Main Street easement fails to voters looking to protect Town character (Updated)

by beth on April 12, 2016

Post image for Main Street easement fails to voters looking to protect Town character (Updated)

Above: Voters rejected Main Street improvements that they believed would make Southborough look like less desirable towns, like Hudson. (Image of similar design, according to DPW, from video posted to You Tube by Southborough Access Media)

Tonight, Southborough voters told the Town they weren’t willing to proceed with easements for the Main Street project.

The writing was on the wall when large contingent from the audience applauded John Butler’s impassioned speech opposing the project.

2/3 approval was required to authorize the Town to negotiate for or take land easements. Opponents of the Main St project forecast two years ago that this hurdle would derail it.

With an article specifically addressing easements, that’s what the Main Street Design Working Group’s presentation focused on. But what most commenters focused on was the desirability (or lack of) of the project as a whole.

Many were concerned about the impact to property owners across from the Common. But more residents spoke of concern about what they labeled as a federal highway running through the center of town.

Some opponents (and proponents) lauded the hard work of the group to find concessions and compromises. But the bottom line embraced by many was a belief that the project would strip Southborough of its historic, small town character. 

One resident asked for an example of another town with a road under the federal guidelines through downtown. Selectman Brian Shea referred to a similarly designed stretch of road in Hudson. (Prompting snickers from the audience.)

Resident Howard Rose, an outspoken abutter to the Park Central project, sought an amendment to the original article. He asked to remove language allowing “taking by eminent domain.” He said he was opposed to the precedent for town and believed in individuals’ property rights.

John Butler argued that the vote should be a clean up or down. He said he hated the Main Street Redesign project and wanted to kill it. But he didn’t want to hand selectmen a mess by having them negotiate easements without the power of eminent domain.

Butler got his clean “down”. Voters flatly rejected the amendment, then by majority rejected the original article.

Soon after the article failed, Desiree Aselbekian asked to reconsider the motion.

The candidate for Town Moderator pointed out that as she voted on the prevailing side, she had the right to reconsider. She informed the audience that reconsideration is only allowed once during a Town Meeting.

She asked voters to help lock in a No vote and stop reconsideration later in the evening or a subsequent night. (Thus allowing voters opposed to the easements to leave, without jeopardizing the vote.)

Updated (4/13/16 10:47 am): I accidentally called Howard Rose a Main St abutter. (Freudian slip with Main St on the brain.) Rose is a Park Central abutter. (He also isn’t Howard “Rosen” as my typo mistakenly called him. I’m blaming a long night and trying to work in the middle of an ongoing meeting!)

1 em April 13, 2016 at 8:16 AM

So, does this mean we will never have left turning lanes at the intersection of Rts. 30 and 85?

2 beth April 13, 2016 at 9:30 AM

Never is a long time. I think it’s too soon to answer that.

The DPW has insisted that Main St is in bad shape and simple repaving won’t cut it. The street needs to be “reconstructed”. That means the Town will have to figure out how to proceed and how to pay for what is purported to be an extremely expensive project. What next steps are and what those plans would look like are a big question mark.

At this point we don’t even know if the Town has given up. Selectmen could decide to call a special town meeting on Main Street, believing they can drum up enough voters in support of moving forward to change this.

(I’m not expecting that. But it could happen. The Town didn’t make a presentation on the project last night or really address audience claims about the difference between what’s seen as a state-driven project vs what the Town would do with Chapter 90 money. The main focus of the presentation, and what officials seemed prepared to defend, was specific to the easements in the article.)

Or this could follow suit of some other failed Town initiatives and end up on the back burner for years before a new push to deal with it.

The Town has been struggling for years with how to meet everyone’s needs and wants on this project. Some believe that taking the state “highway” out of the equation will fix most of that. I assume it will resolve some issues (like the bike lanes). But I’m guessing that factors like walkable sidewalks, site lines, and safe turning at the intersection will continue to conflict with concerns about small town, rural character.

Even protectionists debate what to protect – the historic Town Common vs property owners’ parking rights. And the DPW, engineers, and members of Main St have continually stated that the safety measures they incorporated (and some residents objected to) were based on regulations and standards that will still need to be met in any new plans.

At this point, I’d say the future of the road is really up in the air.

3 n April 13, 2016 at 1:09 PM

Are you suggesting that the owners and their customers have a right to park on the sidewalk?

Nothing but respect for Ted’s of Fayville for moving to a location that works instead of making their problem our problem.

Is there really no alternative location for a funeral home or to receive a “multi-facet approach to healing”?

4 beth April 13, 2016 at 1:46 PM

I never said sidewalk parking should be allowed. I just said that I’m on the fence about the project as a whole, and listed some of the conflicts people have over how to resolve it.

As for the Funeral Home – I understand your feeling that why should one business cause such a fuss. But the family owned business has been there since 1952. It seems unreasonable to ask them to relocate from their historic (1880) building after more than 60 years.

It’s in the center of Southborough, near churches and cemeteries, and (judging by the obituaries I post) used by most families of long time Southborugh residents who pass away.

And I imagine that relocating a funeral home is no simple deed.

