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    Default selectmen

    Feb. 13 meeting: bleachers, trash pickup, Allen Pond Dam

    Visitors bleachers to go
    Selectmen Feb. 13 authorized a private contractor to remove the visitors bleachers at Turco Field for reuse by the company. There is to be no cost to the town.

    Town Administrator Michael Boynton said the bleachers do not meet code and noted a past liability problem with home bleachers that have since been replaced.

    Boynton said he's waiting to hear back from the citizens' group that has been raising money for an artificial surface and other improvements for Turco. (Replacement of the visitors bleachers is not in the group's plans.)

    The Friends of the Walpole Community Athletic Complex told selectmen at the board's Jan. 16 meeting that they are planning to award a contract in April. The project, has been re-engineered to create a $1.5 million first phase, in line with the $1.2 million in cash and pledges and $200,000 in services committed as of January. Here's the Friends' site.

    Tuesday night. Boynton said the town must have assurance before the project begins that the Friends have the money to complete it.

    At their meeting, selectmen awarded a $4.3 million, five-year contract to low-bidder Russell Disposal of Somerville for curbside trash and recycling pickup, starting July 1. The company gets good marks from several cities and towns including Cambridge, according to Boynton and selectmen Chairman Joseph Denneen. Its bid was $8,000 lower in the first year than the town's current contractor, Waste Management, Boynton said.

    The board heard a presentation by GZA, the engineering firm hired to check Walpole-owned dams under a statewide directive issued after last year's trouble in Taunton. There are no real problems at Turner and Memorial ponds, but the Allen Pond dam needs further analysis because of spongy areas at its downstream base. Because of the homes nearby, the consultant recommends the dam be categorized as "high hazard," not because of its condition, which is "satisfactory," but because of damage potential.

    Boynton noted the dam was built in the 1950s after a hurricane-swollen Spring Brook flooded downtown Walpole. A warrant article for May Town Meeting includes $60,000 for further review of Allen dam.


    March 13
    Walpole Woodworkers
    With plans to sell its East Street property for development of 250 rental units under Chapter 40, Walpole Woodworkers will be leaving Walpole, Town Administrator Michael Boynton said at Tuesday night's selectmen meeting.

    Boynton said he was disappointed that the longtime Walpole business did not sound out the town before letting officials know two weeks ago of the plans for its 16 acres on East Street. Noting how close the site is to downtown, Boynton said that "we never had a chance to come up to bat."

    The situation is a "bummer," selectmen Chairman Joseph Denneen said. But on the chance the company might consider an overture from the town, the board postponed a vote on whether to endorse a study committee's recommendation to build a combined fire and police facility on Stone Field. Present at the meeting for a station discussion, the fire and police chiefs said the Woodworkers' site could be suitable for a new public safety facility.

    Under the state's Chapter 40B, the anti-snob-zoning law, developers can bypass town zoning and regulations in return for setting aside 25 percent or more of the planned units for publicly subsidized housing.

    "This is a big one," Boynton said at the start of a discussion that brought up the 300-unit Gatehouse 40B rental complex on Route 1 near the Foxboro line.

    The choice confronting the town is whether to approach the Woodworkers' site as a 40B, he said, adding that under that process Gatehouse was denied by the town for good cause but approved on appeal by the state. The alternative is Chapter 40R, the state's smart-growth law, which encourages cooperation between the community and the developer.

    "We have to make a decision as a community on what route to take... on the involvement the town may or may not have with the proposed development," Boynton said.

    Police Chief Richard Stillman said that while the East Street proposal might now be for 25 percent subsidized units, that's the figure Gatehouse used before getting state approval for 50 percent. The density of the Gatehouse complex has led to "some significant problems for the community," he said.

    Fire Chief Timothy Bailey said he is concerned about a proposed single way in and out of the East Street complex. And given the number of units on a site that contains wet areas, he said he's concerned about the possibility of buildings of three or more stories that pose problems for firefighters and ambulance crews.

    Boynton said Woodworkers executives see an application being filed this summer for East Street. The company also would be leaving its three acres and warehouse -- the former Ingersoll Rand building -- on School Street within a couple of years, town officials said, and is looking for a smaller facility with retail space in the area.

    Woodworkers executives told town officials they will be moving their manufacturing operation to Maine to be close to the source of their wood supply. The company makes upscale outdoor furniture and fixtures sold nationally through a catalogue and website.

    At the suggestion of Selectman Michael Caron, the board put off a vote on a combined police and fire facility on Stone Field for two weeks to explore East Street possibility. Noting the size of the combined facility in an area where a senior center and library are planned, Caron said he didn't think he could support the facility in its current form. Selectman Al DeNapoli said he is "torn," recognizing a need for a new police station but uneasy at the prospect of "monster" buildings.

    Selectmen agreed that something like the new Norwood combined fire and police station -- about the same square footage but a story higher than the Walpole proposal -- is not what they want here.

    Boynton said the rationale for the combined facility is that it saves money. Given that, Selectman Christopher Timmons said, it has to be built close to downtown because that's where the fire department has to be.

    Thomas Bowen, a member of the selectmen-appointed public safety facility committee, noted that its recommendation in January makes it the second panel to recommend a combined downtown facility. The first was the municipal facilities study committee, which reported on all town buildings two years ago.

    What's the alternative to endorsing the plan, Bowen asked selectmen. A third study committee?

    Selectmen have a placeholder article on the May Town Meeting warrant for a combined facility, which would require an override vote at a later town election to move forward.

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    Default March 27 meeting

    1A used cars, Bill Ryan resigns, library update, reverse 911

    On a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, selectmen approved a used car sales license with 11 spaces for 1391 Main St.

    The application first came before the board last summer. For the board, the request raised the question whether it is more important to be business friendly or to push the transformation of Main Street (Route 1A) south of town.

    Selectman Cathy Winston said the 10 used car licenses on a 1.9-mile stretch of 1A are already more than enough. She read a letter from Town Counsel that indicates that over-saturation could be grounds for rejecting an application. Chairman Joseph Denneen joined Winston in voting no. Michael Caron, Al DeNapoli and Christopher Timson voted for the license.

    No station discussion

    A selectmen's discussion on whether to endorse a study committee's recommendation for a combined police and fire station on Stone field was put off again. The reason this time, Town Administrator Michael Boynton said, is that when tape was placed on the ground to show the building's footprint, people were surprised at how big it would be. The police and fire chiefs will be talking it over with the architect, Boynton said.

    Bill Ryan resigns

    A letter of resignation from William Ryan from the station study committee he chaired and from the capital budget committee was read by Denneen at the start of the meeting. Ryan, a former selectman, wrote he was resigning because the way a town position was filled was based on politics, not fairness and honesty. The letter did not go into specifics.

    Library project update

    Library Director Jerry Romelczyk told selectmen that Walpole has moved up in the past year from the 40s to 26th on the list for a state grant to cover part of the costs of a new library at Stone and School Streets. With 12 to 16 communities to be told their money is ready this year, Walpole could get the word in the fiscal year that begins July 1, he said.

    Walpole's grant would be $3.4 million toward what's estimated to be an $11 million project. Legislation that has a good chance of passing would add 15 percent to library grants to cover construction inflation, he said.

    Once the town is informed its grant money is ready, it has six months to decide whether to accept it, he said, noting that perhaps a third of communities on the list end up not doing their projects. The Town Meeting vote could come in 2008.

    An override would also be needed, perhaps for $6 million. In addition to what could be a state grant close to $4 million, library fundraisers hope to bring in $1 million in private donations, he said.

    In the meantime, plans are to spend $10,000 to hire the state-required project manager and perhaps $20,000 for schematic drawings, he said, with the money coming from a trust fund, not the town.

    It's expected that there will be an open competition to select an architectural firm, he said. Comments have been favorable on the current design for the library interior, but critical of what the building would like from the outside, he said.

    Reverse 911

    Selectmen got a presentation on a "reverse 911" emergency warning system recommended by the town's Local Emergency Planning Committee and for which $7,500, the annual cost for the service, will be requested at the May Town Meeting.

    The system would allow police, fire, schools and other designated officials to send a voice message to phones townwide or on specific lists. The system could be used, for instance, to call an evacuation or notify parents of a school situation. According to the provider, it would take between five and seven minutes to get a two-minute message to every household, much less than that for a smaller message to a smaller number of homes.

    The system provides for automatic repeat calls, and allows emergency personnel to ask people to confirm receipt and compliance by pressing a phone button. The system handles cell phones and allows residents with unlisted numbers to enter their information privately.


    April 10: Development focus
    Town Administrator Michael Boynton asked selectmen Tuesday night to back him in focusing economic development efforts on "what sits in front of our nose" -- downtown, East Walpole and the Walpole Mall.

    Boynton said he wants to swing attention that's now aimed at hitting a $100 million homerun toward filling empty storefronts. "We've gotten a bit far ahead of ourselves," he said.

    Boynton said he's been getting that message from members of the Walpole Chamber of Commerce. We should look at areas that are screaming for attention, he said.

    In large part because of its loss of industry, Walpole has a number of areas ripe for redevelopment, he said. But residential neighborhoods have grown around much of that land, he noted. If we get bogged down in such areas, we lose focus on downtown, he said,

    The one specific area he mentioned was state correction department land across Route 1A from the prison on the Norfolk town line, part of a current study by the MAPC in part to identify development possibilities

    Boynton did not get into it, but South Walpole residents who favor leaving the land wooded are concerned that the next step could be an effort to extend the Walpole sewer that now ends near the industrial park south along Route 1A to hook up with some sort of major development at the former Pondville Hospital in Norfolk.

    Boynton noted that state Sen. Jim Timilty, D-Walpole, is concerned that if the town gets prison land for development, it could jeopardize the mitigation money the state provides for hosting MCI Cedar Junction.

    "We don't want to start something that we will be sorry for later own," Boynton said. He added he favored continuing the MAPC study because it will also be looking at the potential for the stretch of salvage yards along Route 1A.

    In a non-related discussion, Boynton said that Algonquin Gas Transmission Co. is beginning the permitting process to replace its existing 24-inch pipe with 36-inch pipe from Bellingham to Weymouth. The line's route through Walpole crosses a major electricity corridor near the industrial park; a company has expressed interest in building a natural gas-fired power plant near the junction.

    Without mentioning the power plant, Boynton said the increase in pipe size is not connected to any project. If the permitting process goes smoothly, work on the line would begin in two years, he said, cautioning that it could be disruptive.

    Selectman Al DeNapoli reported on a meeting with Patriots officials on their plans for Patriot Place at the stadium in Foxboro. The officials were receptive to requests to underwrite added police and fire costs Walpole will incur because of the development, he said.

    DeNapoli said he came away with an understanding of the "full enormity" of Patriots Place: including 14 restaurants, a 14-screen cinema and retail outlets -- a Christmas Tree Shop and Bed Bath and Beyond among them. He told the officials they're being naive in their belief that the only impact of the project on Walpole will be on game days.

    The Patriots will also support exploration of turning the Interstate 95 interchange at Coney Street into a full four-way connection, he said.

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    Default April 24

    Redevelopment Authority
    Two selectmen objected strongly Tuesday night to a proposed Walpole Redevelopment Authority because it would be largely independent of town control.

    But Paul Millette, vice chairman of the town's Economic Development Committee and Don Walsh, the town's economic development officer, responded that a WRA would allow the town to gain control of the South Street Superfund site. They say the owner is talking Chapter 40B housing and a solar power plant.

    The economic development committee and board of health are backing an article on the May Town Meeting warrant that would create a WRA. The proposal is aimed at allowing the town to take the Superfund land, but under state law, a redevelopment authority cannot be confined to a specific site.

    However, Don Walsh, the town's development officer, explained, under the statute, action of a WRA would have to be bound to a site-specific redevelopment plan that was approved by selectmen, the planning board and the state as well as by the WRA board.

    Selectman Chris Timson said he's been getting more calls from townspeople on the WRA proposal than on any other Town Meeting issue. An attorney, Timson said he'd spent a day reviewing the law and court decisions, in part to see if the "doomsday scenario," a runaway redevelopment authority, is a real possibility.

    With 50 or so communities in the state with redevelopment authorities, the one case Timson found of relevance involved a long-running dispute in Hull that left prime property on the ocean vacant for years.

    The Hull Redevelopment Authority, selectmen and planning board approved a redevelopment plan that called for subsidized elderly housing on the site. Later, selectmen embraced an alternative that called for a casino and expensive housing. Selectmen told HRA board members who stuck to the original agreement that they were fired. The HRA members took their case to court and won.

    As illustrated by the Hull case, the risk is that a redevelopment authority would stand by an original agreement even if other town officials see something better coming along later.

    After his review, Timson said his remaining big concern is that a WRA apparently could take land by eminent domain and perform other actions within the development plan without Town Meeting funds or approval. The necessary money could come from the developer chosen for the project under the plan.

    Walsh agreed with Timson's point. The intent is to avoid drawing on town funds, he said, noting that under the law, a redevelopment authority is an independent entity.

