Town Admin responds to proof that potential road through L’Abri has been “going on long”

by beth on February 15, 2018

Above: Readers pointed me to a discussion about potential solutions to Park Central road issues at a BOS meeting in 2016. It was seen as supporting rumors that Town officals have been floating the idea of building a road through a private owner’s land for longer than was acknowledged last week. (video posted by SAM to YouTube)

Last week, Town Administrator Mark Purple told a resident that talks about a potential road hadn’t been going on at his level for “long”. It was a rejection of concerns that Town officials had been floating an idea to run a road through L’Abri Fellowship land without approaching them.

Multiple readers have pointed me to a video from June 2016 that pokes a hole in that narrative. (Which also drove me to pull up my own coverage of that discussion.)

I reached out to Purple for his response. He answered:

While I recall that during the Selectmen discussions about the proposed Park Central development that other options for egress into and out of the property were discussed, I did not remember that there was specific mention about L’Abri as part of those discussions. After viewing the link you provided, I stand corrected.

Thanks for keeping me honest. Moving forward, I would expect that any discussion of the Park Central location and any future development on that parcel will involve a discussion of additional egress. Given the limitations that MassDOT has put on access from Park Central Drive onto Route 9, which essentially drives all of the traffic on to local roads, it makes virtually any proposal at that location incredibly challenging to gain consensus.

Also in attendance at the June 2016 meeting were Purple, then-Selectman Paul Cimino and still-serving selectmen Dan Kolenda, Bonnie Phaneuf, and Brian Shea.

To be fair, I should note that the potential road in question was one of many options floated that night. Cimino was recapping a meeting held with state officials and department heads to brainstorm all the options open to them, ask MassDOT questions and solicit any ideas the state had to help.

Cimino shared the idea of building a road parallel to 495. As I wrote back then:

One “out of the most out of the box” suggestions was creating an access road from the development area to Main Street or Lynnbrook Road. If pursued, that might be partially funded by a MassWorks grant.

Before those potential abutters panic, Cimino clarified that it was discussed “at a very macro level” and would require an “overwhelming amount of design and public comment.”

Now-Chair Dan Kolenda later referred to the idea as a creative solution he liked. He pointed out that easements would be needed and hard to come by.

Cimino responded that much of the land was owned by L’Abri Fellowship. He shared Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano’s speculation that as a non-profit, they may be more amenable to the idea than most private owners. But he pointed out that building the road would be expensive. 

Kolenda and Cimino discussed financing difficulty, grant money, and leveraging the developer to contribute to the expense.

Following that, the talk turned to specifics on other controls the board had for traffic flow on Flagg Road.

Selectmen didn’t settle on a road plan that night. Instead, they made clear that they intended to keep working with the state, community and developer on options.

Last week, Ben Keyes of L’Abri Fellowship told the board he was disturbed by rumors he had been hearing about the Town officials talking about using the land for a Park Central road or for emergency access to the land locked lot.

Earlier in the meeting, Purple had shared news of recent discussions taking place around a new commercial project proposed at Park Central. He mentioned the idea of pursuing a MassWorks grant for building a North-South road from Park Central to Rout 30.

Keyes said he objected to Town officials seeming to be working on behalf of the developer without ever contacting L’Abri. Purple responded that he didn’t know where Keyes got the impression that talks had been going on for long.

Kolenda and Phaneuf commented in support of the fact that Purple was just updating the board that night. They made no clarifications about earlier discussions selectmen had been involved in about road solutions for Park Central. Shea didn’t comment.

(Neither Dykema or Cimino, who is no longer a selectman, were at last week’s meeting.)

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marnie Hoolahan February 15, 2018 at 8:05 PM

Thank Beth for the diligence.

I remain concerned that our “officials” are acting in the best interest of developers and not town residents. DiPietri made a poor decision when he purchased property that Flatley could not develop for years. The question that I continually ask myself; was the decision to purchase landlocked property with no secondary egress that Flatley could never develop really that naive? Was that purchase made on promises made in back rooms and private conversations? We will not know, but back room and public actions certainly speak louder that citizens concerns expressed in public meeting after public meeting.

If residents have not figured it out yet, some of our BoS clearly have agendas… agendas that do not support the interests of residents. Stay alert, have skepticism and ask questions.

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2 David Parry February 15, 2018 at 11:11 PM

Here we go again.

