The week in government: BOS on Warrant Articles (Updated – Again)

by beth on February 24, 2020

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Here is a selection of the committee and board meetings for the week along with my selected highlights from the agendas. Unless otherwise noted, all of these meetings are open to the public, so you’re welcome to stop on by.

Editor’s Note: The Town’s website has been down today. I received agendas for Monday’s and Tuesday’s meetings, plus the Regional School Committee on Wednesday. Beyond that, I don’t yet have agendas and the schedule may not be up to date. For an updated list of meetings, visit the town website, which hopefully will come back up sometime soon.

Updated: The website is up, so I was able to fill in missing information. 

Monday, February 24, 2020

  • Planning Board Meeting, 7:00 pm @ Hearing Room, Town House, 17 Common St (agenda with packet) Agenda Highlights: Continued hearings on zoning articles for Annual Town Meeting; Approval Not Required application for Dell EMC Lot 1; Discussions on bond reduction for Stonebrook Village Subdivision, contract extension for Engineering Review Consultant-, and release of 12 Thayer Lane -Heritage Crossing lot 1 – Broadcast live and replayed by SAM*

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

  • Community Preservation Committee Meeting, 6:30 pm @ Town House, Town Administrator’s Office, 17 Common St, 9 Cordaville Rd (agendaAgenda Highlights: Golf Course Update, Review and approve Town Meeting Articles on St. Mark’s Church and Recreation projects; Draft Memorandum of Understanding; Reconvene at BOS Meeting to discuss Warrant Articles
  • Board of Selectmen Meeting, 7:00 pm @ Hearing Room, Town House, 17 Common St, (agenda) Agenda Highlights: Joint meeting with Library Trustees to fill vacancy (until Town election); Discuss several Town Meeting Warrant Articles; EDC request for BOS to sponsor mixed use overlay zoning Article for Fall Town Meeting – Broadcast live and replayed by SAM*
  • Board of Trustees Southborough Library, 7:00 pm @ Hearing Room, Town House, 17 Common St (agenda) Agenda Highlights: Joint Meeting with Board of Selectmen on Trustees’ recommendation for Library Trustee vacancy – Broadcast live and replayed by SAM as part of the BOS Meeting*

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

  • Trails Committee Meeting, 7:00 pm @ Recreation Office, 21 Highland St, (agendaAgenda Highlights: Updates; Bay Circuit Trail Connector Trail Reconstruction – April 2020; Review Master Plan topic areas related to trails 
  • Northborough-Southborough Regional School Committee Meeting, 7:00 pm @ Algonquin Regional High School Library, 79 Bartlett St, (agenda, policy) Agenda Highlights: Interviews and vote to fill Northborough vacancy on committee; Assistant Superintendent search committee; FY19 Audit report: Establishment of OPEB trust; FY21 Budget; Solar Update; 2nd reading of sexual harassment in the school policy – Broadcast live by NCAT**
  • Historical Commission Meeting, 7:00 pm @ Historical Museum, the Flagg School, 25 Common Street, (agendaAgenda Highlights: Hearings on demolition permits for homes at 12 Walker Street and 22 Meadow Lane (to vote whether or not buildings should be preferentially preserved).
  • Advisory Committee Meeting, 7:00 pm @ Cordaville Hall, Room A & B, 9 Cordaville Rd (agendaAgenda Highlights: Vote on FY21 operating budget to be recommended to Annual Town Meeting

Thursday, February 27, 2020

  • Southborough School Committee – Policy Development Subcommittee Meeting, 1:00 pm @ Office of the Superintendent – Conference Room, 53 Parkerville Rd (agendaAgenda Highlights: Policies reviewed may include: Bullying Prevention and Intervention Policy; Non-discrimination Grievance Procedure; Disposition of Executive Session Minutes; Conflict of Interest; Data Privacy Policy; Vaping Policy and more
  • Southborough Cultural Arts Council Meeting, 7:00 pm @ Southborough Library, Main Floor, 25 Main St (agendaAgenda Highlights: Ceremony awarding grants

*Southborough Access Media will broadcast the meeting(s) live on Verizon-37 and Charter-192. Click here to see this week’s schedule with rebroadcast times. (Videos are also usually made available through their YouTube channel by the following morning.)

**Northborough Cable Access Television will live broadcast the meeting on Verizon-29 and Charter-194. (Note: The meeting will eventually be rebroadcast. But expect to wait several days before a time and link are posted to NCAT’s schedule.)

Updated (2/24/20 5:15 pm): The Town website is back up. I’m working on updates (like fixing the initially incorrect Historical meeting location). I’ll be updating again – hopefully soon. In the meantime, you can check the website.

Updated (2/24/20 5:40 pm): Added missing meetings, agendas and highlights for Wednesday and Thursday. 

Updated (2/24/20 7:01 pm): Updated Planning agenda to version with the materials packet.  

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate Battles February 24, 2020 at 4:55 PM

Beth,
Please note that the Historical Commission Meeting will be held at the Historical Museum, the Flagg School, 25 Common Street and not the Town House as posted above. Thanks so much!

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2 beth February 24, 2020 at 5:14 PM

Thank you. I will update. Now that the website is back up, I was just starting to try to go through to find any changes and add agendas.

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3 Al Hamilton February 25, 2020 at 8:55 AM

It has come to my attention that the CPC is considering putting forth an article to publicly fund repairs to a religious building (St Marks). I believe this is a wholly inappropriate use of public monies. St. Marks is a religious institution and the building is a place of worship. We should not be spending public monies in support of any religious institution or place of worship.

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4 beth February 25, 2020 at 9:36 AM

That’s an interesting perspective.

I firmly believe in the separation of church and state. In this instance, I have viewed the project as seeking to preserve an historical landmark as opposed to supporting a church. But I have yet to learn the project details. I look forward to hearing more about the project and the public’s views once more is known.

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5 Al Hamilton February 25, 2020 at 12:14 PM

It is worth noting that the Town of Acton tried to do something similar. $250,000 in legal fees later one project was shot down and the other is still in limbo.

Many churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques are historic structures but that does not mean that their primary function is not religious. Helping a congregation avoid the expense of maintaining their facility is supporting that congregation and thereby supporting that religious group.

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6 Townie February 25, 2020 at 10:40 AM

Curious, can CPC be used to replace the windows in the historical Town Hall??

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7 beth February 25, 2020 at 11:37 AM

Someone raised the question at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting when they discussed pushing off that project again. The board appeared to get a yes from former CPC Chair Freddie Gillespie (who I believe was in the audience but off camera.)

But it wasn’t a detailed discussion, so I would be surprised if strings weren’t attached. (Remember, the CPC would only support a renovation project for the Southborough Library with a linked preservation restriction.)

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8 Townie February 25, 2020 at 2:21 PM

Ahh yes, I remember. But after seeing whats going on at 84 Main and how much work as been done there in restriction, I think CPC can make it happen.

I agree with Al, town shouldn’t be handing out money to religious, or private buildings. I think CPC funds are much better used on an actual town building.

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9 southsider February 25, 2020 at 4:28 PM

I don’t think it’s a straightforward decision. if the church was a town landmark and the parish was not well off, I can easily see a reason for the town to help out. For a St. Mark’s structure …. maybe not so much, especially considering their PILOT contributions.

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10 beth February 25, 2020 at 4:58 PM

To clarify, this CPA project being debated isn’t for St. Mark’s School’s church. It is about the bell tower at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 27 Main Street. You can read more about the restoration project here.

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11 Will February 25, 2020 at 5:35 PM

While it may not be under the purview of the St. Mark’s school, I am still inclined to agree with Southsider and Al, and that other philanthropists or perhaps even the St. Mark’s school would be better positioned to provide such funding, especially seeing as the populations taxes are set to increase at the local private schools take property off the tax rolls and the town is already struggling to account for upcoming (and needed) capital expenditures.

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12 Alfred Hamilton February 25, 2020 at 9:12 PM

From the Massachusetts Constitution:

Article CIII.
Article XLVI of the Articles of Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth is hereby amended by striking out section 2 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-

Section 2. No grant, appropriation or use of public money or property or loan of credit shall be made or authorized by the Commonwealth or any political subdivision thereof for the purpose of founding, maintaining or aiding any infirmary, hospital, institution, primary or secondary school, or charitable or religious undertaking which is not publicly owned and under the exclusive control, order and supervision of public officers or public agents authorized by the Commonwealth or federal authority or both, except that appropriations may be made for the maintenance and support of the Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts and for free public libraries in any city or town and to carry out legal obligations, if any, already entered into; and no such grant, appropriation or use of public money or property or loan of public credit shall be made or authorized for the purpose of founding, maintaining or aiding any church, religious denomination or society. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to prevent the Commonwealth from making grants-in-aid to private higher educational institutions or to students or parents or guardians of students attending such institutions.

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13 separation of church and state February 26, 2020 at 7:48 AM

Let us ask ourselves what real estate tax contributions a religious institution makes to the Town of Southborough. Is it similar in nature to those contributions made by our local private schools? Perhaps even less?

Then why on Earth should citizen tax dollars be spent on a private institution? Let St. Mark’s church raise the funds it needs from its congregation. Period.

Extensive exterior work was completed on that church in recent years. Why does the tower now seem to need attention?

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14 Michele March 1, 2020 at 10:35 AM

I certainly understand these concerns, but there is some misinformation. First, the tower is part of the historic district of Southborough and is not affiliated with St. Mark’s School. Can St. Mark’s Church function as a church without the tower? Yes, and because of that preserving it does not support a religious group or advance a religious cause. The tower is part of the historic landscape of downtown Southborough – it’s hard to envision the landscape without the clock tower. The vestry went before the CPC two years ago about preserving this historic clock tower and they stated they would want to close the gap in funds rather than fund the project in total. The congregation, which is pretty small, raised $350K for this project, and now is requesting help closing the gap.

I urge folks to familiarize themselves with use of CPC funds, as some have mentioned using funds for roads and the transfer station. CPC funds cannot be used for such projects: https://www.communitypreservation.org/allowable-uses

CPA funds can be used for “A building, structure, vessel, real property, document or artifact that is listed on the state register of historic places or has been determined by the local historic preservation commission to be significant in the history, archaeology, architecture, or culture of a city or town.” (As defined by M.G.L. Chapter 44B Section 2) This project has already been approved by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, who provided a $50K grant in 2019, which is the small portion of work that was done on the tower that year (about 20% of the total work that needs to be completed).

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15 Will March 2, 2020 at 9:09 AM

Michele,

Appreciate the response and additional information, but this still doesn’t address the concerns expressed here, mainly the issue that funding this would increase the taxes paid by residents as it is tacked on to our tax bills. What I was alluding to in my messages was that I’d rather any increase in taxes paid by the town population be used for issues that affect most of the population such as the roads and transfer station, rather than for something used for religious purposes such as the church.

I was aware that CPC funds can only be used for those projects, but with Beth noting that the town is concerned about how to fund upcoming capital expenses, issues around PILOT payments from Fay/St. Mark’s (plus St. Mark’s taking more money off those rolls by buying up houses), and the various infrastructure needs we have, I feel it’s likely our taxes will be increasing quite a bit as is (as Beth noted in an earlier post) and I think a private benefactor/philanthropist or as noted earlier, a well off school located nearby that can buy up approximately $1 million worth of houses at will, may be better suited to help fund these repairs.

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16 Michele March 2, 2020 at 3:43 PM

Will,
First, thanks for the thoughtful and respectful discussion. I appreciate it.

CPC funds are gathered from our tax bills at 1% (although the first $100K of a property value is exempt) See: https://www.southboroughtown.com/sites/southboroughma/files/uploads/what_is_the_cpa_fy18.pdf

This surcharge was approved by the taxpayers in 2013. Thus, even if the town raises our property taxes to fund capital projects, we are still going to be paying 1% toward the CPC fund regardless. Funding the clock tower restoration through the CPC is not the catalyst for an increase in individual property taxes. I’m happy to read a correction if I’ve misunderstood how this works.

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17 n February 26, 2020 at 2:24 PM

We used CPA funds to preserve the Garfield house.

How what seems to be proposed all that different?

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18 Will February 26, 2020 at 4:12 PM

N, while I don’t know all the details around how much we currently pay towards that money to preserve the Garfield house (if any), adding additional funds to my taxes for a religious site when there are much needed infrastructure needs around town (roads, transfer station etc.) I’d rather any additional funds raised go towards those needs that benefit most of the town and its residents as opposed to a church.

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19 A March 2, 2020 at 8:44 AM

The Burnett Garfield house actually has a chapel on the premises, which has been renovated. That was the location of worship services in town prior to the building of St. Mark’s Church.

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20 n February 26, 2020 at 5:19 PM

article 14, 2016 ATM =$1,045,000 to purchase perpetual preservation restriction at 84 Main Street.

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21 Will February 27, 2020 at 11:31 AM

N, I knew how much was spent in 2016, I was saying that I wouldn’t be able to tell you how much each taxpayer is currently paying from their tax bills to cover that amount (if any). Either way, the gist of my comment still stands in that I’d prefer infrastructure concerns that affect the general population of the town be addressed and taken care of first, such as the roads and other capital expenses.

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22 Michele March 10, 2020 at 8:15 AM

The personal property tax rate doesn’t go up based on the CPC project. Homeowners pay 1% on the property value (less the first $100K) every year. The $1M that was granted to the Burnett House was actually the purchase of a preservation restriction – there is a warrant article this year to approve $85K for the Burnett property to fund the debt payment.

Article 17 “To see if the Town will vote to appropriate $85,437.50 to be applied towards the bond for the Perpetual Preservation Restriction on 84 Main Street also known as the Burnett House for the purpose of Historic Preservation. $32,278 from the CPA Historic Preservation Reserve Fund and $53,159.50 from the CPA FY2021 Budgeted Reserve Fund. Said funds to be expended under the direction of the Community Preservation Committee.

You can see the proposed warrant articles here on page 36: https://www.southboroughtown.com/sites/southboroughma/files/agendas/selectmens_2-25-20_agenda_packet_web.pdf

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23 Richard March 3, 2020 at 7:19 PM

Once the ACLU gets wind of an attempt by a municipality to direct public funds to a building (historical or not) used for religious purposes, that action is likely to be shut down rather quickly.

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