    It is that independence that would allow the WRA to take the Superfund site without the town taking on any liability for a cleanup. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency supports the concept, and it's especially important because the property owner has not been cooperative, according to WRA proponents.

    If it were not for the potential liability, the town could move to take the property for back taxes. Town Administrator Michael Boynton told selectmen Tuesday night the bill now totals $1.2 million.

    After almost two decades of involvement, the EPA is several months away from ruling on how extensive the site cleanup will be -- a decision that will depend on what future uses are expected on the property. Tyco, the conglomerate that is expected to foot part of the bill, would be drawn to an industrial plan like a solar power plant because it would involve a less expensive cleanup than the mixed use plan by the town's Superfund committee, Millette said.

    Millette, who was a member of that committee, said he would expect its thorough report would form the basis of a redevelopment plan for the site. The plan calls for municipal use (perhaps a police station,) housing and light industry.

    If Town Meeting approves a redevelopment authority, selectmen would appoint four WRA board members, the state would name the fifth. In the June 2008 election, townspeople would pick four board members for staggered terms, with the effect that in future elections only one board seat would be on the ballot each year.

    That arrangement would mean it could take years for townspeople to regain control of a board, Selectman Cathy Winston said. There are no checks and balances -- and only the WRA board would have the power to dissolve the authority, she said, calling that provision "frightening."

    Selectmen Chairman Joseph Denneen said he's not comfortable with the WRA proposal, and that it would not be appropriate for his board or any board to give up control to an independent authority.

    Walsh responded by asking how much control the town has over a property owner. A redevelopment authority would be more responsive to the wishes of the town, he said.

    Selectman Al DeNapoli spoke favorably of the proposal. "There's a hue and cry for economic development, but every time something comes up, there's something that pushes it back."

    Selectmen will vote whether to recommend adoption of the article before Town Meeting convenes.

    Tuesday night, selectmen voted unanimously to endorse articles that would allow fast track reviews of development at the Walpole Mall and the Siemens facility, but not at the South Street Superfund site.

    Those votes are in line with the finance committee recommendations. Walsh said the unwillingness of the South Street owner to participate would block fast track review for the Superfund property even if there were not other concerns.

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    Default May 8

    Redevelopment Authority
    Two selectmen made pointed remarks at their board meeting Tuesday, May 8 about the town Economic Development Committee's efforts to win Town Meeting approval for creation of a Walpole Redevelopment Authority. (Selectmen voted 5-0 May 1 to recommend that Town Meeting not approve the article.)

    The strongest criticism May 8 came from Selectman Cathy Winston and focused on email sent to Parent Advisory Council members that urged them to forward a message to selectmen demanding that the board back a WRA as a way to bring in new development and taxes to support schools. "I am very upset by the email," Winston said, adding that EDC members apparently see their role differently than she does as a member of the appointing board.

    Speaking before Winston, Selectman Chris Timson said the EDC and selectmen are "arguably, at odds" and "really need to be on the same page" on development priorities. There should be more regular contact and reporting to make sure we're going in the same direction, Timson said.

    Selectmen Chairman Joseph Denneen cut off the discussion, noting that the WRA proposal would be on Town Meeting floor tonight. Denneen assured the board the issue would be discussed further and that he would have more contact with the EDC.

    EDC Chairman Larry Pitman already had requested a meeting be scheduled.

    In addition to the WRA proposal, the EDC is backing articles on tonight's second and likely last session of spring Town Meeting that would allow fast-track review of any development plans submitted for the Walpole Mall or the Siemens campus off Coney Street.

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    Default May 8, Walpole Times

    Selectmen and Town Administrator Michael Boynton said Tuesday night that it's a loss for the town that Christine Cochrane is no longer the photographer for the Walpole Times. Cochrane and the Times have parted company with the acquisition of the locally-owned newspaper by Community Newspaper Company, a segment of Gatehouse Media, a national chain that owns more than 100 weekly and several daily newspapers in metropolitan Boston, including the Daily News Transcript, Brockton Enterprise and Patriot Ledger. The acquisition was announced last week.

    As Tuesday's board meeting neared an end, Boynton and selectmen said they wanted to thank Cochrane publicly for the way her photos in the paper, "artistry in film," reflected the town. They also said thanks for all the pictures she gave the town over the years, including many in the annual Town Reports.

    In addition to the loss of Cochrane, who worked for the paper for 19 years, Selectman Cathy Winston said she's saddened to see the Times "swallowed."