The Selectmen, and Town Administrator and Economic Development Committee, are all trying hard (understandably), to convert a very difficult site into a viable site for high density commercial development, and therefore a tax revenue generator . In doing so, they are helping to bail out a developer who bought the site very cheaply . But they are simultaneously in severe danger of over-riding the clearly expressed, majority opinion of the entire neighborhood, and even the town.

Remember that, just a year ago, Town Meeting voted, overwhelmingly, (and against the opinion of the Selectmen and Economic Development, and the band of development attorneys ) to get rid of “use variances” — because of the use variance granted by the ZBA to THIS project … over massive opposition from residents and other town boards.

This week, it was apparently just pure luck that Mr Keyes, a member of L’ Abri , was called — just in time — to allow him to drive , quickly , to the Selectmen’s ongoing meeting. He arrived late, but he was still in time to voice his strong objections to the earlier proceedings, which had discussed construction of a new road, serving Park Central traffic, but passing through their (L’Abri) private land, against their wishes, and dumping the commercial traffic onto Rte 30, Main St. Exactly this same scheme was contemplated 40 years ago.

Why did the previous land owner, Flatley , sell this 100 acre site , very cheaply ?

Simple. It was because Flatley could never figure out a solution to traffic, after 40 years of trying, with numerous plans, back in the 1980’s, 90’s, 00’s … I remember it well, because I was on the Planning Board and the the Board of Selectmen back then. Flatley tried all kinds of tricks, but never succeeded, so he finally gave up, and sold the site, cheaply.

So now , as a result, we have more attempts by another developer, to make money on the backs of the neighborhood. …. Dumping the site traffic onto Flagg Rd — which is still today, one of the loveliest , winding, tree-lined streets in our town ….. But maybe not for long , depending on the outcome of the pending law suits.

Our Master Plan clearly states that traffic emanating from Rt 9 commercial sites must be KEPT on Rt 9, ( in and out) and NOT be allowed to feed out through back-door driveways, passing through surrounding residential neighborhoods.

Southborough’s future value, as a highly desirable place🌐to live , depends on protecting our high quality residential neighborhoods from being overrun by commercial traffic .
Park Central, and other commercial sites, must not be allowed to violate this basic planning principle.

On another note, the latest scheme, presented this week, shows a proposed access drive out of the Park Central site, northbound, directly linking to the I -495 on-ramp (northbound, but literally half way along the ramp). Can anyone think of such a similar example, anywhere ? Of course not. It is dangerous.

This site may be located next to 495, but the hard facts are still not being faced. It was bought cheap for good reason …. It has incredibly dangerous traffic access. Therefore it may be best suited to a use which generates the lowest possible traffic …. Such as recreation or low/ medium density residential use.

I am well aware this does not meet certain economic goals But protection of existing high quality of life , and environmental values , should come first.

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3 arborist February 16, 2018 at 6:49 AM

For a town administrator to say (Thanks for keeping me Honest) is outrageous, It Makes you wonder what’s going on behind closed doors, He should have said (You Caught Me) Tapes don’t lie

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4 Marcel Proust February 16, 2018 at 11:40 PM

Does anybody in the town of Southborough want this Park Central development? Answer: No. And now there’s talk of taking advantage of L’Abri, one of the best places in town. Shameful.

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5 Lucy February 17, 2018 at 7:55 PM

There is no solution! Time is not of the essence. It is not the towns responsibility to provide access to a developer in a land locked piece of property.

Was the developer there? Was his attorney there? Yes/yes

Was anyone from planning who actually cares about the citizens? No

Cimino-It was meant to be a small closed door meeting. They are straight up colluding. They were then and they are now.

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6 Louise Barron February 19, 2018 at 6:21 PM

Mr. Cimino, one of the North-South Road proponents in favor of a private developer without contacting the private land owner(?!!) on which this road would be located, is no longer on BOS.

He is running Town Meeting as Town Moderator?! If history is any indicator, one can expect more one-sided arguments — with limits and little to no opposing public comment. Free speech not allowed at this meeting — except for BOS (Board of Spending) and Mr. Kolenda (see his long Letter to the Editor on My S.B. on 11-10-17)

Mr. Kolenda states,” The right of Americans to freely speak, associate, advocate and vote is ingrained in our Constitution . . . ” (except for the taxpayers of Southborough). Is this irony lost on anyone??!! Check out the last and second to last comment on that letter.

“Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage. . .” Sir Winston Churchill

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