Over $1M in state authorizations/grants for “Southborough History Walk”, shared streets, Commuter Rail parking, and wastewater treatment

by beth on February 2, 2021

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Above: The state awarded $290K to support Town efforts to create a Southborough History Walk around the Town Common, Old Burial Ground and Library. (images cropped from draft concept plan)

On Friday, Southborough announced state funding of a “Shared Winter Streets and Spaces” grant award. While I’m sharing that, I’m also including recent news about other state funding authorizations for our Town.

Two weeks ago, Southborough’s State Representative announced that legislation signed into law by Governor Baker included multiple funding projects for Southborough. Among projects included in a transportation bond bill was $500K “in authorizations aimed at improving local pedestrian and bicycle travel” in Southborough.

The Mass Department of Transportation’s grant announced by the Town on Friday is $290K for a “Southborough History Walk“. (Scroll down for more details.) So far, I haven’t heard back as to whether the grant falls within the $500K under the transportation bond bill or is additional funding.

Other Southborough specific capital authorizations touted by Representative Carolyn Dykema were:

  • $300,000 for the expansion of parking at the MBTA Commuter Rail station, “which typically reached full capacity during traditional commuting hours prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
  • and $250,000 for wastewater treatment

I wasn’t able to get confirmation from the Town that the latter is related to the Downtown Initiative. But it seems likely.*

Town officials have previously referred to “insufficient wastewater management infrastructure” as an obstacle to revitalizing downtown Main Street. As part of the Economic Development Committee’s Downtown Initiative, the Town received $25K for an engineering feasibility study to investigate a solution.

The Town has been using the other half of the $50K grant for the Downtown Initiative for a consultant to provide technical assistance on EDC’s efforts to improve zoning bylaws downtown. A consultant has been aiding selectmen, EDC members and the Planning Board as they work towards bringing proposed bylaw changes to voters at the next Annual Town Meeting.

Prior to opening public hearings to be held by the Planning Board, Selectmen and the EDC agreed that it would make sense to hold a public forum on Downtown Main Street. Invitations will be mailed to abutters and the event publicized for the general public. (I’m told that other Main Street issues, like tensions between CSX railroad and abutting downtown properties, will be covered as well.)

The schedule for that forum will be discussed during tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

In addition to the capital authorizations, Dykema promoted statewide and regional funding support that included $2 million in workforce development and small business grants for the MetroWest area as part of a $626 million economic development bill. You can read that press release here.

As for details on the Southborough History walk, the press release describes a project that:

includes the construction of new sidewalks on Marlboro Road (Route 85) and St. Mark’s Street, and a new plaza / gathering area adjacent to the Public Library and paths around the “Old Burial Ground” to create an educational gathering area for Town residents and students.

I reached out to Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan for more detail. She provided a draft of the concept plan that the grant application was based on. (You can open the pdf here.)

The proposal shows shifting south the intersection between St. Mark’s Road and Marlborough Road (Route 85).  The current intersection would be demolished and replaced with loam and soil. The southern section of a triangle of land abutting the Southborough Library that is currently owned by St. Mark’s School would be converted to a Southborough public space, subject to an agreement with the school.

Below are images of the intersection’s current layout (from the Town’s GIS map) followed by the proposed project.

intersection of 85 and St Marks street from GIS maps Southborough History Walk concept 

Galligan clarified that the sidewalks, walkways, gathering areas in the draft plan were all included in the grant. Moving the intersection and drainage wasn’t. That would need to be funded through another source for road work (e.g., Chapter 90 or road maintenance under Town Meeting’s Capital Expense Article).

Below is Southborough’s press release on the grant award:

The Town of Southborough has been notified by MassDOT that they are among the twenty-one cities and towns to receive grant awards in the latest round of funding for the Shared Winter Streets and Spaces program. The Shared Winter Streets and Spaces program provide grants as small as $5,000 and as large as $500,000 for municipalities to quickly launch changes for safer walking, biking, public transit, recreation, commerce, and civic activities. These improvements can be intentionally temporary or can be pilots of potentially permanent changes. MassDOT is particularly focused on projects that respond to the public health crisis and provide safe mobility for children, for elders, to public transportation, and to open space and parks.

Southborough received $290,000.00 to support the implementation of a new “Southborough History Walk”.

The project includes the construction of new sidewalks on Marlboro Road (Route 85) and St. Mark’s Street, and a new plaza / gathering area adjacent to the Public Library and paths around the “Old Burial Ground” to create an educational gathering area for Town residents and students.

The project would connect numerous Town facilities (Town Hall, Town Common, Old Burial Ground, Public Library, Historic Society) to a variety of uses including the Southborough Senior Center, Community House, St. Mark’s School, Woodward Elementary School and Fay School. The new gathering area would be available to improve educational offerings provided by the Public Library and the nearby schools.

This project will expand the sidewalk network from the nearly completed Main Street (Route 30) Reconstruction project and create new off-road paths to improve pedestrian connectivity and gathering spaces within the Downtown area. The project will connect various Town assets to multiple schools and points of interest. The Town, through Chapter 90 funding, will move the road and upgrade the existing drainage.

Special thanks to DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan for her efforts that led to the grant award.

*I didn’t hear back from the Town Administrator on the wastewater treatment question. I also tried emailing Representative Dykema. She did get back to me but didn’t have details to share. She explained:

The language included in the bond bill doesn’t specify a project and could be used for any project that falls within the scope of the language which is wastewater treatment broadly. It’s important to note that unlike earmarks which are authorized through the budget, capital authorizations through bond bills such as this one, must be released by the Governor before they become available to the town. Now that the funding has been authorized in the legislation, the town and the legislative delegation would need to make the case to the administration for release of the funds. Such a request would identify a specific project along with an explanation of how the funds would be used and why it’s important to the town (ie economic development, public safety, etc.) Factors that increase the likelihood of the release of funds include showing that the project is “shovel ready” and that the town is contributing matching funds. The bond is authorized for 5 years so there is a significant window within which the town could identify a project, plan, and request the release of funds. It is important to note that the bond authorization isn’t a guarantee of the release of funds, and not all funds authorized are released. For this reason, many towns seek to use these funds for projects that are priorities to be advanced by the town regardless of whether the state funding is released.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Cart Before the Horse February 3, 2021 at 3:47 AM

Isn’t it presumptuous to get a $250k grant of taxpayer paid funds for a sewer treatment plant while shoveling a Downtown zoning overlay scheme down the throats of taxpayers that benefits private developers? The shameless EDC and its hacks are busy lining up their next five years of fee income and getting ready to hoist the ole saddle on the backs of the unwitting taxpayers again, this time with their relentless and inappropriate hounding of elected officials who should be objectively and responsibly minding their own knitting. EDC has failed numerous times to sell the Downtown Initiative scheme, all while losing about multiple chairpersons during their many “restructurings” due to scofflaw activity and apparent conflicts of interest. Who is going to pay for the operation of this plant? No thanks. Not in favor of ruining our bucolic downtown by jamming it with a crazy density increase, an unwarranted sewerage plant, development, and traffic clog. It’s too small. Remember It’s a wonderful life, Bedford Falls? Why turn it into Pottersville for despicable Mr. Potter? The EDC and BOS focus should be on Route 9, which is in desperate need of revitalizing efforts and has the capacity. Stop ruining our bucolic downtown. It’s starting to look like crummier urban communities.

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2 Kelly Roney February 3, 2021 at 2:41 PM

Our downtown is not bucolic. It’s down at the heels. The EDC should be working on revitalization, which requires solid, sustainable businesses, and they need a reasonable way to dispose of their sewage. It won’t likely be any kind of sewer, but a shared septic system would make downtown a more viable location for commerce with all the benefits of that – services for all of us, higher tax revenues, and shorter trips by car or on foot.

