Wrap up of Monday night’s Special Town meeting: Postponed votes on Marijuana and Barn Hollow

Above: Last night’s Special Town Meeting. In case you are wondering, there were more people than my photo shows. Despite light attendance, we did have a quorum.

In case you didn’t make it to last night’s Special Town Meeting (and judging by the turnout, you probably didn’t), here’s my recap.

It was a long night with the two controversial articles explained and debated at length. By a close margin, voters called for delaying a decision on both: the Medical Marijuana Dispensary zoning and the Barn Hollow open space parcel.

The only other article with significant discussion was Article 9, the proposed legal fixes to the zoning by-laws. It was amended, then passed.

As expected, Article 10, changing the Town Planner’s supervision to Selectmen, was withdrawn in deference to the joint policy adopted by Selectmen and the Planning Board this September.

All other articles passed without incident. (For the summarized list, you can see last Friday’s post or click here for the town’s full warrant.)

For those of you interested in the details . . .

Article 1: Medical Marijuana by-law, amendment to the zoning code

Earlier in the evening, the Planning Board held and closed their public hearing on the issue. At that meeting, they reached a compromise with the Board of Health to amend the article.

The proposal expanded the allowable zone to include the Industrial District and the Business Highway District.

To do this, they also requested removing language that created a buffer of 1,000 feet between the facility and residential zones. (It would still remain 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds and other places children congregate.) 

Some residents objected to allowing dispensaries close to homes. There was a perception that the last minute proposed amendment was a “bait and switch”.

Planning Board member Paul Cimino explained that his board was also willing to support the original proposal.

With opposition mounting to amending the article, Board of Health Chair, Dr. Louis Fazen, urged voters to postpone.

His suggestion was echoed by some others who believed that more discussion and public hearings were in order before voting on a plan. The floor agreed, 83 to 67.

Article 7: Acceptance of land parcel off Fisher Road and Barn Lane as open space

Upon introducing their article, the Planning Board recommended postponing the vote.

Recently, Selectman John Rooney negotiated a potential compromise with the developer and residents of the neighborhood. The Planning Board and Selectmen wanted time to try to work out a deal. 

The Advisory Committee and Open Space Preservation Committee objected. Board members and residents debated the issue for about an hour before comments were cut off.

Many shared the concerns of Advisory Committee member John Butler. He believed that reopening the original deed agreement with the developer would set a terrible precedent. With 300 potential open space issues in town, he advised that the town accept the parcel and then work things out as “a good neighbor”.

Butler also suggested that because the development roads were accepted by the town, developer Kevin Giblin would no longer have an incentive to negotiate. Finally, he warned that if a compromise measure was reached, it would be handled by town boards without coming back to meeting for a town vote.

Rooney made an impassioned plea of fairness on behalf of the residents directly effected. He showed pictures of the land in dispute and explained the history from their perspective. He pointed out the town’s failure to properly handle the space restrictions. (For instance, the town approved the developments as landscaped before they were sold.)

He explained how the development had been presented for sale, the questions that the homeowners asked, and the information they were provided both at time of purchase and in intervening years.

He insisted that the residents were cautious and reasonable in their belief that when they purchased their homes, they were also purchasing the pieces of land in question.

For those who weren’t swayed by the fairness issue (and many weren’t), Rooney also issued a warning. He was confident that if the town took the land, the homeowners of Barn Hollow would have a legitimate law suit against the town.

Rooney cautioned that accepting the parcel would result in the land being tied up in a legal battle that would cost the town money, and likely end in an unfavorable judgement for the town.

Voters approved postponing a decision 79-66.

Article 9: Amendments to Zoning By-law

Before voting on (and passing) the article, two amendments were considered.  (Yes, amendments to the amendments.)

These were revisions requested by resident David McCay.

McCay stated that a specific phrase “of a small-scale nature” added an unintended layer of additional zoning constraints for any “”nonconforming” properties. After some discussion of the legal ramifications, residents voted to approve that amendment.

The other request was to remove reference that major residential development applicants must be in compliance with state regulations and the Board of Health.

McCay saw this as burdening the Planning Board to know these regulations, which isn’t their responsibility. Some others viewed this as simply a reminder to the applicant that they must do their due diligence on regulations and required approvals. That amendment was rejected by close margin.

