Friday, June 22, 2007
Concord approves playing fields at CCHS — a second time
Concord voters reaffirmed their approval of a project to build two artificial turf athletic fields on land belonging to the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District (RSD) at a Town Meeting held on Wednesday, June 13. The plan had originally been approved by Concord residents, after much debate, at their Annual Town Meeting on April 24, but residents unhappy with the outcome of the original vote had petitioned for the matter to be reconsidered at the Special Town Meeting.
Wide margin for vote
Article 3 of the Special Town Meeting, calling to rescind the vote to build the fields, taken under Article 30 of their April Town Meeting failed by a margin of 433 in favor and 1,300 opposed.
Subsequent Articles were not moved, including Article 4 which would have required that Carlisle share in the cost of all field construction or renovation at the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School, according to Carlisle's fraction of the student enrollment. Article 5, also not moved, would have modified the project funding and established a task force to search for alternative sites for playing fields. Articles 3, 4 and 5 were all placed on the Concord Warrant by petition.
Sentiment in Concord has run high According to the Concord municipal web site (www.concordma.gov), a new attendance record was set when roughly 1,830 voters came to their June 13 Special Town Meeting, beating the previous record set in 1994.
District and Concord
to share fields
The multi-sport fields are to be built in a wooded area behind the high school. At their meeting on June 12, the Regional School Committee (RSC) voted to approve an intergovernmental agreement to share the land with the Town of Concord. The project will use about eight or nine acres of the 94-acre RSD property located off Walden Street near Route 2 in Concord. A provision in the agreement specifies that the high school retain use of the fields during the school day and up to 6 p.m. for its athletic programs. The school district still retains ownership of the property, but the agreement allows Concord to move forward to construct the fields.
Carlisle is not financially involved in the project which is to be funded using a combination of: $1.5 million in Concord's Community Preservation Act funds, up to $1.5 million in Concord Capital Plan funds, and up to $2 million in private donations
Why does only Concord pay?
RSC Chair Michael Fitzgerald said a new school building is the top priority at the high school and the RSC did not want to allocate regional funds for new fields at this time. Concord wanted to move forward with the new playing fields without further delay, deciding not to request regional high school funds from Carlisle for the project, after voters rejected two previous playing field requests in Carlisle last year.
One more hurdle
Before Concord can begin construction of the fields, it must wait to see if a review of the project is required under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA). The Friends of Thoreau Country, a group opposing field construction on the hill near the high school, requested an opinion from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to see if the project qualifies for an environmental impact review under the act. On June 12, the town sent a ten-page letter (posted on the Concord Town web site) to MEPA Office responding to the points raised by the Friends of Thoreau Country. Concord's letter asks the state to concur that the playing field project "does not involve state action nor meet any of the thresholds for MEPA review." A ruling is expected within a couple of weeks.
If a review is not required, Fitzgerald said Concord will likely begin field construction in July.
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