    (As a former colleague of Christine, I too want to say how much I appreciated her photography, professionalism and good spirit. -- Tom Glynn)

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    Default May 22: Woodworkers and Superfund

    At selectmen's request, conservation agent Landis Hershey on Tuesday, May 22, outlined for them he procedure that the conservation commission will be following on a proposal to build a 40B housing complex on what is now the Walpole Woodworkers site on East Street.

    At her suggestion, the Fairfield Group has applied now for a decision from the commission on which portions of the property are subject to the state wetland law. The commission's public hearing on that application begins June 13.

    The outcome of the application will determine how much of the property is buildable and influence how many units can be built. Fairfield will then have up to three years to get back to the commission with an application showing actual construction plans.

    A consultant for Fairfield has already prepared for the commission's review a plan showing wetland lines. The consultant maintains that a stream on the property is seasonal, thus not subject to the setbacks under the state's Rivers Act.

    While the state's Chapter 40B, the anti-snob zoning law, does not exempt projects from the state's Wetland Protection Act, it does exempt them from local wetland bylaws. Walpole's requirements for a 25-foot no-disturb buffer around wetlands and protection for isolated wetlands do not apply to a 40B, Hershey said.

    Selectmen Michael Caron and Christopher Timson asked Hershey to convey to the commission a suggestion that a consultant be hired to review Fairfield's submissions on the town's behalf. (Usually, a developer covers the costs of such an arrangement.)

    Timson said an independent consultant would help make sure the town has a solid position if the process with the Fairfield Group should become adversarial.

    South Street

    Representatives of the state Attorney General's office and the Department of Environmental Protection have briefed Walpole officials on the town's potential liability under state law should it acquire the South Street Superfund site for back taxes, Town Administrator Michael Boynton reported to the board. (Federal law provides strong protection against lawsuits in such situations.)

    The state can offer Walpole written assurance that it would not take the town to court over issues that could arise after acquisition, Boynton said.

    Selectman Timson, who was at the briefing, noted that a main concern of Chairman Joseph Denneen and other board members has been the possibility that a third party -- a private citizen -- could sue the town over a health or environmental problem if Walpole took ownership. The state offers insurance that would cover the town in such situations and would pay half of the policy cost, Timson said, adding that the price of the coverage wasn't available at the briefing.

    Boynton said that the state law would make it exceedingly difficult for a third paty to prevail against the town in court -- the plaintiff would have to prove that the town actively contributed to a contamination problem, he said.

    During the briefing, town officials got a message that Tyco, the potentially responsible party that could be on the hook for part of the cleanup costs, would prefer to negotiate what's to be done with the town as owner rather than with the current owner, Boynton said.

    It was also mentioned that the time for such negotiations is before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues the plan, which will specify the level of the clean-up, Boynton said.

    This spring, the town's Economic Development Committee proposed that Walpole create a redevelopment authority that could acquire the Superfund site without exposing the town to liability. But selectmen and a majority of the finance committee opposed the idea, noting that a redevelopment authority would have considerable power independent of direct town control. The measure was buried without discussion at the May Town Meeting.

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    Default

    June 19
    Stadium parking at Boyden?
    Estimating that it could bring in $80,000 a year, Selectman Chris Timson asked his colleagues on the board June 19 to consider the possibility of opening the lots at Boyden Elementary School and the South pool for paid parking for Foxboro stadium events. The revenue potential for the town, Timson said, is the equivalent of the property taxes a very large commercial building pays.

    Selectmen noted that town zoning for that area does not allow commercial lots. If zoning were to be changed to allow the town to charge parking fees, residents also might be able to charge to park cars on their property. A zoning change requires a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting.

    Timson said the town could impose fees on private parking lots if they were allowed. Town Administrator Michael Boynton noted that some residents seem to have been charging for parking during recent football seasons.

    Selectmen were not sure of the specifics, but noted that residents operated paid lots until the town shut them down several years ago. (The town enforced the zoning bylaw after getting complaints from neighbors about all sorts of problems.)


    July 17
    Housing production plan
    A consultant working on a new zoning bylaw is to be given the added task of developing a housing production plan, a document that would give the town more control over proposals submitted under the state's Chapter 40B.

    Selectmen voted Tuesday night, July 17, to transfer $17,000 from the reserve fund, subject to approval by the finance committee, to pay for the extra work.

