Friday, June 3, 2005
June 8 Town Meeting to vote on Benfield plans
This year's Annual Town Meeting on May 23 was a model of efficiency and organization with 25 Warrant Articles moved and approved in only two-and-a-half hours with little discussion. Most folks were home in time to watch the 11:00 news. However, attendees voted to extend the Town Meeting to June 8 in order to address one last issue — the affordable housing development and recreation field on the South Street Benfield Land. This one item, which consists of several motions under Warrant Article 20, is expected to take up the entire evening and potentially create as much discussion as the first Benfield Parcel A vote just over one year ago.
A Special Town Meeting on March 23, 2004, approved the purchase of the Benfield Parcel A, with only nine votes making the difference in achieving the required two-thirds majority. Motion 1 asked the town to appropriate $2 million to purchase the 45.23-acre Parcel A, with 26 acres designated as open space and 19.23 acres designated for "no more than one developed athletic field and no more than 26 housing units" of affordable housing. The motion also stated that the acreage, location and boundaries of land use for the Benfield Land was "to be further delineated upon completion of the public master site planning process."
Motion 2 authorized a Parcel A Planning Task Force, consisting of representatives of the neighborhood, several town boards, and the community at large, to create a master plan for the 19-acre portion "to most appropriately site the housing and recreational use." Motion 2 also provided a "fallback plan," in the event that the town rejects the master plan. The fallback plan places deed restrictions on 14 acres designated for community housing and 5.23 acres for active recreation.
Task Force recommendations
Fast forward now to the June 8 Extended Town Meeting. The Parcel A Planning Task Force was formed as required and, after considerable discussion and much work over the past year, has voted three recommendations. These recommendations will be used by the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) and town counsel to draft three motions (11, 12 and 13) in Article 20 for the Extended Town Meeting on June 8. As drafted by Task Force Chair John Ballantine, and edited by CPC Chair Caren Ponty, the recommendations are as follows:
1. We (the Parcel A Planning Task Force) recommend two designated Open Space parcels for the placement of one playing field. The preferred, and recommended, site of the athletic field is in the back (so-called Plan B), or if the Native American claims are determined to be valid so that no playing field can be located in the area designated on Plan B, then the playing field may be located on the front (Plan A).
- Only one athletic field should be permitted on the open space parcels as shown on either the Plan B (recommended, field in back), or Plan A, (fallback).
- No permanent structures will be allowed on the front field without Town Meeting vote unless the playing field is built in the front (Plan A) because of Native American claims on the back part of the parcel (Plan B).
- Put a "trigger" mechanism in place so that the Recreation Commission must notify the holder of the deed restriction (and CPC) that it cannot build the field in the back (Plan B) and will move the field to the front (Plan A).
2. The recommended location of the playing field is shown on the site plan, with an approximate footprint of 350 feet by 420 feet, or 3 plus acres. Efforts will be made to draw the smallest footprint as possible with appropriate buffers for neighbors. Location of the field is to the east of the proposed affordable/community houses and north of the stone wall bordering the conservation land (approximately 26 acres).
3. The rest of the parcel that may be developed for community housing will be set aside for such - approximately 11 acres (interior wooded part of the Benfield land). The site plan shows the location of the housing west of the recreational field. Every effort will be made to keep the housing clustered in an architectural appealing manner and away from the neighbors.
Based on these recommendations, town counsel will provide the legal wording for the land configurations, fallback provisions and deed restrictions in Motions 11, 12 and 13 of Article 20 at the Extended Town Meeting. Ballantine promises to provide graphic displays of the Benfield Parcel A site plans to ensure that all motions are clear and understandable by the town voters.
So, as Yogi Berra so wisely proclaimed, "It ain't over till it's over." The Annual Town meeting continues next Wednesday night.
Since the Annual Town Meeting will re-convene after the Mosquito goes to press on Wednesday June 8, the results will not be published until the June 17 issue. However, a report will appear on the Mosquito web site within 24 hours of Town Meeting adjournment.
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