Working Group appointed to find consensus on Main Street

Last night, selectmen followed through on their promise to appoint a short term Main Street Design Working Group.

Choosing from among approx. 20 candidates, the board claimed to seek a mix of perspectives. They voted to approve the following seven:

  • Susan Baust
  • John Boland
  • Martin Healey
  • Stephen Phillips
  • Claire Reynolds
  • Brian Shea
  • John Wilson

Two members, Phillips and Reynolds, are residents of Main Street. Wilson is Commander of the American Legion Post headquartered at the Community House and an officiant at services held at the Veteran’s Memorial on the common. Boland is the former head of the Department of Public Works.

The group is charged with trying to find consensus on the controversial Main Street reconstruction project, with a term to expire June 30th.

Selectmen hope that they will find common ground that keeps the state-funded construction project in play. The State public hearing for the project’s 20% design plan is scheduled for June 18th.

Town Administrator Mark Purple will be in charge of scheduling the first meeting and setting an agenda. From there, members are expected to elect a chair and determine their own agendas.

Selectmen clarified that no work will be done in secret. The meetings will all be open to the public with agendas posted at least 48 hours in advance.

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David Parry
10 years ago

Well. I guess that about says it all. Editors quote: “Selectmen hope that they will find common ground that keeps the state-funded construction project in play.”

If this statement is true, which I assume it is, then can any reader imagine a more biased agenda? – that keeps the state-funded construction “in play”. The fact that over 95% of the abutters to this project, over one mile long, don’t want it, is conveniently overlooked. Apparently this is Southorough version of “participation” (or rather inviting residents to speak, and then ignoring what they say). That even happened at the April 2 Hearing, when the DPW and their VHB engineering consultants presented the State Plan. Over 120 residents came and most asked questions, embarrassing to the consltant and to the Selectmen, like “How do we say “Thank you” to the State, for their offer, but “NO THANKS”? We got no straight answers yet again. Just a suggestion, admitted under duress, that residents could write a note to the Selectmen, who have he authority to pull the plug.

Consider what a more balanced, fair and objective agenda might be like: “The Selectmen hope that they will find common ground that allows the two alternatives, (the State Plan and the Local Plan), to be evaluated fairly, to see which solves the problems in the least damaging way and which has the strongest local support”.

THERE IS A “LOCAL PLAN”. But you won’t find it on any town official web page. Because the is NO official “Plan B”, which any normal business would have had, years ago, especially since the State funding has never been certain. But you can read about the Local Plan right here, on “My Southborough”. We have created it with the help of professional engineers and a feat deal of resident input. To find it, is simple. Just scroll to the right hand column of this screen, then scroll straight down to near the bottom of that column, where you will find the following listing: “David Parry :A Locally-Funded Plan For Town Center “. Please read all about it. It even has diagrams contrasting the gigantic difference in construction costs (the Local Plan is a tiny fraction) and disruption (2 years for the State Plan, versus a few months for the Local Plan).

The Local Plan is supported by the vast majority of local residents, it is inexpensive, it solves all of the original problems, without changing the character of this historic town center, forever, and finally it could even be started this year instead of waiting for State funds which may never arrive. And , just to emphasize, this Local Plan is NOT a “do-nothing” plan. Far from it. If DOES solve the local problems, efficiently, harmlessly.
and inexpensively. .

Many readers continue to believe that the State Plan is “free”. They might note that their taxes have already paid over $550,000 toward the State Plan, just for initial engineering fees, to get to the 25% level. But we have 75% to go, plus environmental MEPA filings for wetlands impacts, and 7 easements to come. No doubt the pro-State supporters will attempt to avoid all those filings, but we will make sure there are no back-door deals to short-circuit proper process, because the State plan DOES impact existing wetlands, big time., west of Fay School — where literally NONE of the abutters want the State plan.

Oh yes, and the 7 permanent easements (equivalent to land “takings ”necessary for the road widening). These easements will require a 2/3rds vote at Town Meeting. However, it should be noted that the Selectman only squeaked through a 50.5 % “victory” at Town Meeting, and that was after pulling out ALL the stops, demanding a mass gathering of their “supporters” to sit there at Town Meeting, say nothing, then stand up, and vote against a sensible evaluation proposed by the Advisory Committee. That would have established a neutral Review Committee responsive to TownMeeting , to evaluate two alternatives, and give Town Meeting choice. But thsat was characterized as a “threat” to State-funding.

This “WorkingGroup”, to have any credibility at all, will need more than skills. It will need the political guts to say it like it is, and see it like it is. This is a State project with weak justification, jammed full of items this town does not need, which has morphed from 3 simple, minor problems into a one-mile long boondoggle. It is radical surgery on our Historic Town Center, which will disrupt traffic and businesses for two years, and leave us with a bigger, wider, straighter, faster road, with a giant intersection, and result in a heavily travelled commuter “Corridor highway” (the consultants’ words) designed to accommodate traffic forecast for next 30 years – whether we want it to come this way or not.

You might ask this question: Why does the State want this done? There is a simple and obvious answer. Because an enlarged Main St will “act as a relief value for Route 9 congestion during the rush hours” (Direct quote from the planning documents).

There are some very good, honorable people on this Working Group. We have to trust they will conduct an honest evaluation, look at what the long term future of our town center should be and can be, and look careully at the missing “Plan B” – the “Local Plan” option.

Failing that, we still have the June 18 State Public Hearing, at which State officials must, by State law, come to our small town, and in open session, with a stenographer present, request to hear the comments from all local residents and businesses most affected — The State does NOT come hear to listen, again, to local officials from whom they have already heard, ad infinitum. This is for residents to speak their minds, especially affected abutters. We will tell them the whole truth. They will listen. There are plenty of other towns out there, with legitimate, serious problems,( e.g. failing bridges and massive congestion), who DO want to become “commuter corridors”. We don’t.

So best of luck to the Working Group, and thanks to the Selectmen for setting it up. That heavens this is all getting the public airing it hs so badly needed for years.

Thank you for letting me put forward a point of view which I deeply care about – the long range future of our Town, and its very center, where character and beauty should count above all. Future residents and businesses come to this very area first, before they consider buying a house or setting up a business in our town. It matters.

David Parry

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