5 n April 13, 2016 at 1:54 PM

“Even protectionists debate what to protect – the historic Town Common vs property owners’ parking rights.”

My reference was to the suggestion that the property owners’ parking rights included space on the sidewalks.

my bad is this caused confusion.

6 Resident92 April 13, 2016 at 8:22 AM

Look, that small town look that we have right now isn’t working! Parking on the sidewalk at Dr. Stone’s making people push their strollers out into Main St. to get by, the deplorable conditions of the sidewalks, the deplorable conditions of the paved road right in the town center, the empty lot in the town center (which I know isn’t part of any plan). This thing needs to be figured out. I feel like we are back to square 1 on this. It’s taking too long.

And THEN SOMEDAY we will have to agree on how to to get our police department into a building that can handle a 21st century world. It’s embarrassing when you look at other towns and their beautiful police/fire department facilities. We can’t even agree on sidewalks…..we’re doomed.

7 SouthboroDave April 13, 2016 at 9:12 AM

I agree Resident92.. this is ridiculous. Our downtown needs significant enhancements and we can’t get our of our own way. Easements.. it’s not taking your front yard from you. I see this defeat as a way to block the entire project.

I don’t see widening and redesigning this this road as an invitation for speeding or increased traffic. The sidewalks are crumbling where they exists. The entire section of road is pathetic. Frankly, I’m embarrassed to bring visitors through downtown. I would like to see improvements. I wish downtown was a bit more like Hopkinton’s main street. I’m considering moving soon, and surrounding towns will be high on my list.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a surrounding town that is a bit less dysfunctional or is this common for all towns?

8 Rob April 13, 2016 at 10:52 AM

I really believe the dysfunction begins and ends with our town meeting style government. It doesn’t serve the majority of people in town like it used to 200 yrs ago. About 4% of total town population shows up to vote. And that’s a great turnout! Almost everything I can think of has changed in over 200 yrs. except our style of government. We would be better off with a few people making decisions who know how to run a government than we are with a small amount of residents who really don’t get the bigger picture.

9 beth April 13, 2016 at 11:29 AM

But you are essentially saying that you don’t think 4% should make the decisions for the whole town. You would rather trust that to 0.05%. Meanwhile, Town Meeting isn’t capped at 4%. That’s just who chooses to show up.

And I’d say that the voters who prevailed several times against the position of selectmen on the stage would argue that Town Meeting works.

I understand your point that selectmen and town officials working on running the town are better informed on the issues. But that doesn’t always mean their opinions are more valid.

You could argue that if Town officials are better informed, it’s also their job to make voters better informed at the meeting. Perhaps there was too much focus by officials on trying to get through so much business in two nights (plus an unforseen technical issue that robbed Monday’s meeting of an hour).

Then again, maybe the voters who prevailed were right to stop the project and ask for a reboot. (Sometimes, the people who spend the most time trying to make something work stop seeing the forest for the trees.)

I’ll admit this particular project is one I’m still on the fence about.

10 JMO April 13, 2016 at 5:01 PM

Hopkinton is a great town, but they had their own little drama with CVS moving in. They also have some terrible traffic issues in multiple parts of town. Getting across town can be a nightmare at certain hours of the day. I would take Southbrough’s traffic issues hands down. They have grown a lot, and haven’t really thought through all of the infrastructure issues. I think any time you have the long time residents and an infusion of new people, there are clashes and politics rules the day.

11 M April 13, 2016 at 12:42 PM

If you don’t like the Town Meeting and want to hand over decisions to fewer people, and you don’t like the downtown and want slicker intersections and turning lanes and fancy sidewalks, then it seems you do not like small town New England. This is the point made by John Butler and others. Those who showed up to overwhelmingly vote for historic preservation and also against the Main St project want to keep Southborough a small town. Yes, you may relocate to another town that meets your needs. I cannot say which one that would be. But I will work hard to keep the character of Southborough as it is. I also appreciate the voice that is given me by the Town Meeting process. I choose to live HERE.

12 SouthboroDave April 13, 2016 at 2:32 PM

You are correct. I’m not from small town New England, I’ve relocated here and just started to learn how things work. I like the look of small town New England, I do not like the style of government that apparently comes with it. I’m sure I can find a quaint New England village that has turning lanes, proper drainage and sidewalks with curbs.. It just won’t be in Southborough anytime soon. Let me send my kids to school here for a few years (thank you very much for supporting their education!) and if things aren’t headed in a direction I agree with I’ll move on when they graduate.

13 JMO April 13, 2016 at 5:03 PM

You are correct, you can find that, but I’m not sure its will be at a price point that you like. Concord and Lexington come to mind.

14 PA April 15, 2016 at 1:55 PM

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. It disgusts me that people who just moved here want to change everything. I’m shocked to hear complaints about Morris Funeral Home almost all families in town that have been here for more than fifteen minutes have had them organize funeral services for family members. Leave main st alone, do you really want Southborough to look like Hudson

15 SouthboroDave April 16, 2016 at 12:02 PM

Thanks for biting. =}

People that just moved here have every right to voice an opinion as the townies. I know they don’t like it, but that’s democracy. I’ll continue to vote for changes because that what this great country is all about..

