Selectmen want to build what they see as a much needed facility for Southborough’s emergency services. And they want to avoid private development on the 60 acre St. Mark’s Golf Course near downtown.
They decided the best shot at both is to bow to calls for a Conservation Restriction on the remainder of the parcel.
Last night, the Board of Selectmen heard from the ad hoc St. Mark’s Master Plan Committee. The committee has been meeting with a cross section interest groups and residents for feedback. Their final recommendation was to purchase the land and put a CR on about 93% of the parcel.
The report said that importance of the Town controlling the land was a “clear consistent message” heard from groups & individuals, “regardless of their desired future use(s)”.
The committee also determined that keeping the land open for potential additional municipal buildings didn’t make sense. They opined that the Town has better land choices for other possible facilities (e.g., community center, town hall, or library.)
That finding was partially based on a look at the course’s wetlands and slopes showing the most developable areas were on the Latisquama Road side of the course. Parcels that could work on the Route 85 side were more restricted than options at other Town owned parcels.
In addition, most constituents were purportedly in favor of saving the course or amenable to having buildings elsewhere in town. Finally, putting a CR on the land could allow the Town to seek funding assistance for the purchase of the restricted portion of the parcel. Options included Community Preservation Act funds or state grants.
Although selectmen pledged that the CR would be in perpetuity, the Article language they approved doesn’t currently include the term.
Lisa Braccio, a member of the SMMPC, addressed selectmen in her capacity as Open Space Preservation Commission Chair. She pushed for including the term “in perpetuity”. Selectmen rebutted that Town Counsel advised them the words shouldn’t be included but that the CR would be. After some back and forth they conceded that Counsel should either add it in or provide an explanation.
When questioned, Braccio said the Open Space hadn’t voted a position on the revised Article. Selectmen asked her committee to take an official position. That vote will take place at their meeting on Monday.
Advisory member Karen Muggeridge, speaking as a resident, told selectmen that she disagreed with adding the CR to Article 1. She said that they were combining Articles 1 & 3. She saw that as taking away the choice from voters. She believed that future residents should be able to decide how to use the land if they need it.
Selectman Paul Cimino, participating by phone, responded that combining it offered their strongest chance for passing the article. He said that if the Article fails, the golf course wouldn’t be there in the future for use.
Once again, residents tried to pin down if the board would really refuse to negotiate with St. Mark’s if Article 1 failed and Article 4 passed. Selectman Dan Kolenda adamently stated there was “No Chance” of a renegotiation. No other members contradicted him.
Selectmen unanimously voted to approve an amended verison of Article 1 with the CR. Voters will be asked to approve it at the Special Town Meeting this Wednesday, March 8.
Editor’s Note: At this time, I do not have a copy of the amended Article 1. I will share it when I do. In the meantime, I can say that the updated language includes allowance for golfing and passive recreation on the land and that the sum to build the safety complex is now specified at $27,129,500.