Friday, April 16, 2004
ConsCom drops Greenough cottage repair Warrant Article
Rebuffed last week by the Board of Selectmen in an attempt to secure partial funding for repairs to the deteriorating cottage on the Greenough Conservation Land, the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) chose to remove its Warrant Article to that effect from the Annual Town Meeting agenda. The mood was sober as the commission met April 8 to assess the impact of the Selectmen's refusal of support and to refine a Request for Proposals (RFP) that seeks to attract a tenant who can provide the in-kind labor required to bring the cottage up to par.
Tear it down
The ambience was not lightened when former commissioner Ken Harte rose to recommend that the commission tear down both the house and barn on the town-owned property. Noting that with all the conservation land (over 1,000 acres) now requiring management, coupled with the town's present and anticipated budget constraints, "You don't need this headache. You already have too many things to do." He was reminded that tearing down the structures would also cost money, but no specific amount was mentioned.
Apply for CPA funds?
On a more positive note, Chair Tricia Smith reported an "interesting" April 7 meeting with the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) in which its members expressed willingness to consider an application for funding help for a plan that led to either affordable housing or historic preservation, two of the three categories of projects the committee is chartered to advance under state statute. Commissioner John Lee, ConsCom's representative on the CPC, confirmed that funding could be considered if the cost structure were reasonable. However, both Smith and Commissioner Roy Watson emphasized that they had "no desire to turn into a housing authority," a position that brought vigorous nods from their colleagues.
At this point, the commission heard a second proposal that helped change the mood of the meeting. Developer Chris Fielding announced that he has a customer/abutter who is interested in using the barn and would be willing to tear down the house and make any necessary repairs to the barn, in return for a long-range lease. Looking even further ahead, Fielding foresaw the possibility of a lease holder completely rebuilding the cottage on the existing footprint, with a 20-year, or longer, contract. Asked the probable cost of such reconstruction, he estimated about $100,000 plus the expense of a Title 5 septic system. Since Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution as interpreted by the Attorney General requires that "any change of use" for conservation property requires the approval of two thirds of both houses of the state legislature, Watson volunteered to discuss possible legal ramifications with the Department of Environmental Management.
Other potentially welcome news followed. Former Commissioner Steve Hinton announced he was aware of a potential RFP bidder who had both the inclination and the cash to pay for the preliminaries to taking up residence in the cottage, namely, to remove the asbestos and lead paint, and then to continue with a rehabilitation protocol. In addition, two other parties have expressed serious interest in bidding, even after they saw the condition of their possible future abode.
In view of such decidedly different approaches to solving the town's dilemma, Smith suggested that the RFP be revamped to a more open-ended version that would allow bidders to propose other creative solutions. That modus operandi appealed to the commission as a whole and was promptly adopted, along with a resolution to remove the commission's original Article from the May 3 Town Meeting Warrant. That Article had asked for "seed money" to make the structure minimally habitable for a lease holder.
The 76-year-old cottage and the barn were present on the 242-acre Greenough estate, off Maple Street, when the parcel was purchased in 1973.
© 2004 The