16 ResidentZ April 13, 2016 at 1:27 PM

As a parent and resident living within walking distance to the town center, the deplorable condition of the sidewalks results in either having to brave road traffic (most cars far exceed the posted 25/mph speed limit), or risk Poison Ivy from the veritable jungle that abuts the road in several places while pushing a stroller to get to the library or otherwise participate in town life. The poor condition of the roads and lack of safety does little but endanger residents and makes it feel less like “a rural, small town” and more like another rural, dying village without community or character. Heaven forbid a sidewalk is safe and actually usable (not only for strollers, but for individuals disabilities) as opposed to some hastily spilled asphalt someone forgot to clean up 25 years ago.
All this snobbery about rural character in a town whose residents have previously complained about the smell of manure near their homes.

17 JMO April 13, 2016 at 5:21 PM

Yes, but the I seriously doubt that the residents that complained about the smell of manure are the same ones who are most actively working to maintain the rural character of the town.

18 M April 14, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Wow. Speeding cars, poison ivy, a dying village, and snobs for active citizens. I see you really like it here in Southborough.

19 RB April 13, 2016 at 2:42 PM

Main Street is a mess. Has been for decades! And now will likely be for decades more.

The current practice of allowing parking on the sidewalks ALL along Main Street is a safety hazard and it is a matter of time before this causes a major issue for someone, especially around Middle Road. I have had a few close calls attending wakes at the funeral home, as well as biking in this area.

The Morris and Stone families have been in business for decades and Beth said, it is in a convenient location for that kind of business. Personally, I think we need sidewalks, parking spaces and bike lanes to accommodate all of the needs around the common – Morris’ and Stone’s, the library, the churches, the monuments, Fay School, etc. If this means taking a few feet from the old (but not historic – the only historic event I can find documented on the common is the filming of the Adam Sandler movie) common, then so-be-it.

Some in town are afraid of the old mentality “if we build it, they will come”, and “if we keep it the way it is, people will won’t to use it”. In the 21st century, most have smart phones, GPS devices, Google maps, Waze, etc. that do a great job in telling us the shortest and best way to get around traffic.Once people discover a way not to have to sit in a lot of traffic (such as Route 9 at rush hour), they have a tendency to use that route more frequently. I am sure most of you use those wonderful tools as shortcuts through others’ main streets and back roads already. I do! Face it people..”they” are here, and have been for many years.

It is strange the way that Town Meeting works – you can stack the meeting to get the a vote with a small minority of the voting public (e.g.: the Garfield House, which by-the-way I agree should be saved), and if the article dies there, then the rest of the Town has no say in the matter. I am willing to bet if the town as a whole had a say (e.g.: at a town-wide election), then their Main Street initiative would have passed overwhelmingly.

I am sure that it is frustrating for so many that a tremendous amount of work went into the project over several years by both paid staff and committee volunteers to have the Butler bomb derail it at this stage.

Let’s hope something can be done to get the project back on track soon – I am sick of the roller coaster ride on Main Street.

20 n April 13, 2016 at 3:34 PM

“The Morris and Stone families have been in business for decades and Beth said, it is in a convenient location for that kind of business. ”

I agree that it was a convenient location when their clients and customers arrived on foot or by horse. With the introduction of automobiles and the additional space necessary to park it became a terribly inconvenient location in my humble opinion.

Would you buy or establish a business in a location that did not have parking?

We can respectfully agree to disagree on the point.

Perhaps I am tainted by what I perceive to be an increasingly weak society that would prefer to have others solve problems they could solve themselves.

21 JMO April 13, 2016 at 5:15 PM

I think your reference to Waze and Google Maps was very much in the minds of the people who voted against this project. I know I thought about that. A point that came out last night was that if Main Street is straightened and widened in places, the speed will increase and more people will make their way to the center of town for a cut through. I believe right now people avoid Main Street during rush hour because of the slight congestion. A gentleman from the Chestnut Hill Farm area remarked the speed has increased on Rte 30 after the road improvements were made out that way. I think another problem with the pro-Main Street project presentation last night was the lack of visuals of the completed project. I was horrified by the initial renderings that came out a couple of years ago, and I have not seen any new renderings that would give me a good feeling about the project.

22 em April 13, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Thank you to SouthboroDave and ResidentZ for articulating an assessment of the real state of “downtown” much better than I could have. It looks and feels neglected, and it reflects poorly on us. Moreover, it is unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. I can’t tell you how many times I have been cut off by while driving, and I have learned my lesson about walking with a dog or stroller; I just don’t do it. We shouldn’t eschew a real sidewalk because it is “fancy” (it’s not) or turning lanes or sight lines because they are “slick.” This is about a safe intersection and zone that promotes community. I chose to live in this town for a sense of community, and right now this part of town discourages walking and encourages drivers to play chicken with each other.

23 InTownDad April 13, 2016 at 4:47 PM

I was nearly hit today as I tried to turn left out of Middle Road onto Main Street and couldn’t see around the cars at Doc Stone’s. I love Southborough, but this area needs some serious attention. I was disappointed to see the vote go the other way at Town Meeting, and I hope something else emerges soon.

