resources.  We all need to step up and exploit the possibilities.  I urge you, and your organizations, to join us, or participate in any way you are able, to make our community a better place for all.  Emmons Street is but one issue among the many issues the community faces.  Best regards, Larry Benedetto.    

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.