Updated (4/8/15 1:00 pm): Fixed misspelling of David McCay’s last name. Sorry!

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noobie
8 years ago

This was my first TM. I only stayed for Article 1, the only issue that I had an opinion on, and IMO is not even all that important. But, I’m generally interested in politics and wanted to see what TM was all about. Long story short, I won’t be going back.

To take an hour and half away from my time with my kids to ultimately not even get the opportunity to vote is dispiriting, and then add on to it the dirty politicking with the attempted bait-and-switch, and the threat of the vote being re-brought up late night. I find it especially ironic that during a federal government shutdown, we would essentially shut ourselves down. Maybe the vote to not vote was really the same as the real vote and I should just think of it as the article losing, but that just leaves me with an even worse taste in my mouth for the process.

Anyway, the one other major factor that I couldn’t understand was why the planning board or anyone at town meeting would care at all about Dr. Fazen’s opinion on the location of a dispensary. While I appreciated the knowledge about the particulars that Dr. Fazen brought to the discussion, it seems to me that location is solely a town planning issue and really has nothing to do with the board of health. In fact, him driving one side of the issue was most likely a disservice to the town in that I believe he most likely withheld information that he knew weren’t in the best interest of his arguments, but I guess it is important to remember he is an elected politician and not an impartial health expert. In the game that is politics, he won, so well played, but I was hoping that at the local level it wasn’t such a game.

In the end, if there really is a real desire to increase attendance at TM, then a few things need to be fixed. No major last minute amendments, if it is on the warrant then it must be voted on, and no rebringing up voted on warrants later, and the moderator really needs to move things along much faster, Mr. Cimino and Dr. Fazen both were given way too long to talk. I know these are most likely unfixable as the state defines how TM must run, so my warning to those thinking of attending would be unless there is a particularly important issue, I’d skip it, it’s just too much of a time sink. Obviously everyone already knows this, I guess I just had to find out for myself.

Concerned Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  noobie

I understand your frustration with the system. But in what other governance situation would you have an opportunity to actually have your vote count? Your vote to vote was just that, a vote. If you had corralled even a few more like minded residents, you could have really had an impact. Just ask the Barn Hollow people who would have lost their postponement if they hadn’t brought supporters. Doesn’t anyone else wish they could stand up in the US Congress and vote for ourselves? We can only do that at the boring, long drawn out, long winded Town Meeting.

Frank Crowell
8 years ago
Reply to  noobie

Noobie – Here is something that might help. “Mr Moderator, I move the question.” Works like magic.

Pontificating is a pastime in this town. You’ll know this during TM when you think you have heard enough when in fact the speaker has just given you the prelude.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago
Reply to  noobie

Our quaint form of self government has its frustrations as well as its advantages. The advantages include a high degree of openness, and the ability to make your point. The big disadvantage is that it takes that precious commodity, your time. There are alternatives, that includes an elected town meeting or becoming a city and having a city counsel. Don’t bet on either of these in my lifetime. Change comes very very slow.

Town meeting, in pretty much the same form as we have now, complete with its associated politicking, has been held in our community for about 280 years. That makes our legislature much older than congress and for my money far more functional (this is of course a very very low standard).

The biggest barrier to change is not State Law. It is Town Meeting. There are about 150 “regulars” citizens who turn out on a regular basis to do their civic duty. They by and large are happy with the system that exists. A few years a number of people, including myself, tried to change the Annual Town Meeting to a Saturday with the thought that it might make it easier for people with children to attend. It was overwhelmingly defeated on the floor after a short debate.

Town Meeting is like baseball in many respects. When you attend a game as you walk through the turnstiles you are really traveling back in time to the turn of the Century (1900, not 2000) with its more leisurely sense of time. The same is true of TM, There are no clocks in baseball or town meeting.

Louis Fazen. MD, MPH
8 years ago

The town meeting last night demonstrated the workings of a pure democracy: Power to the people. As we heard each issue doesn’t have just two sides. Multiple points of view were aired. Ultimately the vote belonged to the people. Many votes were taken and nobody got everything they wanted but nobody lost every vote either. Those in attendance decided which warrants were in need of more work and which were ready to be decided by vote. Basic parliamentary procedure was observed and people were respectful of each other. John Adams had a good idea and it is worth supporting through our attendance.

southsider
8 years ago

Dr. Fazen,

Kudos for not reacting to the personal commentary above.

Voter
8 years ago

I find bringing other work to do makes the time go much faster.

Although I had every intention of voting against him before he spoke, once I understood the facts, I am very glad Mr. Rooney does what he does for the town. I have not seen many elected people care as much about so few residents with the risk of of irritating so many others I give him credit because he tells it like it is and gives you information you want. I appreciate that breath of fresh air. Whether you agree with his position or not, at least he explained the reasons for a different point of view.

I did not get any usable information or comfort in listening to that angry person who kept going back to the microphones yelling about viral ponds. Did we elect her?

Nora England
8 years ago

Mr. Rooney claims that the residents of Barn hollow bought their houses without knowing the boundaries of their lots. They mistakenly cut 1.5 acre of open space abutting the Wetlands. It is not acceptable defense as the plans of Open Space and the resdential lots are approved and recorded in the same page an book. I am wondering why he acts as their legal counsel and attorney. The compromise is not fair for the public for 2 reasons. The open space protecting the wetlands is priceless and suppose to be not for negotiation or compromise. Additionally, the land in Barn Hollow is the most expensive land in Southboro, the acre is almost 700,000 dollars. How it can be swapped with same size area of land in unidentified area might be worth very little. The fair compromise is for the open space gets the market value of the land a million plusc dollars and use it to improve the community preservation.

Nora England
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Thank you Beth for your comment. I was not in the meeting, but I tried to summarize what was written in the article above and I assume it is accurate ” He insisted that the residents were cautious and reasonable in their belief that when they purchased their homes, they were also purchasing the pieces of land in question.”. It was a mistake not a deliberate act but this will not justify the acquesition of the property of our town. It doesn’t also justify to exchange a land worth more than a million dollars with significantly less valued and similar area land. I know the public doesn’t want favoritism and double standard. I hope Mr Rooney will not push it further and ask for giving the homeowners deeds for the encroachments.

Nora England
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Will the Selectman advocate for ANY homeowner in town who has sections of open land that were integrated into the lawns/landscaping of the home lots?
What about if the sections of open space integrated into a vegetable garden, a daycare playground, or even a garage? What kind of compromise the others will get? Are you going to grandfather any violators of the open space in the past? What will happen to any homeowner in the future who wants to integrate a small piece of open space to make the lawn better looking?

Al Hamilton
8 years ago

We use the term encroachment as if it is a wicked and evil act. I want to point out that nearly every homeowner in Southborough regularly engages in acts of encroachment. Most of us do not own the first 5-15 ft of our front lawns. That property is owned by the same entity that owns many of the open space parcels, the Town of Southborough. If you mow it (gasp!), landscape it (evildoer!), or let your dog poop on it (defiler of the environment!) you are encroaching.

Frankly, the more I think about it the more I like John Butlers idea of letting sleeping dogs lie. Perhaps we should consider repealing the funding of the article that would identify these spaces. Once identified, some committee or the other is going to believe that they have to police them. That will be a lot of fun, pitting neighbor against neighbor against town bureaucrats.

Nice Shrubs.

Former Barn Hollow resident
8 years ago

I’m going to jump into this discussion since it’s clear that people are being pulled in multiple directions based on what they have heard. I am one of the original Barn Hollow residents, and can absolutely verify that Brendon Homes did not deceive me in any way about where my property ended. It was obvious on the plot plan which I asked for – and walked off before I agreed to purchase. Every single homeowner there had the opportunity – and legal responsibility – to know where their property line was. This goes for the front, back, and sides. I’m quite certain they knew / know where to not plant expensive shrubs and trees on the sides of their property, lest they unknowingly donate trees to their neighbor. When you sign your name – 1,000 times at a closing – for a specific property, you are agreeing to the information included in the deed, which just happens to document the property’s size and measurements. Let’s get real and take responsibility for our own actions.

Resident
8 years ago

With all this go-around regarding the town’s responsibility in the Barn Hollow debacle, it shouldn’t be forgotten who actually put in the original landscaping and underground sprinkler systems on land that was clearly supposed to be transferred to the town as open space. Why isn’t that developer being questioned about his significant misrepresentation of his sub-division to the buyers? It could have been willful or negligent, either way he should absolutely be held accountable.

southsider
8 years ago
Reply to  Resident

Is Resident correct when s/he says that the developer actually extended his customers’ sprinkler systems into the land planned as Open Space?

Nora England
8 years ago

I agree with FORMER BARN HOLLOW RESIDENT. We need to get real and take responsibilities of our own actions. Every homeowner or developer in any part of United States knows where the property lines. Whatever happened, it is fair to ask for correction. It is not the issue who to blame or who violates the Open Space property lines. Many of the residents doesn’t want to embrace any punishment. However, the public deserves to gets the Open Space land back. The attorney style argument the public hears from the town officials is heading toward the wrong direction. This direction will not correct the issue, but consolidate the violations. The town officials act like they are going to give deeds for the encroachments and violated areas. I hope that I am wrong in my impression. Any action taken by the town needs to follow the by-laws. If exception is given for violations, it needs to apply to every homeowner in town after changing the by-laws. No more double standard politics.

Current Barn Hollow Resident
8 years ago

Regarding the comments from Former Barn Hollow Resident and Nora England,

Every single lot in the subdivision that abuts open space is in violation of that space with the exception of one. The one that does not, cannot, because a retention pond prevents their yard from reaching the open space. One other lot in the sub does not abut any open space to my knowledge.

When we purchased, we asked 3 times to have the lot lines laid out. We were told they could not find the stakes, but the lot encompassed all the mowed and landscaped areas. All of this was installed by the developer, along with irrigation and fencing, and all of which was in violation of the open space. If the developer cannot figure out where the lot lines are, how do expect the purchaser to do so? This is the same situation encountered by all of the residents with the exception of two. In our case, a large portion of our yard will be lost.

They finally came out late this spring and installed lot markers….12 years after the sub was started. Some lots still had stakes marking the boundries, and imagine the homeowners surprise when the lot lines moved significantly when they were resurveyed.

The assumption being made by many, that we are willful violators, is simply false. The other assumption, that we are trying to deprive the town of their rightful open space, is also wrong. Kevin Giblin (the developer) has recognized the issues we are facing due to how the lots were represented to us. He came to the PB meeting earlier this month and graciously offered to rectify the situation by donating land of an equal or greater amount to the city, to offset the open space in question in Barn Hollow. This action was hailed by all at the meeting, with the exception of the OS committee, as an example of how everyone could, and should work together to find an equitable solution for all. The town will not lose a single square foot of open space under the agreement. Nora, wetlands are some of the cheapest square footage you can buy. The wetlands in question represent a puddle you can jump across. The open space committee claims the open space is for the animals, and I doubt the animals care about the dollar value.

I can say with certainty that all of our neighbors are in support of open space as we enjoy viewing the wildlife it supports. That being said, returning the land that was incorporated into our lots by the developer, back to open space, would significantly affect our properties. What was proposed was a solution that makes everyone whole.

I think Al Hamilton made a great point. If the town wants to take a black and white view of this, they need to be prepared to do the same with not only all open space in town, but also with all other easement and zoning issues. There are significant issues all over town with open space and easement violations. You cannot take action against one, if you don’t apply the same standard to all.

Nora England
8 years ago

Thank you for your comment. If the developer made a mistake and misrepresented what was he selling to you and all homeowners of your subdivision except one, you should take legal action against the developer. If you are a second homeowner, you need to review the deed and you get what you purchased.
My point is if you get some solution and probably a “deed” for the encroachments because of good lobbying, every body needs to get the same. It is along the same logic, which I don’t embrace, that there are a lot of violators in the town, leave us alone and no action needed. So, all the violators are ok, but only Barn Hollow residents will get deeds for their violations.

Current Barn Hollow Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  Nora England

I might not have been clear in the point I was trying to make. We have a resolution that keeps the town completely whole in regards to their open space….it is a land swap. It occurs everyday at the local, state, and federal levels. If there are other violators of open space who can provide a land swap within the city, I feel they should be heard also.

I guess my question to you would be, what makes the 15 feet abutting my yard so much more valuable to the city than 15 feet of open space in some other Brendan development? I keep getting the impression you feel we are trying to commit an underhanded action by trying to steal open space from our fellow citizens. I view it as we are giving two tens for a twenty, net/net all is equal.

just wondering
8 years ago

With all due respect, it seems that your problem is best addressed with the developer who you are suggesting “sold” you property that they also committed to transferring to the town.

If the property you purchased was misrepresented to you, please deal with the seller and, or your title insurance co and leave the town out of it. All of this was or should have been part of the public record and to date I have seen no suggestion that the transfer the builder agreed to was kept secret or hidden from the public record.

That said, I’m not convinced of the benefit to the town of accepting bits and pieces of land all over town in the name of “open space”. To be more direct, if the town never accepted another 10 foot strip of land I think we and the wildlife would be just fine.

There’s a burden of keeping track of, maintaining, and protecting all these little pieces of land that is not insignificant and apparently beyond our collective ability.

If we’re going to allow “do overs” let’s start with allowing the Gulbankians to delete the word “bus” in front of the word “engines or motors” so we can put an end to that horrible situation.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago

I think we should take a step back review the by -laws that are on the books:

First the Open Space Committee – 5 members are appointed to 5 year terms and may not be a members of certain other committees and boards. Their sole mandate is: “Said Commission shall serve as facilitators for protecting and preserving open space in the Town.” (Article III Section 6-10)

I do not see any authorization to mandate or prohibit a specific use, manage open space, negotiate on behalf of the Town or enforce regulations. Their mandate is purely advisory.

In fact the enforcement of the open space regulations appears to fall to the Building Inspector. (Chapter 174-24.A).

If the Open Space Committee believed there was a violation of our By Laws then their proper course of action is to file a complaint against their fellow citizen with the Building Inspector.

What is the Purpose of Open Space:

From our Zoning By Laws:

For Single Family Homes with Septic Systems:
“Open space. In all zoning districts, a minimum of 10% of the overall site area shall be preserved in a natural state, exclusive of wetlands, and 25% overall shall be dedicated as common open space. “(Chapter 174-13.2.D.4.a.7)

For Single Family Homes with Alternative Sewage Treatment
“Open space. In all zoning districts, a minimum of 20% of the site area shall be preserved in a natural state, exclusive of wetlands, and 35% overall shall be dedicated as common open space.” (Chapter 174-13.2.D.4.b.5)

For Multi Family Homes:
“To assure environmental benefit from the compact development which multifamily development facilitates, the site area which shall be preserved in a natural state, exclusive of wetlands, shall be a minimum of 10% and shall increase in direct proportion to the percentage of multifamily units, up to a maximum requirement of 20% preserved area. In addition, a minimum of 35% overall shall be dedicated as common open space. Where appropriate, open space not to be preserved in its natural state shall be utilized for recreation to serve the needs of the Town.” (Chapter 174-13.2.D.5.e)

So, from our zoning by laws it appears that while a portion of open space is to remain in its natural state another significant portion of the open space is available for alternative uses.

What are the envisioned alternative uses?

From our Subdivision By-Law

“Unless otherwise specified by the Board, the total area to be reserved for park and playground purposes shall be not less than 10% of the gross area of the subdivision. The land so reserved shall not be a wetland and shall not be stripped or altered, except as may be approved by the Board to ensure suitability for the purposes intended.” (Chapter 244-14.A)

Conclusion
There are a few other odds and ends to be found in our by laws but 2 things are clear to me (probably because I am not a lawyer):

1. The legislative intent in preserving open space envisions different types of open space. Space that is left in its “Natural” state and space that is used for park/recreational activities and that both types of space are supposed to be present in each open space parcel.

2.The Open Space committee has no formal authority it is advisory in nature.

Nice Shrubs.

Just Curious
8 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Excellent summary, as usual, by Mr. Hamilton.

One other question that has not been answered is why has the Open Space group not spent the $60,000 they requested 18 months ago to research these issues? Their lack of attention should be questioned. They lost a lot of credibility when they cast the developer and home owners as villains in this drama, yet they never ‘fessed up to their failure to use the $60,000 town meeting gave them in 2012 to research this exact issue.

Tim Martel
8 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

I agree with you, Al. I’ll add that Boston has 7 types of open space, so our own bylaws seem a bit limited in this regard.

I’ll further add that our Major Residential bylaw seems to give the Planning Board the ability to determine how open space is managed in such developments. This could be the basis for, or part of, the compromise with the residents of Barn Hollow.

Nora England
8 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Thank you for your great effort for the review of the by laws. Now, we need a general conclusion to apply it to any of 300 homeowners in Southboro who shares border with Open Space, not only to apply it to few homeowners in Barn Hollow.
Mr Hamilton, do you mean any homeowner abut the Open Space can use any or certain portion of it for recreational activities like playground for his kids or landscaping it. Will the homeowner get also a deed for the portion of the Open Space as part of property?
Please, tell us what you feel fair: every body abides by the by rules and boundaries as surveyed and stated in recorded deeds and plans, or every body may use a portion of Open Space for recreational personal use and get a deed for it. I don’t think it is fair to have a designer’s solution for few of Barn Hollow homeowners because of their influence on the local politicians and leave anyone else confused.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago
Reply to  Nora England

Nora

I think there are far more than 300 abutters. There may be 300 open space parcels, I am not sure anyone knows for sure what this number is.

My understanding is that in fact there are a wide variety of ownership models for the open space in town.

The space may be owned by a developer pending transfer to a new entity (I believe this is the case in Barn Hollow). My understanding is that the Town, at this point does not own the property (I might be wrong about this).

The space may be held by a private organization with or without deed restrictions (eg SOLF) who would then manage the space consistent with its policies and any understandings that came with the space when it was acquired.

The space may be owned by a resident and be part of their parcel with deed restrictions.

The space may be owned by the town, with or without deed restrictions.

Today, for better and worse, there is no active management of the “open space” by the town for the properties it owns and no active management of its rights where the open space is deed restricted. There are a number of “encroachments” throughout town. Whether these be fields that are mowed, or paths that are made, or front yards that are mowed they are informal encroachments. While these encroachments may be made by abutters they confer no special rights to abutters. If for example, I put landscaping on the towns land in my front yard anyone can walk on it or have their dog uses it, and if the town wants to rip it up for a sidewalk or water line they do not have to replace it.

I certainly agree that every property owner should know where their lots are and if they are buying a newly developed lot should insist on the corners being marked. “Good fences make good neighbors” as Carl Frost said. If fact, the boundaries of the open space parcels are supposed to be marked, but I can assure you from personal experience that is not always done. The town has in fact done a very poor job in enforcing this part of our by laws.

So, what is the answer? I do not think there is any stomach for creating a new bureaucratic entity to actively manage town owned open space. There is certainly no desire to raise the tax dollars required, we have enough on our plate paying for the services we already provide. So, here is what I suggest:

1. Regarding Barn Hollow, let proposed resolution go through. Assuming that my understanding is correct, the property in question is currently owned by the developer, so no public property is being transferred. The developer has offered to provide the town with comparable land elsewhere in town so the net open space in town is maintained. This solution allows the developer to fix a problem that he appears to have had a hand in creating and costs the town nothing and the broad goals of preserving open space are achieved.

2. Insist that the building inspector inspect the corner markers of any new lot prior to issuing an occupancy permit. I believe he has the authority to do this under our zoning laws.

3. Going forward each open space parcel should have an area that identifies the minimum area that will be reserved as “natural” open space. The balance should be recreational.

4. For recreational space, unless there is a formal plan (eg a playground or playing field) do nothing. If the abutters want to mow it or make paths so much the better, they have no special rights and the public benefits. The town should get involved only by exception if there is a dispute. This is pretty much the system we have now and disputes are rare.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

I had a senior moment, it was Robert Frost

Potential barn hollow homebuyer
8 years ago

Al and Nora, and others, I follow with interest your civil discussion about the open space in Barn Hollow. I want to add to the discussion an important element. There is already a Restrictive Covenant dated January 2, 2003 book 28606 page 337 which stated what restricted and what permitted to do in the open space. The covenant is for 30 years and for the benefits of the all the lots of barn hollow and to the rights of the town. It will not do any good for the homeowners to have deeds for the encroachments, because they have to follow the restrictive covenant and keep it in its natural state. No mowing, no landscaping, no building of any sort on it. It doesn’t make a difference, if the town accepted the open space or not. I am interested to purchase one of the houses on sale in the barn hollow area. I am concerned about the deed changes they are proposing. The deeds of all the houses have reference to the the open space plan and restrictions. I thought it is better to wait or find another house, than get involved in a deed problem.

concerned_resident
8 years ago

I am a lover of open space…. God aint makin’ any more of it, ya know, so preserving as much as we can in our humble corner of the globe is a good thing. I don’t have an opinion, one way or the other about the Barn Rd matter. I don’t live anywhere near that part of town. However, if it seems like it the land that is impacted has bona fide use to the community at large then everyone should have the right to meander along the land … just as the original owner who donated the land had envisioned. On the other hand, if its not too vital to such use, then Mr. Rooney’s proposal (stemming from the developer) to swap acreage from one area for the “encroaching” home owners open space makes perfect sense. Cool heads, warm hearts and smart people will undoubtedly come up with a solution that works for the community.