24 Michael Weishan April 13, 2016 at 4:01 PM

While I appreciate the frustration evinced by the some of the residents above, study after study has shown that widening roads only produces more traffic. Here’s an article from Wired that details the problem pretty concisely: http://www.wired.com/2014/06/wuwt-traffic-induced-demand/

If you would like to see a local example of this, you only have to look to the intersection of 85 and 135 in Hopkinton, which was widened a while back and provided with new signals as part of the laughably named “Legacy Farms” development. Traffic has increased five-fold and sometimes it’s so bad at the 5-6 rush hour that cars back up all the way from Hopkinton center to Mt. Vickery Road in Southborough. I know because I live on 85 and watch the people sitting in their cars, fuming. “Build it and they WILL come.” Boy, do they ever, proving correct all the dire predictions of those who argued against the carving up and development of the former Weston Nurseries property. This should be a cautionary tale for the residents of Southborough.

I’d add that in addition to the proposed takings, which I think are problematic in many ways, the project as proposed early on jettisoned one of the most crucial design elements: the burying of the overhead power lines, which would be such an improvement to the nature and character of the town center.

Whatever the outcome, it seems pretty clear from Town Meeting that there is a new spirit and willingness in Southborough to preserve whatever historic character remains to us. It may be wise to address this problem less from a road improvement viewpoint and more from an aesthetics/historical character/business development prospective. I understand the argument of the road enthusiasts that the state was going to provide a portion of the funds, but there may be other sources of money out there from other state and federal agencies that would allow us to address the real concerns of sidewalk improvement, public safety and historic preservation without creating a “federal” road in the center of historic Southborough.

25 SB Resident April 13, 2016 at 5:32 PM

I wouldn’t take away from town meeting that there is a new spirit to preserve in Sboro. Burnett house is a special case and the majority did want to get rid of fayville and the old firehouse, I just think giving the selectmen a free pass to do whatever was what put a stop to it.

Town meeting has it’s pro’s and con’s and getting an accurate representation of the masses is certainly not one of it’s pro’s. Allowing for people who are passionate enough about an issue to put in the time to prevail even if they are the minority is the pro. Yes, that is a pro as it provides a weighting effect to the vote. More people in town may be ok with a marijuana dispensary, but the people that aren’t really really don’t want one and the people who are fine with it really don’t have much incentive to care.

In the case of Main St. it’s tough to swallow for the people (myself included) who don’t find the neglected and dangerous state of our town to be “rural charm”, but the negative impact on the minority was enough to get them to town meeting while the positive impact for everybody else just wasn’t enough to get people there. Sometimes things just have to get bad enough for them to get better, which I would reckon is exactly what will happen here. Nothing will be done for a while longer and it’ll continue to get so bad that next time the majority will show up to pass whatever needs to be passed particularly if a special town meeting is called, this one isn’t over.

26 Resident92 April 13, 2016 at 5:52 PM

I say don’t widen the road. I know the left turn lane is a big deal for a lot of people but really – twice a day for about a half hour – the streets get backed up – it’s a pain but it moves. Put in normal sidewalks with a curb and pave the road. Allow the funeral home to take that house down behind them to add to their ability to park off street. Dr. Stone…well no solution for you. Sorry. Not sure how I feel about the buried lines…..didn’t want to spend the $ on that so I wasn’t in favor at the time that they were discussed – way back when.

27 beth April 13, 2016 at 7:02 PM

Just to clarify in case there was any confusion-the buried lines have been off the table for quite a long time.

28 JMO April 13, 2016 at 4:54 PM

Why do we need sidewalks on both sides of the street? It seems like at least 4 feet could be saved if we opted for one sidewalk. (The library side makes most sense to me.)There already is a crosswalk in front of Fay. It shouldn’t be too hard to direct people in the right direction so they can stay safe. While I appreciate the picture from Hudson, it’s not the same application. There is much more land in front of each house. I suspect the old houses along Main Street have already given up their frontage a long time ago. Also, is the grass strip necessary? Farm Road in Marlborough has a sidewalk on one side that directly abuts the street. Main Street is an eyesore because it needs to be repaved. I’m not convinced a total redesign is in order. I would be happy if they simply installed a smart light, so drivers are not forced to sit idle while no cross traffic is coming. Finally, I think it’s unfair to dump on John Butler. He didn’t do anything to my knowledge except voice his opinion.

29 Downtown Resident April 14, 2016 at 11:02 AM

You needn’t go as far as Marlborough to find a sidewalk without a grass strip next to the road. Just turn the corner from Main St. onto Boston Rd. and you will find a perfect safe and well used sidewalk without a grass strip.

30 beth April 14, 2016 at 11:25 AM

There are people who believe those sidewalks are less safe and less desirable. In earlier project stages, the DPW and engineers proposed such sidewalks. Some people objected to the look of a wide swath of concrete with no greenery along the road.

Others were concerned about safety. I’ve experienced panic attacks when a toddler broke away running close to the edge of a sidewalk on a busy road (Boston Road being one of those) with no grass strip between if he/she trips. I know that I wasn’t alone, because I wasn’t the one to make the comment to the Main Street Design Working Group. Someone else did that at the public forum for feedback they held a few years ago.

The group agreed with both concerns and made the change. And, until now, it seemed like it had general consensus.

31 Trixie April 13, 2016 at 6:53 PM

Where were you people last night? I have never seen such carrying on about “preservation” of a potholed filled road and a rotting old building. As said above, the condition of Main St. is not “rustic”, it is an embarrassment. I feel badly for the countless hours the Selectmen and other committee members spent trying to save us tax dollars and do the right thing for the town, only to have it derailed by a few impassioned speeches.

Laugh at Hudson all you want but they have a lovely Main St. with many thriving small businesses. It’s well worth checking out if you haven’t been up there for a while.

32 beth April 13, 2016 at 7:10 PM

I should point out what I didn’t in the post. The post was getting so long that I didn’t mention people who commented in favor. And they were at least a couple of those, including Louise Clough a Main St resident who said that she trusted the town to get it right.( It was a late night and that was in the middle of it. So my memory is a little fuzzy about what others said at this point!)

33 Al Hamilton April 13, 2016 at 7:21 PM

I work in Hudson and have done so for about 8 years. The construction along 85 and 62 have transformed that town with new shops and restaurants coming in. Sneer and condescend all you want, it looks a hell of a lot better than it did and much better than Rt 30 does in the center of our town.

34 beth April 13, 2016 at 7:36 PM

To clarify: I was trying to share the derision that I heard from several people in the audience about Hudson. That doesn’t mean that every person who voted against the project felt that way. And it doesn’t mean that I feel that way. But I would say that most people who were trying to maintain the small town feel that Southborough has do feel that it is more desirable than more modern main streets like Hudson’s.

35 beth April 13, 2016 at 7:39 PM

I would also like to point out that many opponents of the project have pointed out that it does nothing to spiff up the area past Park Street, where many of our Main Street businesses are.

36 JMO April 13, 2016 at 9:05 PM

I don’t think that people are sneering at Hudson. It was an odd comparison. Hudson has more than double the population of Southborough. I think their traffic mitigation requirements are much greater than Southborough’s. I do agree that Hudson has done a lot to revitalize it’s downtown, but it’s not clear to me that we have the population to support new shops and businesses. Hudson had the buildings in place. They might have been empty, but they were there. We have no such thing. Southborough’s limited downtown space and population will make it very difficult to have a vibrant downtown. No one wants the pot hole filled roads preserved. Rebuild the road without changing it’s current footprint. And, as far as preserving the old buildings. I’m not even sure that’s necessary. It seemed that the decision was made quickly. I was concerned that the Historical Society seemed to know nothing about the plan. Maybe the answer is that the buildings should be sold or leveled or whatever, but a little time to explore options seemed prudent.

37 Donna McDaniel April 13, 2016 at 8:51 PM

Fascinating comments above… wish we had more time at TM.

The one point that I wanted to add on Main St but was too late —
However anyone may look at the plans for traffic into and through Main St. we have/had now…Just WAIT until the Park Central condos (I00-150, I forget) come into being off Flagg Road where so far the only egress allowed from the place will be onto Flagg, and yes, thence to Rte. 30 (presumably many going east on Main)… Can we even imagine what THAT will be like? The condo’s traffic study revealed an incredibly low estimate of the number of morning trips from the condos, maybe counting on lots of home-workers? Or ??

And looking to the future…how about if the developer goes ahead with a hotel AND an assisted living facility on the same site???? Not being actively proposed at this time but said to be possibilities for the future… there’s LOTS of acreage out there boxed in by 495 and 9.

Just one comment for the person who said he so opposed to using eminent domain anywhere—presumably he doesn’t use any of our interstate highways since it’s doubtful that any could be built without acquiring land already owned by someone???

38 Donna McDaniel April 13, 2016 at 9:06 PM

My short version of defending Town Meeting… strange that people who do nothing but find fault with various legislators and public officials seem ready to give away our direct participation to those very people!
It’s not up to me to make it work better for those who don’t show up and give up my right because they don’t come! Once we elect people to make all our decisions, we lose our voices… maybe they’ll listen (or say they are) but we have very little power. Will they fear the loss of our vote next election? I could go on… but I’m hoping you get the point.

I think it was Winston Churchill (I’ll check) who said democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.

39 SB Resident April 14, 2016 at 11:33 AM

Just like to argue your point a bit. Other than I’m not sure we are allowed to make changes to make town meeting work better, there are laws on how it must work, but I believe it is exactly up to the people who support town meeting to make it work better if they don’t want it to change.

The majority don’t come and eventually an issue like main st is exactly the kind of issue that is going to drive someone to propose us changing our form of government, and given the right catalyst, I have no doubt that it would pass.

I also like to have the actual people have their say, but currently the cost to have our vote is too great, and ultimately the majority would rather have someone they elect (even if it’s uncontested) have the authority than some random handful of people with the extra time on their hands.

40 Resident April 13, 2016 at 9:26 PM

Town meeting is not representative of our town. Put this issue on the ballot box and it overwhelmingly passes. To say the sentiment of the town has shifted based upon the recent votes at town meeting is to ignore the 7.000 other registered voters. So please.