    A production plan requires approval by the state. Once approved, in any calendar year in which a town produces state or federally subsidized dwellings equal to .75 percent of its total housing, it could turn down 40B projects for 12 months after reaching that number. For Walpole, with a total of 8,200 dwellings, .75 percent works out to 62 units. For creating 123 units in a calendar year, Walpole would get a 24-month reprieve.

    Under Chapter 40B, developers can bypass local zoning and other rules until 10 percent of a community's total housing is subsidized. The 472 40B units in Walpole amount to 5.8 percent of the town's total dwellings, 348 short of the state goal.

    The production plan approach was adopted by the state amid growing criticism of the projects and methods of some 40B developers. Town Administrator Michael Boynton told the selectmen Tuesday night that 35 communities have sent letters backing the board's call for a moratorium on "unfriendly" 40B projects, ones planned without support or input from the community. Sen. Jim Timilty, D-Walpole, has submitted legislation calling for a three-year moratorium, Boynton said.

    One advantage of a production plan is that it gives a community a better chance of heading off big 40B projects, selectmen have noted. Most of the subsidized dwellings in Walpole are in the 300-unit Gatehouse complex on Route 1.

    Discussions continue with proponents of building Chapter 40B housing on the Walpole Woodworkers property on East Street. The Woodworkers told town officials in March the project could be 250 rental units.

    A 16-unit 40B is under construction on Oak Street at South. Boynton said Tuesday night that there's been no word from the state on whether it will back a proposed 40B on Baker Street abutting the Walpole Country Club.

    Selectmen Chairman Al DeNapoli said it makes sense to combine the zoning and production plan tasks. The state requires that a production plan show what sections of town are favored for 40B housing and what specific town-owned land could be set aside for 40Bs. Here's a link to the state plan rules.

    Library plans
    Selectmen approved spending $10,000 from private donations to hire a project manager, required by the state, for the proposed library at Stone and School streets. The money will cover the manager's services through January, overseeing the production of final drawings and cost estimates. Library Director Jerry Romelczyk told selectmen fundraising has been going very well.

    Mitigation money
    Boynton noted that Governor Patrick approved the $750,000 sought by Walpole's lawmakers and endorsed by the Legislature to compensate the town for hosting MCI Cedar Junction. Noting that last year's $750,000 went entirely to capital projects, Boynton said he's telling department heads to plan no additional hiring.

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    Default July 31: NIMBY

    The term NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) came up in two discussions at the July 31 selectmen's meeting -- one about "Friendly" 40Bs, the other about commercial projects that would increase the town's tax base.

    NIMBY arose first in a presentation by representatives of a new housing coalition that convinced Walpole selectmen to vote unanimously to join. The Municipal Coalition for Affordable Housing (MCAH) is dedicated to having communities rather than developers take the lead in creating units that count toward the state Chapter 40B goal that at least 10 percent of homes in every community be built with government subsidies.

    Josh Degen, a Groton selectman, explained that the idea behind MCAH is to help municipalities head off big, inappropriate 40Bs by taking the lead in creating qualifying housing that better fits the community.

    In an apparent reference to the Gatehouse apartments on Route 1, Selectman Michael Caron said that 40B creates 200- or 300-unit complexes that don't integrate into the community and that require a higher level of police response.

    Degen and MCAH director Richard Heaton, a former Bolton selectman, said the way to avoid inappropriate projects is to use provisions of state law allow a community to work with developers to create "friendly" 40Bs. (In Walpole's case under one such provision, after a year in which 62 qualified units came on line, the town could say no to 40B proposals for 12 months; for 123 units, the town could get a two-year reprieve.)

    As a first step, the town needs a housing production plan that among other benefits, would allow some existing housing and apartments that were built with some sort of government subsidy to be counted toward the 40B goal, Degen said. Selectmen Chairman Al DeNapoli responded that Walpole is already at work on a production plan. (The board approved $17,000 last month for a consultant to draft the plan.)

    The state requires a community to specify what town-owned land it would propose for friendly 40Bs. Action under that provision, the MCAH representatives noted, is likely to bring out a NIMBY response, something a community should be prepared for.

    MCAH charges no dues and imposes no obligations on its members. Its web site -- http://mcahinfo.org -- contains links to some news stories about 40B.

    In addition to the vote to join MCAH, Walpole selectmen agreed to put in a plug for the association in a letter they'll be sending all communities in the state updating progress on their call for a moratorium on unfriendly 40Bs.