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3 Cart Before the Horse February 4, 2021 at 4:12 AM

Couldn’t disagree more. “Down at the heels” is exactly the self serving byline that the fee driven developers and their noisy hacks would love for the unwitting public to swallow. This “Downtown” is too small and too easy to ruin with the misdirected efforts of this EDC. This is the home to longtime existing residents who matter first as stakeholders, along with the existing solid sustainable businesses that you ignore and disparage as stakeholders, along with this scofflaw EDC. The initial disgustingly self serving, failed EDC P.R. campaign read “What’s Wrong With Downtown.” Answer: Not much, and it doesn’t need your misguided attention to ruin and clog it with self serving attempts to increase density and traffic. The problem with this EDC, aside from its bullying developer bullhorn and ridiculous fee-driven hacks, is that it fails to focus on legitimate areas of genuine concern, like Route 9, which actually looks blighted and misses the mark on other areas of town that could use help. This is a small town with bucolic charms. It only takes a few wrong moves to irreversibly clog and ruin it. Sustainability includes not jamming density in areas where it doesn’t fit and leaving capacity and space for future generations.

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4 Kelly Roney February 5, 2021 at 11:25 AM

From Merriam-Webster’s:

bucolic
1. of or relating to shepherds or herdsmen : pastoral

2. a. relating to or typical of rural life
b. idyllic

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5 Cart Before the Horse February 8, 2021 at 12:02 AM

This “Downtown” is too small for self serving attempts to increase density and traffic clog. From Merriam – Webster’s:

dense
1). marked by compactness or crowding together of parts,
a). e.g. dense traffic
b). chemistry, having a higher mass, e.g. carbon dioxide is a dense gas
(such as the gas emissions from standing traffic)

2). a). slow to understand (for example #1), i.e. stupid, thick headed;
e.g. too dense to get the joke
b). extreme, i.e. dense ignorance

6 Kelly Roney February 10, 2021 at 2:19 PM

Has the choleric one finally learned the meaning of bucolic that he was too dense to learn before? I doubt it. I’m sure he’ll respond with more ad hominem attacks. That’s what he does.

Downtown is not fine. Most people who think it is fine only want to drive through it as quickly as possible. If they looked around, they could see how down-at-the-heels it looks.

The Southborough House of Pizza is a fine building. So is the Lamy Building. The two distinct Mauro’s businesses are decent, with the improvements made in the market very welcome.

The corner lot, which Peter Bemis wants (or wanted) to turn into a mixed use building, is an eyesore and has been for many years, but the reflexive anti-change people have kept that from happening.

Park St., where Ted’s Towing used to be headquartered, is desolate and even more down-at-the-heels than Main St. But it’s a great potential expansion zone.

No one’s coming for anyone’s acre-zoned homes. But I walk through Downtown frequently, so I can tell quite accurately both how depressed it looks and how great its potential is.

7 Julie Connelly February 8, 2021 at 3:04 PM

Cart,

To clear up a few incorrect pieces of information:

1. No member of the EDC has any financial stake in Downtown at all, directly or peripherally or through family members. Stating (anonymously) that we are “shameless… hacks… busy lining up [our] next five years of fee income” is 100% incorrect. Similarly the term “scofflaw” is entirely inapplicable here, no matter how many times you say it.

2. We’ve never asked “What’s Wrong with Downtown”. But lots of people have asked us that question, which prompted us to conduct a survey which showed that the vast majority of residents are looking for improvements downtown – more non-chain restaurant/food amenities, small scale retail, and mixed use with residential units over first floor commercial space. These survey results are publicly available. They also line up with a survey from more than a decade ago, as well as a survey conducted by the Master Plan Committee which showed strong support for these types of improvements.

3. EDC is working with residents and businesses Downtown, not against them. We have held 5 public forums on this topic, and there is another scheduled for February 16th. We hope you’ll attend and raise your concerns in a forum where the can be better addressed.

4. In addition we are working on Route 9 and planning for the future, as the office space landscape changes. You should come to our meetings if you want to hear more about this.

Cart, you can keep posting here anonymously, spouting inaccurate information and throwing insults at your neighbors, or you can join us at our next forum, attend our meetings, or reach out to me personally, as I have been involved in this project for 3 years, with my only stake in it being the hundreds of hours of time I’ve put in because this is what our survey, our forums, our state’s economic development priorities, and our own Town’s master plan (both the 2008 version and the impending 2021 version) have stated should be done.