Main Street is an embarrassment. It will continue to get worse and the only way to fix it now is with our tax dollars. Great job. I certainly hope Mr. Butler never has to walk his grandchildren in a stroller, because he will find out he cannot.

Perhaps the police should start ticketing the illegal parking on the so-called sidewalks. Then they’d really be no where to park.

41 JMO April 14, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Resident, I believe that you’re assuming that all the registered voters in fact vote, and they don’t. I believe the last election had the number of actual voters in Southborough at just over 50%. I would suggest that was a high turnout given the hotly contested primary elections. If people want the town meeting to be representative of the town then the people need to show up. Most of the time I don’t attend town meeting. But, that is only when I have no strong feelings one way or another and feel comfortable with either outcome. I do show up when I care about an issue. Again, I don’t think the people who want to preserve Main Street don’t want sidewalks. I think we are all in agreement that it’s time to fix Main Street. I think the problem was basically with the land grab enhancements required for using state money. The only rendering I saw of the project was posted at the post office about 2 years ago. It totally blew open the 85/30 intersection to the point that it looked like a city street. It is my understanding that things have been softened, but I haven’t actually seen any kind of visual to convince me to change my opinion. I have seen 2-D diagrams. My experience with looking at building plans as an average person is that the 2-D blueprints create visual surprises when they turn into 3-D.

42 Donna McDaniel April 14, 2016 at 3:54 PM

Last election…the primary — had 21% of registered citizens voting.
Number from the Town Clerk’s office.

43 Steve Phillips April 15, 2016 at 1:46 AM

Actually, road repairs can be made with Chapter 90 funds which are provided by the state not the town. So a more reasonable alternative to the massive federally-funded TIP project could still be implemented through the same funding mechanism we use to maintain the other 95 percent of the roads in our town.

Why do we need a $6 million, 2-year construction effort to maintain this particular one-mile section of Main Street? It took the state all of a month to redo the entire stretch from Westborough to Sears Road, with zero controversy and minimal impact on residents. Latisquama Road was recently resurfaced by the town with similar efficiency and lack of controversy. If it weren’t for the lure of supposedly “free” money, Main Street would have been repaired the same way — long ago — and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

My wife and I walk our grandchildren to school down Main Street several times a week, and the potholes and craters in the sidewalk are far more hazardous than any parked car, especially in winter. You mention strollers — the issue here is with the state of the pavement on the sidewalks which will just about swallow a stroller whole. The current parking arrangement has been comfortably in place for at least the past 50 years, and if the sidewalks on Main Street hadn’t been allowed to deteriorate to this point, this wouldn’t even be an issue in anyone’s minds. The real concern is that routine maintenance on Main Street has been deferred for over a decade while we pursued the vision of a massive federally funded reconstruction.

The argument that this project will improve overall safety is debatable as well. The stretch in front of Mauro’s is already dangerous. What’s going to happen when cars start entering this zone at faster speeds from the west? Increases in traffic speeds can easily undo any other improvements in safety. Stopping distance at 35 mph is 136 feet but increases to 196 feet at 45 mph! This is the real accident waiting to happen.

As owner of a 200-year old home on Main Street, I want to thank John Butler for his eloquent presentation at Town Meeting, as well as all of the residents who voted in favor of preserving the historic character of our neighborhood. We all want Main Street to be fixed, but this was not the right way to do this. The TIP project failed because its scale was excessive for this stretch of road and because of its lack of flexibility in adapting to the existing neighborhood. I hope we can all work together to develop a plan to sensibly improve this road in a way that enhances the character of our town rather than just cutting another highway through it.

44 djd66 April 13, 2016 at 11:15 PM

All they need to do is repave the road and sidewalk – that’s it. Main St. is currently a complete mess and has been since I moved to Sobo over 12 years ago. When they repaved rt 30 last year – why didnt they just continue all the way through the center of town?

45 beth April 14, 2016 at 8:25 AM

It’s not as simple as repaving. And something that puzzled me Tuesday night was the lack of response to John Butler’s claim that the DPW head Karen Galligan said the Town could do the work for $950,000.

In fall 2014, Galligan addressed both issues in a video. As I wrote at the time:

In the video, she also explains the difference between re-paving and rebuilding the road. . . she clarifies [$950k] was the answer to a specific question about how much it would cost to repave the road if they treated it like other road projects in town.

Here, she seeks to justify why the DPW believes the road requires more extensive work. She goes on to list other elements not included in that quote that the town believes are improvements.

Click here to read the post and see the video.

46 Al Hamilton April 14, 2016 at 11:24 AM

The job involves much more than removing and replacing the asphalt. I believe that Ms Galligan only referred to the question of how much it would cost to replace the asphalt.

First, there is a separate project to replace water mains. (Funded by water funds)

Secondly, this road is a major road (like it or not) and the underlying road bed needs to be completely rebuilt or every cent we spend on asphalt will be wasted. That involves excavating and probably replacing the existing roadbed and probably some amount of drainage improvement.

I suspect that it will cost several times the amount of just the asphalt replacement.