What I really wanted to mention is my growing admiration and respect for Mr. Rooney on the BOS. What a ray of hope he brings to almost any intractable problem that comes the way of the BOS…. kudos. He speaks his mind and seems to be a straight shooter (I despise folks with hidden agendas…. many times they aren’t that hidden). Mr. Rooney…. well done! Keep calling them as you see ’em.

Mark Ford
8 years ago

What a mess! I think the poster above, the potential buyer of a Barn Road property, is pretty much spot on–there may well be covenants in place that supersede anything the town might like to do. And those deed restrictions are said to be stated in ALL the deeds–presuming that’s the case, how can an owner not check into their borders, especially when purchasing a >$1 million property? I’ll bet many Southborough residents have at the very least paced off their property before purchasing to be sure it matches the plot plan. How much does a survey cost, anyhow?

But Mr. Rooney is a lawyer, and there may well be a solution for this.

Even so, I’m not sure Mr. Rooney has found the best workaround for the interests of the town. Land in that part of town is much more valuable than land in other parts of town, so a 1:1 exchange isn’t appropriate–it would be more fair to independently establish the value of the Barn Hollow land and have someone–the owners?–the developer?–donate that amount of money to the town’s coffers, targeted specifically towards the acquisition of new town conservation land–and additional money should also be donated to fix the deed restrictions, presuming these can be remedied somehow.

I assume that there aren’t many other Southborough open space plots similarly encroached upon, and that’s the first step–assess the problem. Didn’t the town invest in a satellite GPS mapping system that would make this more straightforward?

If there are a large number of these cases, I’d move to a “letter of the law” solution, and enforce the town’s original agreements. That’s the least troublesome solution, if not the most neighborly one.

Open to other thoughts.

Nora England
8 years ago

 Mr. Ford, I agree with you in all the points. I tried several times to express the same thoughts, but you did a better job.
As you are open to other thoughts, I want to point out few concerns related to the Barn Hollow Open Space. The town officials are working hard to resolve the violations of some residents as a top priority for their time and effort. 

1) The Selectmen are going against the recommendation of the Advisory and Open Space Committees to not accept the open space by the town.

2) Mr. Rooney, in the town meeting, admitted that the town could be facing a legitimate lawsuit by the Barn Hollow residents. How can this happen?. The building inspector had nothing to do with landscape, a fence, or mowing the encroachement of the open space as part of the backyard. 

3) Why do the town officials put this subject as one of the few most important issues need exception of open meeting mandate?. 

4) The pivitol question, asked by the Selectman in the hiring interview for the new Open Space Committee members, was about their attitude toward a compromise Vs. applying the law and covenants. It looks like a question for Jury selection not for 2 volunteers who donate their time and expertise for the community.

5) Why do the town officials put themselves, and consequently the town residents, in the middle of the purchase transaction between the developer and the residents of Barn Hollow several years ago?.  Why do we have to bend the law for “fairness” for the parties? 

6) Mr. Rooney wanted us to believe that each resident in different times had contracted with the same builder to build 1.5 million dollars house without knowing the boundaries of the lot or without looking to any plan for the house or the subdivision. The different lawyers, the real estate agents, and title insurance companies are liable for fooling all the residents of Barn Hollow ” if the residents were cautious and reasonable in their beliefs”.  
 It doesn’t make sense for the town to put the blame on itself for the violations of some residents and take the responsibility of cutting the town’s assets to solve this imaginary scenario.

7) The residents of Southboro don’t know any details about each violation. Is it necessary for the house to be liveable, like a septic tank, garage, or driveway partly built in the open space?. Or it is unnecessary area used to have a bigger lawn or backyard. Definitely a compromise is fair if the violation is only happened by mistake for necessary function for the house to be liveable.

8) For real fairness, there is a need for disclosure of all the interests and communications between the town, the developer, and the residents of Barn Hollow to rule out possibility of 2 political nightmars : double standard and favoritism.  Both are the reasons I am posting here.

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