    Commercial projects

    Later in their July 31 session, selectmen met with their Economic Development Committee to talk about priorities and communication. (The meeting was called in the spring, after selectmen became vexed at vigorous lobbying by the EDC for a redevelopment authority.)

    Selectman Caron noted it's easier for some proposals to win support than others -- the Walpole Mall expansion or Siemens, for instance. But other possibilities, he said, are "very contentious" -- reuse of Bird Machine or a power station, for example.

    EDC member John Hasenjaeger then asked selectmen just how they would want a proposal for "a power plant or XYZ" to be focused on. "That's the million-dollar question," he said, without drawing a response.

    The way it works now, Hasenjaeger maintained, is that when a proposal surfaces, people in the vicinity tend to be "vehemently" against it. They're the ones who show up at the hearings -- maybe a dozen people out of 24,000, he said.

    Noting the earlier remarks regarding location of friendly 40Bs, Hasenjaeger continued that it is unacceptable to most thinking people in town that "we simply react to NIMBYs."

    "How are you getting consensus so we can move forward?", he asked selectmen.

    Town Administrator Michael Boynton explained that when it comes to governmental actions, everyone's a stakeholder and "you want to hear from everyone." People who own property around a proposal site have as much right as anyone to have their say, he said.

    "The minute you call a stakeholder a NIMBY, you set up a project for failure," Boynton said.

    Boynton indicated that events are unfolding that could determine the course of the salvage yard stretch along Route 1A south of downtown. Economic Director Don Walsh has been making headway talking to some owners, Boynton said, but also indicated that a project is being considered by one owner along the line of existing uses.

    EDC member Ken Fettig said that extending the Route 1A sewer line south to the Walpole Industrial Park and the salvage yards area would help get better uses and revenues for the town. He noted that conclusion was supported this spring by MAPC staffers who took a look at the 1A stretch. Seventy-two acres of salvage yards now bring in a total of $45,000 in property taxes a year, he said.

    In response to a question, Walsh said the site of the vacant blue former gas station across Main Street from the Kahana is about to see some action, if not of the intensity sought for downtown.

    Discussion at the meeting gave a hint that something might be in works for the long-closed Kahana restaurant.

    Consultant sought for recreation plan

    Selectmen voted Tuesday night, July 31, to advertise for consultants to develop a master plan for the town's playing fields, including taking a look at three or four potential new sites.

    The three potential sites listed in the request for proposals (RFP) are all town-owned: the 168-acre Adams Farm, 142 acres on the north side of South Street on either side of Washington (DPW and wells) and 33 acres at the end of Summer Street (the water tank land abutting Cobble Knoll and Concord Drives.) The RFP does not identify specific areas within the sites.

    A fourth site also might be looked at: the 94-acre MWRA parcel at Main and Winter Streets next to the prison,

    DPW Director Bob O'Brien told the board the list of potential sites is the result of a whittling-down process in which other locations considered over the years did not make the cut because of limitations. Allen Dam, for instance, was ruled out because the Army Corps of Engineers won't allow a field there.

    But there are issues with sites that made the cut. Noting that townspeople have opposed creation of playing fields on Adams Farm, Selectman Cathy Winston questioned its inclusion in the RFP and said she would vote against such a proposal. Winston also said that the end of Summer Street is not up to handling field traffic.

    Town Administrator Michael Boynton said a newly available map of the topography at the MWRA site shows that there could be some construction challenges if that property is chosen.

    Boynton noted that the now-capped Lincoln Road landfill is not on the list. While the cap is designed to facilitate creation of fields, regulatory complexities mean that such a possibility is years away, he said. He also noted that the space behind Turco Field at the high school is not in the RFP, but could be revisited sometime.

    At another point in the discussion, assistant Town Administrator Jim Johnson said the conversion of Turco to artificial turf now under way will have a "huge impact" on meeting the town's field capacity needs.

    Parks Superintendent Bob Leblanc said that 75 percent of the consultant's work will be directed toward the existing fields -- configuration, maintenance and scheduling.

    The RFP says, "The consultant shall work with representatives of various sports activities and user groups (Little League, Soccer, Softball, Lacrosse, School Department, Municipal Officials and Committee members, etc.) to gather feedback for an assessment of the Town of Walpole's present and future needs relative to parks and recreation."

    The RFP envisions a consultant coming up with a recommended plan six months after signing on. Town Meeting appropriated $35,000 in May for creation of the plan.