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8 Cart Before the Horse February 8, 2021 at 5:53 PM

Ms Connelly,
No one has asked the EDC what is wrong with “downtown” because nothing is substantially wrong with it. That’s a loaded question with the loaded cure that is an insult to residents intelligence. Also, EDC has had numerous chairpersons (including you) who have stepped down and a number of restructurings. This isn’t because things were being done properly. The scofflaw term includes behavior of past members who had been magnets of controversy and alleged conflicts of interest or at least appearances of conflict of interest and have now skeedaddled. At least one of these former members had apparently worked directly with groups that compelled this member enough in this person’s own mind to move on, without clear explanation. But like bad pennies, they show up to boss around and excoriate public officials in the most inappropriate ways. More importantly, EDC has been exceedingly disrespectful to elected public officials, namely Planning Board, and the town citizens who elected them in the first instance.

For clarity sake, couldn’t disagree more with the bullying disrespectful tactics and the negative energies put into trying to force too much density (and resulting traffic) into an area where it simply doesn’t fit. Just because you hold a different opinion definitely doesn’t make it so. If you want Framingham, move to Framingham. But you don’t have my support for trying to jam development down the real stakeholders throats, the residents and existing businesses who are already enjoying downtown just as it is. Show the stakeholders exactly what can be constructed under the proposed density. Show renderings of the number of stories and block like cramming. When this misadventure started a few years back, the claim was that this village district would not be changed or ruined. These sweeping proposed changes will ruin the bucolic charm.

Leave some space and capacity for future generations and stop trying to overdevelop our small downtown. The zoning and process is perfectly fine the way it is. The real focus should be on blighted transit oriented corridors and other locations. And yes, grabbing for $250,000 of taxpayer money to pay for a sewer treatment plant that benefits private developers does seem presumptuous.

9 A person February 8, 2021 at 6:55 PM

No matter how many times you say “vast majority” it isn’t true.

10 Broken Record February 9, 2021 at 7:07 PM

Cart,

Ask for the survey results?

Where is your public survey of what your vision of the “vast majority” wants to do with downtown?

This change will have to come to a vote and if anything about this recent Presidential election shows, people want to be heard.

——

Your constant argument, (I can only assume it’s you over and over recycled on the site when anything comes up about the EDC) is the Downtown is perfect. Plenty of other of your coveted bucolic towns have more going on then our downtown. Take a look at Woodstock,VT (top 50 small town) with a smaller population than Southborough and a place people actually want to visit.

You know it is actually ok to like something and still want to improve it. They do t have to be mutually exclusive of each other.

11 Cart Before the Horse February 10, 2021 at 10:24 AM

Ms. Connolly,
Did you see Mr. Weishan’s post today? Apparently EDC has allegedly violated copyright law by ripping off copyrighted materials? In fairness to Mr. Weishan, doesn’t the EDC owe him an apology for using the materials anyway? In addition to a fee?
Agree with Mr. Weishan’s comments.
Also, for the sake of the taxpaying public, the main point would be to suggest that a better job be done explaining to the public what is contained in the proposed changes by showing renderings of potential block like density and how much traffic clog is added, if traffic has even been examined. Not sure there has been any analysis. If not, that would truly be backwards, in terms of planning and public safety, and also putting the cart before the horse. Planning Board is important and should not be bypassed in any way.

12 A person February 10, 2021 at 11:43 AM

The Broken Record is the EDC insisting that 400something responses makes up the “vast majority.”
How long ago was this survey taken? How many residents were surveyed? How many residents were not surveyed? How was this survey conducted? Could the questions in this survey be considered to be leading the respondents? What is the opinion of those who did not participate in this survey and what prevented them from doing so? I’ve asked around, not one person I’ve asked has seen this survey,
a few said they heard about it through this blog.
And one final question;
Why is the town considering closing a school when there is a plan to create mix used zoning and create more housing above businesses? Is this housing excluding families and exclusively for singles?

13 Broken Record February 10, 2021 at 12:25 PM

Have you gone to the meetings from the EDC via Zoom and asked to see copies the surveys? and those other questions? Attending these meetings are now even easier than ever.

If your logic is that the “Vast majority” of people didn’t respond to the survey, then the flip to that is the “vast majority” of people can’t be bothered to show up for Town Meeting and listen to people quibble over items. I understand the current rules don’t allow for mail in voting for Town Meeting items, but I think it would yield a much different result.

14 Cindy February 3, 2021 at 8:26 AM

Sure we can possibly spend money on some random path around the cemetery and library but the so-called “sidewalk” right smack dab in the center of town where many people walk all the time into the businesses is still a disaster. Unusable by wheelchairs…. For years I’ve seen wheelchairs driven down the roadway instead of taking their chance on those sidewalks. I know it’s not every day but it’s should be safe for when it is needed.

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15 Cart Before the Horse February 9, 2021 at 8:59 AM

There are many legitimate questions of business concern to be answered: How many times has the EDC had a new chairperson? How many times has the group been restructured? Why the restructurings? Why has there been many instances of deficient minutes and agendas? (That do not meet the standards of state law nor the recent Sandisfield standard cited in BOS minutes.). It’s simple. Just google the BOS minutes or Sandisfield MA Open Meeting Law Violation to see the decision and print off EDC minutes and agendas for the past several years and compare. Why have several members taken it up themselves to resign? What were they working on that compelled them in their minds to resign? These are legitimate questions of concern and state law. Then to disrespect elected officials voted in by the taxpaying public is the frosting on the cake. Sorry, after years of the above and the now controversial and dangerous push on density, no thanks, sick of EDC propaganda. If they want Framingham, move to Framingham. Most residents don’t want overbuilding and overcapacity here.

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16 Al Hamiton February 9, 2021 at 11:12 AM

I am not sure why we call the strip of Rt 30 that runs from Newton St to the Southborough Professional Building “Downtown”. If the suburban definition is a place with shopping dining and services the provides parking that moniker moved to the “Town Center” shopping plaza quite a while ago.

That particular strip of road might be better described as “The Old Downtown” or the “Former Downtown”.

I feel for the tax paying businesses along the “Old Downtown”. They cant expand because of septic issues, parking is a big problem and anyone who has tried to do something creative has been thwarted.

When I moved to town about 25 years ago, there were more and varied businesses in what at the time could have been called “Downtown”. The trend over the past quarter decade has not been positive for this area.

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17 Cart Before the Horse February 9, 2021 at 1:56 PM

Sorry but disagree with the opinion about the trend, having observed for the same amount of time. The trend has been relatively stable to positive, with the existing businesses standing strong, even in the face of the pandemic. These businesses and the residents who live there are the most important stakeholders. Would not be in support of undermining the balance of that economic eco-system with traffic, clog, and increased density to a too small location. The existing zoning works fine. And there certainly is no need to bypass an elected board, like the EDC has attempted. The proposed changes to density and process are too sweeping and carte blanche. there are several serious issues here: the unanswered questions of.concern and the potential to ruin the village district with little to no controls, all in favor of the developers, not the businesses and residents who live there.

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18 beth February 9, 2021 at 8:07 AM

I couldn’t disagree with you more about “No one has asked the EDC what is wrong with “downtown” because nothing is substantially wrong with it.” The EDC didn’t invent the issue from thin air. Years before I started working on the blog I heard complaints from friends and acquaintances about downtown being run down.

Whether or not you agree with any specific changes they are proposing or any overall goals they are communicating, there certainly has been desire from a significant number of residents (though I couldn’t assert what percent) to see improvements downtown.

It’s natural that there is some controversy around any big change, especially when it comes to zoning. (There tends to be a lot of disagreement in this Town both about what zoning should try to achieve and what unintended consequences might come about from specific language/requirements.)

But commenters like you who keep attacking EDC members anonymously for their motives appear to me to be far more “bullying” and “negative” in tactics than anything I’ve seen from the EDC.

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19 beth February 10, 2021 at 10:48 AM

In response to “bypassing the Planning Board”, representatives from the board participated in drafting the bylaw and Planning will hold the public hearings. The hearings are currently scheduled to open on Feb 22nd. You can find the agenda here.

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20 beth February 10, 2021 at 11:26 AM

The Town just posted an additional Planning Board meeting on the topic. This Thursday at 7:30 pm, they’ll hold a special meeting dedicated to discussing “Review and possible revisions of the draft Warrant Article for the
proposed Downtown District and the associated draft Design Guidelines”

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