Issues to expect in the new year

I’m not psychic, so I can’t tell you what this year’s biggest controversies will be. But as I reflected on stories from last year, I realized many of the Town’s issues were rooted in past years and will continue to play out in 2016 or even longer.

Here are some past issues the Town and/or schools are dealing with that I expect will continue to concern readers this year. Several relate to residents concerns over the safety of their streets:

  • Park Central developments – The Zoning Board of Appeal is still holding hearings on the biggest development the Town has ever seen. Recently, they ramped up in an effort to get through the approvals. (The whole process has been rife with controversy, so I don’t expect that to suddenly change.) Neighbors have consistently voiced concerns about the impact of increased traffic on narrow, sidewalkless Flagg Road.
  • Sidewalk PrioritiesSpeaking of sidewalkless – News that the Town was forming a committee to prioritize sidewalk projects spurred a reader debate over where they are needed. This week, the committee agenda indicated they were wrapping up their recommendations. I expect we’ll hear a report soon, and I’d be surprised if it is controversy-free. (I’m guessing most residents will care more about their neighborhoods than over where the grass is greener.)

  • Paramenter and Pine Hill Road – One of the neighborhoods likely pitching for sidewalks is Parmenter and Pine Hill Road. Residents have petitioned the Town to improve the safety of those roads.
  • Main Street Reconstruction – What was a big controversy in winter & spring of 2014 simmered down by that fall. Much of that was due to hard work by the Main Street Design Committee to find consensus. But some was due to a promise that small issues could be resolved later in the project process. As details are getting closer to being finalized for 2017 construction, you may hear more from people who disagree with details – like the reduced parking.
  • St. Mark’s solar panelsNews that St. Mark’s School was planning an installation on Sears Road got some neighbors worked up. The school has since adjusted its plans to move the project further out of sight. But they have yet to succeed at overcoming all neighbors objections.
  • Burnett House Preservation – The fate of the historic home is still in the air. A deal the Town sought to negotiate with the owner fell through by February. And the owner failed to get the full approvals he sought from the ZBA this year. Still, Friends of the Burnett House continue to pursue their cause and hope to help find a preservation solution.
  • Start School Later – Parents have asked administrators to work on starting Algonquin later for sleep deprived teens. Its an issue that the district recognizes is real but is struggling with how to handle, mostly due to financial restraints around busing. The school has already previewed then retracted one alternative pilot to help mitigate some issues.
  • Full Day Kindergarten – Another parent-driven initiative the school is looking at is tuition-free Full Day Kindergarten. If the school doesn’t make notable progress on the issue, you can expect to hear an outcry from parents of young ones. But, if a shift from free half day is proposed at an additional cost to the town, I’d expect to hear an outcry from some taxpayers.

So, what did I miss? What ongoing issues in Southborough are you concerned about?

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