  9. #9
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    Oct 2006
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    Default Aug. 14: stadium parking

    A report by town staffers concludes that opening the Boyden school and South pool lots for paid parking for Patriots games would be break-even at best. Selectman Chris Timson, who had suggested the possibility, said at the Aug. 14 meeting that if the idea is not a money-maker or doesn't have support on the board, it's not worth spending more time on.

    But in the discussion that followed, questions arose about a couple of key assumptions made in the staff analysis, and another selectman indicated he liked the idea.

    The discussion ended with selectmen saying they want to hear more from the staff and will take the matter up at their next meeting.

    In June, Timson estimated the town could take in $80,000 a year if it charged for Pats parking. His estimate was based on 200 spaces at the two lots.

    Assistant Town Administrator Jim Johnson said at the Tuesday night (Aug. 14) board meeting that the staff analysis puts the number of spaces at 103 -- no parking on grass and no double row in the center of the Boyden lot. Town Administrator Michael Boynton said that with all the talk about fields, parking shouldn't be allowed on the grass at Boyden. Selectmen Chairman Al DeNapoli noted that spaces on grass couldn't be plowed.

    Based on that number of spaces and $25 a car, the report says the revenue would just about cover operating costs, Johnson reported, not counting start-up costs. Charging for parking at Boyden would require a zoning change, he noted.

    Timson wondered how the numbers would look if the town charged $40, more in line with other Pats parking. He also noted that fans' cars are squeezed in "like sardines."

    Selectman David Sullivan told Timson, "I'm with you."

    But Selectman Cathy Winston said South Walpole residents don't want to go back to the days when men returning to their cars urinated in the street in view of families.

    Timson said that charging for parking could bring in more than a good-sized new building would pay in property taxes, noting one such proposal was to come up later in the meeting.

    That proposal comes from Charles Zarba, who want to erect an office building that would replace the former Remy warehouse on Common Street just before Route 1. James Brady, his attorney, told the board the two-story building with 65,000 feet of floor space would be similar to Zarba's Executive Center next door on Route 1. C Scott's, the shop at the corner, might relocate into the new building, he said.

    The new building would bring in $65,000 a year in property taxes on property that now pays just over $13,000, Brady said. He assured two neighbors that there would be a minimum of 120 feet of wooded buffer along the proposed parking lot.

    Zarba is asking the fall Town Meeting to change zoning on a piece of the parcel that's now zoned residential. Tuesday night, he received a unanimous vote of the selectmen to allow a piece now dedicated as open space to be used for parking. That change requires approval of the Legislature, usually routine, Brady said.

    At the close of the meeting, Boynton said the town has considerable free cash -- $4.7 million. Selectmen then went into closed session to discuss acquisition of real estate without specifying the property.

  10. #10
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    Oct 2006
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    Default Aug. 28: Town Meeting warrant

    The Oct. 15 Town Meeting will not take up townwide rezoning as had been anticipated because a proposal will not be ready in time. As a result, Town Administrator Michael Boynton told selectmen Aug. 28, there could be a call for a special Town Meeting in late fall or early winter. That session also could be asked to approve a specific project under a state program aimed at promoting mixed use near train stations if the proposal is ready, Boynton said without identifying the location.

    At their Aug. 28 session, selectmen closed a fall Town Meeting warrant with 12 articles.

    An article from the school committee to use $166,000 in prison mitigation money for its operating budget could prompt discussion. At selectmen's meetings, the talk has been of using the money as usual for capital projects.

    Selectmen have an article on the October warrant that would create a debt reserve fund from part of the town's $4.7 million in free cash. The mitigation money is part of the free cash account.

    Also on the warrant is an article that would rezone land off Route 1 as part of the plan for an office building in Walpole that would replace the warehouse now used by a moving company and other business on Common Street.

    An article requests Town Meeting to endorse a housing production plan that would give Walpole flexibility in meeting the state's Chapter 40B housing requirements. The production plan is not ready yet. Boynton said that as part of the effort, landlords are to be surveyed on rents.

    At the Aug. 28 meeting, Boynton told the board that after years of trying, an agreement has been reached to release to the town $130,000 that can be used to help complete roadwork in the Pine Brook subdivision off Route 109. The money was deposited in the 1990s by the developer company, which no longer exists, he said.

    Completion of the work is estimated to cost $125,000 beyond the $130,000. The planning board is expected to have further discussions with the residents, he said, noting that the costs could be shared.

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