47 DJD66 April 15, 2016 at 2:33 AM

When was the last time they replaced the road and the sidewalk on main st.? I’m guessing 20+ years,… Can’t they just scurify what we have and put down a fresh coat? I understand there may be some other things to address, but this may take another 10 years for our town to figure out. Like I said above, just replave it.

48 Frank Crowell April 14, 2016 at 11:08 AM

For those of you looking to revisit the Main Street project, there is always other options. Just need to organize as well as the opposition has.

May voters call a special Town Meeting?
Yes, voters may call a special Town Meeting. Two hundred registered voters or 20% of the total number of registered voters, whichever is less in number, may request a special Town Meeting. The special Town Meeting must be held no later than 45 days after the Board of Selectmen receive the request.

49 JMO April 14, 2016 at 4:57 PM

I didn’t realize the opposition was organized. My opinions are my own. I haven’t seen any “Say No to the Main Street Project” signs in anyone’s yard. What is the basis for your assertion?

50 Donna McDaniel April 14, 2016 at 11:54 AM

Another thought re attendance at Town Meeting… (see my first above)…
This November we can expect over 90% of the registered people will get to the polls–great, yes? But it’s the usual ONLY for a Presidential election. In just about every other local and state election the percentage is often just the opposite… maybe 10 percent but locally I think we consider anything over 20% quite a healthy a turnout. It was 21% when we went to five Selectmen but –note choices this year are two incumbents (or someone can always start write-in effort?).
A sample of turnout: in 2006 of 6062 registered only 273 voted in the state primary and 1402 in the local election. Typical from my quick survey of some past years.
And I suggest our votes in a local election are more significant because we’re choosing people to do the things closest to our lives–like schools and the library and recreation and planning to preserve the town, our streets, and some space…. etc.
So by the reasoning of some, we should do away with elections because so few people show up… And THEN WHAT? Go find ourselves a benevolent dictator? (Hoping for benevolent!)

51 M April 14, 2016 at 1:07 PM

I believe some commentors have lost perspective on the Town’s population as a whole when they assume that Town Meeting would produce a different result than an election day referendum. First, there have been many issues in the past decades that I can remember, where a “stacked house” of voters came to support a large issue. Most notably were large school budget items in the days we would meet in Woodward gymasium. Also, the chance to change our system away from Town Meeting structure has been consistently opposed.

But what the issues this week have pointed out is that in the population as a whole, the most prevailing sentiment is to maintain the small town character. If you consider how many actual residents, not Fay School students or funeral goers, actually use the sidewalk in question in the Middle Road vicinity, it is a very small percentage of the total number of people who live in Southborough. Special events, like Heritage Day, or funerals, allow for closing of roads and extra parking. We are flexible. It is temporary. We like to cooperate when the need arises. THAT is the feeling of people who like living here in its current form.

But the idea of a major reconstruction of the center of town that would change the small-town appearance, well that seems to be of greater interest to the larger population, regardless of where they live in town.

Finally, please remember that the road is in horrible condition partly due to the long delay in the planning and discussion around the project. Regular work over these past few years would have it more presentalbe now, altho not perfect.

52 bclaire April 15, 2016 at 5:56 PM

To say that the “very small percentage of the total number of people who live in Southborough” that walk by Stone’s and have to go out in the street negates creating a sidewalk to make it safe is irresponsible… and just infuriates me. The fact that cars don’t get ticketed when parked on the sidewalk in front of Stone’s (despite calls to the police who make it even more difficult by saying “what kind of car; what’s the license plate number, etc.”) and then NOT ticketing them is even MORE irresponsible. Those cars are parked illegally pure and simple. Someone is going to walk out into Main Street around those parked cars and get hit. And if that happens, all of the people who are siding against it ARE responsible…

53 Donna McDaniel April 14, 2016 at 4:07 PM

Time for only one other comment: I’m sure the Selectmen would be delighted if a group of citizens wanted to join a committee on increasing participation in town government. We had one about 40 years ago and found the best way to attract people was to have a supper before…I think Westboro does that traditionally. They also meet (or used to) on a weekday night and then Saturday and Sat. night, if needed (with a supper in there).. The idea was to hunker down and get it done! (And yes there could be provisions/volunteers for baby-sitting. Great service for younger people to contribute and understand the significance.)
When we tried here before we also made various pieces of information available to every household… we used to deliver the warrant and report to every household well before the meeting and held a pre-TM to go through some of the more interesting items so arguments could be tried out and maybe improved… It could be a forum on TM on SAM (TV) now that we have that gift…
Yes… it takes time. But surely we can spend a few more hours to increase participation…?? (Or dare I suggest spend many more hours later regretting our neglect…
Again… for those who missed this comment before: Churchill’s saying:
Democracy is the worst form of government–except for all the others.,

54 M April 15, 2016 at 12:11 PM

All great ideas, Donna. thanks

55 Matthew April 15, 2016 at 9:56 AM

Please take more from the town common.
Please provide sidewalks with curb protection.
Please provide a bike lane in both directions.
Please provide an additional lane in both directions so that cars can turn or extend the light cycles to compensate (if that would work).
Consider BUYING the small red house on SW corner of 85 and Main.
Give Dr. Stone a few dedicated spots of parking on the common road to compensate for cars not parking on the sidewalk.

