Wrapping up this week’s BOS meeting: Another resignation, Open Space, and Twitter

by beth on August 16, 2013

Reporting out on a few more items from this week’s doozy of a Board of Selectmen Meeting.

After the residents attending for the Park Central traffic review emptied out of the August 13th meeting, Selectmen got down to the business with the rest of their agenda.

I already reported out on the Special Town meeting. Now I’ll recap the rest of the notable items:

Debate over plan to create a process for Open Space Preservation

On Monday, I shared The Metrowest Daily News report about Southborough’s lack of process for Open Space preservation. At the Tuesday meeting, the Open Space Preservation Commission, The Planning Board, and the Advisory Committee addressed the problem.

The committees asked Selectmen permission to form a new ad-hoc committee. The purpose would be to formalize a process for preserving designated Open Space. Each board would supply two members to the committee. They also wanted Town Administrator Mark Purple and/or Selectmen to join the committee.

Kevin Giblin, president of Brendan Homes development group, demanded to be on the committee. (Note: Just a few minutes earlier, he announced to the room that he hates Open Space. He thinks the rules the town has formed are absurd.)

He objected to the idea that a process that would impact developers would be formed without their input. He emphatically argued that his millions of dollars spent in Southborough to create millions in tax revenue earned him the right to be involved.

Giblin also pushed for a second representative, recommending Bill Depietri (president of Capital Group Properties).

Freddie Gillespie, from the Open Space Preservation Committee, objected. She argued that committee won’t create anything new. The purpose is to fix intercommunication problems between OSPC and the Planning Board. The ultimate goal would be to enforce what had already been agreed upon.

She didn’t believe that non-committee members would be constructive in deciding how the committees “talk to each other”.

Rooney responded that he believes that including people with different points of view has always been useful.

Both Gillespie and Planning Board Chair Don Morris argued that holding open meetings would take care of getting outside input.

Rooney then questioned the need for a committee rather than sharing memos. Gillespie responded that they had been trying to resolve this issue with the Planning Board for over 10 years without progress.

Morris defended that they know the issue is important, but efforts to discuss a process were sidelined in the past by other Planning Board business. They encouraged the separate committee to work out a process. He also pointed out that member Andrew Mills was hard at work and close to completion on a document outlining their vision for a process.

Gillespie said that OSPC has maintained a checklist  for several years.

Boland questioned the need for an Advisory Committee role. Rooney remained unconvinced that forming a committee was the best way to resolve the issues.

Selectmen requested Purple follow up with the committees and make a recommendation about how they should proceed at the September 3rd Board of Selectmen Meeting.

Resignation of Building Inspector

Selectmen announced the resignation of Building Inspector David G. Gusmini, head of Southborough’s Building/Zoning Department. He will be returning to the city of Natick as their Building Commissioner.

Rooney stated his opinion that all of the town’s department heads are efficient and professional. He would hate to lose any more. He recommended a review of the financial structures in Southborough government to help retain current department heads.

Town Twitter

Did you know that Southborough has its own Twitter account? (Susan probably told me. But she told me far more than I can possibly remember.)

Purple reported to the BOS that the town created the account during the emergency conditions of one of the storms. (We’ve had too many big ones. I can’t remember which he referred to!) By the end of the storm they had about 120 followers.

On Monday, they used the twitter account to notify residents about paving on Oak Hill Road. Account followers jumped to over 200 by Tuesday. (Not exactly Ashton Kutcher, but not bad.)

Purple was excited to share that the new CodeRed system can also utilize the twitter account.

He also explained that the town needs to “feed the beast” in order to retain followers. So expect a lot more tweets in the future. If you’re a fan of twitter – you can check out @17common. (Apparently, other relevant names were unavailable.)

And don’t forget My Southborough is also on Twitter @mysouthborough. (Though, I mostly use it for major breaking news or emergency announcements. I’m not sure if I believe in “feeding the beast”.)

1 Concerned August 16, 2013 at 3:09 PM

The idea of Giblin and DiPietri on the open space process committee is laughable. There is a natural conflict of interest that is beyond question, and Mr. Giblin should recognize this. I think if we let developers on the Open Space committees in any way, you can kiss what’s left of the natural character of this town goodbye. These developers aren’t the only people who have an interest in open space, but they are the only ones with a profit motive to continue to destroy it.

2 Tim Martel August 16, 2013 at 3:13 PM

My understanding is that this new “Open Space” process would be aimed at enforcing the open space laws that already exist, for the purpose of ensuring that all open space land is treated appropriately. There is no intent to create or apply laws as part of this process (i.e. it is executive in nature, not legislative or judicial).

If this is correct, then let the Town Admin administer this function, with input from the Open Space Committee and the new Town Planner.

Its odd to me that a developer would feel entitled to (let alone demand) a seat on a committee to create this process. Talk about a conflict of interest…

3 Rob August 16, 2013 at 3:44 PM

I bet the developer doesn’t hate all the open space around his property. Maybe the town should look to build next to his palace!

4 Annette Flaherty August 16, 2013 at 7:32 PM

Hmm…. Brendan Homes is the developer for both neighborhoods highlighted in the earlier MWDN article you summarized about problems with their designated open space, Barn Hollow and Killam Farm/Richards. Perhaps that highlights the disdain that Kevin Giblin describes as they have yet to correct those problems.

That said, it seems to me that the narrow open space located at the rear of properties primarily benefits the abutting homeowners since a lot of it is not realistically very usable. Am I likely to drive across town to hike a short strip of land behind a neighborhood that is practically part of someone’s backyard? Not personally; there are better options. It would feel like trespassing if we walked along or my children played there since it is so close to their homes. (In fact we might have to trespass to get to some of these parcels?)

I could see the benefit of taxing that land instead, unless it is part of preserving something more substantial (contiguous to other preserved land or trails) or usable (like a soccer field, basketball court or playground.) I’m sure there are other considerations however….

Also, does the town have any potential issues with adverse possession where abutters are mowing or otherwise maintaining the open space?

Previous post:

Next post: