Roundup of election related news: Special education and 40B Safe Harbor filing

[Editor’s Note: I hate to throw news about candidates at you on the day of the election. It feels unfair to the candidates involved. But some stories popped up in local media over the weekend. And not covering them until after the election feels wrong, too.

So, if these stories impact your voting decisions at all, then please take the time to consider them in full context and don’t just react off the highlights.]

The Metrowest Daily News/Southborough Wicked Local covered two stories related to last week’s Candidates Night.

The first story covers School Committee candidates’ portion of the night. Most of the article covers ground I reported on last week. But it includes discussion of parents concerns about Special Education issues that I didn’t cover.

The second story dug into the answer by one Board of Selectmen candidate to a question about last year’s missed deadline by the town to file for “Safe Harbor” from MassHousing pushed 40B developments.

Southborough School Committee candidates discuss communication, special education

[Kathleen] Harragan was pressed by two parents about a policy they said had been suggested to her regarding special education.

The parents said they had suggested a policy for a policy review subcommittee but that it was never discussed at a meeting.

Harragan denied acting improperly, and said all suggested policies are first vetted by attorneys before they get to meetings.

“I never chose not to see a policy,” she said. “All policies are vetted and they go through a process.” (read more)

Selectman candidate: Southborough Planning Board not to blame for 40B blunder

Town Administrator Mark Purple Friday dismissed an intimation at a debate this week that his office shouldered blame for a 2013 mistake that cost the town a chance to delay affordable housing projects.

“The safe harbor filing was transmitted by the former planner Mr. Denoncourt to the town administrator’s office timely,” Paul Cimino, a Planning Board member running for selectman, said at a candidates debate Wednesday in response to a question from Advisory Committee member Sam Stivers. “So that’s not on the Planning Board. It’s certainly not on Mr. Denoncourt.”

Eric Denoncourt, the former town planner, resigned abruptly last April, several months after the town missed a state deadline for a provision called “safe harbor.” The provision would have allowed the town to reject affordable housing projects for two years following its June 2012 approval of a 140-apartment project called Madison Place.

Under state regulations, the town could have applied for “safe harbor” anytime from June 2012 until a Jan. 10, 2013 deadline, which would have given it power to reject affordable projects until June 2014.

The town missed the deadline, however, and as a result, developer William Depietri was allowed to go forward with an application for an unpopular 180-condominium affordable housing project across the street from Madison Place.

Cimino’s statement, he confirmed afterward, related to an email Denoncourt sent to Purple the day before the Jan. 10, 2013 deadline.

The email, sent at 4:13 p.m. on Jan. 9 – the day before the deadline – includes a letter to be signed by Purple and sent to the state for approval. 

“Attached is the completed ‘Request for New Units’ form and a draft letter to (the Department of Housing and Community Development) requesting the certification,” Denoncourt wrote. . .

The emails show the state warned Denoncourt multiple times that the town needed to request “safe harbor” by Jan. 10, including on Dec. 31 and on Jan. 4. . .

Depietri first informed the town of his project – called the Residences at Park Central – in early December 2012. . .

None of the emails provided to Stivers from the town indicate Denoncourt informed Purple about the Jan. 10 deadline, and Purple was not copied on the emails from the state to Denoncourt.

Purple said Friday he was not aware of the Jan. 10 deadline.

“If I had been, then the letter would have been turned around immediately,” he said. . .

Selectmen Chairman Daniel Kolenda said Friday that, before Cimino’s comment Wednesday, he had not known Purple received materials from Denoncourt prior to the deadline. . .

Cimino said Friday he hadn’t spoken to Purple about the topic before Wednesday. . .

“I’m not implying it’s Mark’s fault,” he said. “My only intent was to reflect what I saw in the documents.” (read more)

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