The funeral has always been an island in this neighborhood given the volume of vehicles it demands be parked close and the lack of parking that has always existed. We are simply less tolerant of on street and on sidewalk parking these days. If it’s to continue in it’s current location it must take some responsibility for it’s own needs. Make some arrangements for it’s patrons, get a limo to ferry the bereaved from area lots…
Their needs cannot entirely be the responsibility of the town. What are they willing to do? I would like to know…

The common is precious well so is parking to the local businesses and there is so very little that businesses don’t benefit from each other, they are too far apart. I need tissues because I’m at a funeral and the nearest place is Maruo’s. I’m at the doctors and needs prescription filled so hop in the car…
We want the charm of a small town but the appeal of a successful town center. Neither can exist without compromise. Need more parking, need sidewalks(not that their existence means they will get plowed – but that’s another issue) need new roads all the way down, not just a resurfacing.

Honestly I spend so very little time on Main Street that I don’t care what it looks like. I don’t travel up 85 during rush hour, and there is always a spot to park at the town hall when I need to go. I think the present has passed our little downtown and the future will likely see it decay much further before anything happens.

Too bad it doesn’t need a few free sheds, some asphalt and a poorly designed flow of traffic then maybe the DPW could help.

56 Alison Craftsman April 15, 2016 at 1:36 PM

On the matter of cost of repaving — I read that John Butler received a letter from DPW, giving a figure of $925,000. This covered a longer stretch of road, from Sears to East Main, so it includes the “downtown” shopping area across the RR. I believe it also included some necessary drainage, sidewalk resurfacing and curbs, and some deeper work in short sections where more work was needed.

The section from the Common to Latisquama was last repaved in the 1980’s. That is over 35 years ago. Other sections are older still. That is why it is falling apart. Simple neglect.

57 beth April 15, 2016 at 1:46 PM

I can’t fully respond to what I haven’t seen. In the past, Galligan claimed that quoted figure was for repaving not the deeper reconstruction necessary. But at Town Meeting, neither she or anyone else representing the Town rebutted Butler’s cost quote.

58 ngm April 15, 2016 at 1:45 PM


I would like to comment on the following blog “I agree that it was a convenient location when their clients and customers arrived on foot or by horse. With the introduction of automobiles and the additional space necessary to park it became a terribly inconvenient location in my humble opinion.”
Believe it or not there were automobiles in the late 40’s and early 50’s when the Stone’s and Morris’ opened their business. And for any ones information. No one ever came by horse or walked more then 1/10 of a mile for the services that both business have provided this town. In fact the cars were larger and wider. Perhaps one should do their home work..

59 n April 16, 2016 at 8:02 AM

So there was never sufficient parking…

This comment leaves me even less convinced that we as a town have an obligation to provide parking for these businesses. Why not just more to a more suitable location with parking?

60 Donna McDaniel April 15, 2016 at 7:33 PM

I’ve been thinking: People concerned about the “look” of Main St. might visit (in a car and walking) downtown Concord, Lexington, and Bedford where there are sidewalks in the shopping areas (far more densely built than ours) as well as along the residential streets connecting to the downtown area. In the denser downtown the sidewalk is right from the street up to the wall of the buildings and I dare say people going to the stores as they visit very lovely historic towns are not scared away by the “look” of their sidewalks, etc. Are they bigger than we are? Yes. But do they look less attractive than we would with some changes to sidewalks and parking?
And while you’re out checking other towns, I’d add Hudson to the list since I have to wonder how many people who had a visible and/or audible negative reaction to the mention of that town have actually been there? You’re missing some good restaurants and a great hardware store, to name a few.
Once more: If you didn’t see my message about traffic from the Park Central condos being funneled to West Main, some to turn west and some east. It’s coming, folks, whether we like it or not, and not for lack of real opposition from neighbors and other users of Flagg Road (traffic to go ONLY north to W. Main.).

61 southsider April 18, 2016 at 4:19 PM

Donna,

The work that was planned for the Main Street and Route 95 intersection was not compared to downtown Hudson at TM.
It was compared to the new wide expanse of road that I think is called Washington St. It’s now a 4 lane highway from the rotary near Tuck’s and Burger King all the way to the turn for Brigham Street. It’s very efficient for traffic flow but so not in keeping with our town center’s character. Simply concrete ugly… and I can’t imagine having my home on it.

62 Donna McDaniel May 2, 2016 at 5:07 PM

Not the picture I saw… not a rotary in sight but a sidewalk with grass strip of a few inches (best I can remember) on the street side and more in front of wall on other with houses set back some…like on a main street maybe in many towns. Maybe one has to be willing to compromise a little (I know, that’s vague) to make it possible to agree on a common good.

63 beth April 13, 2016 at 1:59 PM

I was just saying that there are people who do argue that the current number of parked cars should still be allowed and that more land should be taken from the Town Common to do it. I imagine that some also believe that the parking on the sidewalks is fine and that safety concerns are overblown.

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