Annual & Special Town Meetings

Meeting just called to order by Deputy Moderator, Barry Orenstein.

Updating as we go.

Tonight's Annual & Special Town Meeting 
is expected to cover the remaining articles:

Article 12 - Wastewater System Improvements

Article 45 - Amend Zoning Bylaw - Brookhaven (to be referred back to Planning Board to complete negotiations)
by Voice Vote - APPROVED

Motion to dissolve 2016 Annual Town Meeting
by Voice Vote - APPROVED

Moving on quickly to STM 2016-4:
Article 5: Purchase of Belmont Country Club Land (to be indefinitely postponed)
Report of the Capital Expenditures Committee received and placed on file.

TMM: asks School Committee about enrollment relative to this site.
SC Chair: We have enrollment projections; for 5-10 years from now would be pure conjecture and speculative
TMM: I don't find this answer at all helpful. How good are our school enrollment predictions?
SC Chair: The second part of your first question - we do not have other sites to use for new school.
TMM: Anyone looking into this site for possible use by the schools?
SC Chair: The Committee hasn't discussed it.
BoS Chair: Board of Selectmen is actively looking for school sites - we will be taking up one such site a little later.

Q from TMM: Why was it considered that this parcel of land was not considered viable for school or other Town purposes?
BoS Chair: WRT school uses, there are topographical problems with the site for school use; no adequate access to school fields.
TMM: Are there any restrictions as to what Montessori School can do with this land?
BoS Chair: None at this time.
TMM: What is the zoning?
BoS Chair: Residential.

TMM Q: Should we IP this at this point because easements are not yet set?
BoS Chair: Right of First Refusal expires at the end of the week - no time to IP.
TMM: Does it make sense if the BoS have not finalized negotiations with the Montessori School?
Bos Chair: Right of First Refusal is with the Belmont Country Club
TMM: Why is there no loss of opportunity for the Town?
Bos Chair: The Town is in the middle of negotiations
TMM: I don't believe we have an answer.

TMM Calls the Question
Vote on the question by Voice Vote - APPROVED
Vote to dissolve STM-4

STM 2016-2 called to order
Article 2: Land Purchase - 20 Pelham Road
For land acquistion, and associated design, engineering, and architectural services for plans and specifications and related costs in connection with the property.

Report of the Capital Expenditures Committee (CEC) received and placed on file

Report of the Appropriation Committee (AC) received and placed on file

Report of the Board of Selectmen (BoS) by Chair, Joe Pato:
  • Pelham property is an $8 million appropriation
  • Negotiations are not yet complete - will explain
  • Part of the School Master Planning: Location, flexibility, opportunity
To ReCap:
  • Pelham property is an $8 million appropriation - for purchase site and engineering
  • Appraisal, highest and best use
  • Additional costs to renovate/rebuild on site
Timeline for Acquisition and Reuse:
  • negotiations to purchase began in December 2015
  • Selectmen will take by eminent domain if purchase and sale agreement not reached shortly
  • Begin reuse/engineering analysis in fall 2016
BoS is in unanimous support (5-0)
CEC majority supports the project
AC majority (8-1) supports the project; must proceed in a timely manner when properties like this come up
SC is unanimously in support; critical need (5-0)
Planing Board recommends approval (4-1)

6 TMMs queued behind the Q mic

Citizen Q: Represents the Armenian Sisters Academy.

TMM Q: If Town acquires this property by eminent domain, how much?
BoS Chair: Fair-market value, based on appraisals
TMM: 2nd Q is would it be used for a new school?
BoS Chair: There is an existing plan with MSBA-funded Hastings School - this will not adjust that project. Additional space is needed and there are several options available for the schools. Until we proceed with this, the actual costs are not known. Per classroom costs at Pelham are lower than per classroom costs at other sites.
TMM: How will we pay?
BoS Chair: Asking for Debt; going forward, we will come forward in the future with a Debt-exclusion - something the BoS at the time would call for.

TMM Q: You mentioned the adequacy of the site for a 24 section - will that require a waiver from the state/
BoS Chair: I refer to the School Department
SC Chair: We understand that if we go with MSBA, have to follow certain guidelines; if we go it ourselves, we do not have to follow those guidelines.
TMM: Does the proposed purchase include the convent?
BoS: The article on the Warrant is for 20 Pelham Road, the school only
TMM: How this compares with non-excluded debt
BoS: Please recognize Mr. Addleson
Addleson: On average, within levy of debt-funded capital, we will issue  ~$6M, so this will exceed

TMM Q: Does the existence of asbestos and PCBs on the current school property, mean we will have a leg up on its replacement?
BoS Chair: Please recognize Mr. Goddard
Pat Goddard: In the SOI process, there's qualifications for how MSBA prioritizes projects - health is one of the priorities. We have not occupied the property at the time of purchase, so probably not.

TMM Q: Skeptical that this would be used for a school since it cannot hold an athletic field, and that it would more likely be used as an administration building
SC Chair: That would be the least likely scenario.
TMM: Would you build a school without an athletic field and if so, how would you address that?
SC Chair: We are very fortunate in this Town to have fields on every school. We haven't discussed that for this property.

TMM at No Mic: I'm troubled by the process that has lead to this. There has been no public process at all. I'm concerned given the price tag - and we don't even know the price. The existing building is in very tough shape. It could be used for affordable housing.

TMM at Yes Mic: I rise in support and hope TMMs will join me. In this case we have a unique opportunity. If we don't buy this, it will become a housing development that we will have no control over.

TMM Q: Of the $8M amount, how much is for purchase?
BoS: We're still in negotiations on the price.
TMM: How is that area zoned?
BoS: REsidential
TMM: Thank you.

TMM Q: Has the SC done the analysis of the operating costs?
SC Chair: Additional school, or spaces, are the same - principal, secretary, educators; heating and other utilities.
Mr. Goddard: Last fall the Superintendent and I looked at utilities, custodians, educational - operational costs - about $500,000
TMM: I'm going to oppose this. We should not think of this as a 7th school. Economics, access (~$3M or more), really not a good investment for TM to authorize.

TMM at No: I was first excited. Then, I learned there was asbestos and lead. Means it is a tear-down. On top of the middle school renovations and other Town capital projects.

TMM Q: Am I correct that I read that the Superintendent stated that this was not an appropriate location for a school?
SC Chair: She's shaking her head NO that she did not say that.
TMM: What did she say?
SC Chair: Supt has indicated to me that she needs to see the article, she's not aware.

TMM Q: Does the Town hold any land previously purchased for the contingent use at any of the school sites?
SC Chair: I believe the Laconia site.
TMM: Has anyone done a direct comparison between economic development housing and school?
BoS Chair: We have not. We also have land directly across from the high school - it is not deemed appropriate for an elementary school.

Citizen Q: I've ooked through the reports done by DiNisco; - you've heard about the asbestos, lead paint, PCBs which will require abatement. These are significant costs. We should be looking at this with our eyes open. ~$2M for abatement & remediation, $3M for access;

TMM at Yes: Reminds me of the land purchase for the golf course years ago. Do not repeat the delay and subsequent high  purchase.

TMM Q: If we take the property by eminent domain - how would that be paid for since this would authorize $8M?
Addleson: Court judgement of $10M would mean additional appropriation at a subsequent TM
TMM: So, we would be on the hook for more?
Addleson: Yes.

TMM at Yes: Cost and environmental concerns - appeal to the thought that we are not going to have another site. Students are already here and more are coming. I hope you will join me in voting yes.

TMM Q: If we assume that the building can be renovated and abated/remediated - will the site support an 18-section elementary school?
Goddard: We went through several scenarios last September. We would be able to mitigate - would need to figure out the plan we would be mitigating for. Could also be a site for the Lexington Children's Pre-school
TMM: Are the facilities sufficient for larger school?
Goddard: We would have to demolish for a larger school + parking + access for buses.
TMM: As a 7th elementary school, why is this  property better than the Laconia property? Aside from its central location?
Goddard: It's not very level - very sloped property - would have to create a series of plateaus. No utilities; no access. Pelham is level;

TMM Q: The other properties - can we sell them to help pay for this?
BoS Chair: With TM approval, we could choose to sell, but not without coming back to TM
TMM: Any notion as to how much money we could realize?
BoS Chair: No.
TMM: I think we should buy this parcel for all of the reasons already stated. This is our opportunity to do it. I would like to see these other sites sold.

TMM at Yes: Because I just don't see a downside to this.

TMM calls the Question
Final comments from BoS Chair - no additional comments
Requires 2/3 majority to pass

BoS Chair, Joe Pato: Thanks to my colleagues. Board reorganized this evening. Selectman Suzie Barry is the new BoS Chair.

Deputy Town Moderator calls for motion to dissolve STM 2016-2

Declared dissolved 9:18 PM (unofficial)