Last night the Town held a more than 2 hours forum on Flagg Road safety issues.
It was a bit of a mixed bag. There was some constructive dialogue, issues raised, some angry speeches, and an unclear path ahead. What was clear is Town officials aren’t done working on the problem. And area residents sure aren’t done worrying about it.
The board will revisit the topic at their next meeting on October 4th.
Some residents wanted the board to vote last night to restrict access from Park Central to right turn only on Flagg. Chair Brian Shea told the crowd that petitioners asking to gate Flagg Road should first get a chance to make their case. A hearing on their Warrant Article will be held that night.
Also potentially on the agenda, a re-vote on allowing the Planning Board to hire special counsel. The board’s decision against it last week was vilified by some members of the audience. Chair Brian Shea told the crowd it was a hard decision for him and he may reconsider. When residents shouted it was too late, he claimed otherwise.
According to Shea, Town Counsel advised that tomorrow’s appeal deadline is timed on the Zoning Board of Appeals approval of the 40B project. He pointed out that Planning already said they can’t appeal that decision. That means counsel would be considering an appeal to the 40A project.*
On future agendas, selectmen plan to include ongoing updates on Flagg Road safety. And Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf urged fellow members to make a push for MassDOT to restrict Park Central egress to Route 9. She hopes to hold related meetings with MassDOT and the public.
The forum was hosted by the Board of Selectmen, run jointly with the Planning Board. The public was invited (and showed up en masse), along with a representative from Mass Department of Transportation, key Town personnel and Representative Carolyn Dykema.
Selectman John Rooney tried, unsuccessfully, to set a framework to begin a two part discussion. The first part would address exisiting safety problems on the road. The second would look at the impact of a future development at Park Central.
Residents quickly made it clear that they were there to talk about Park Central. Much of the time was spent lamenting the Zoning Board of Appeals’ process and decision. But most of the talk did focus on worries about safety impacts and opinions on how to handle it.
Commenters disagreed on whether one way turns, gating the road, and/or speed bumps would improve or worsen the problem. And some were worried about solutions on Flagg pushing the problem to Deerfoot. But all agreed that adding projected thousands of cars to the road will increase danger to drivers, pedestrians, and bikers.
There were some residents who did want to get going on safety improvements now. That includes the reports suggestions for road striping and speed feedback signs.
Resident Marnie Hoolihan spoke to recruit members to a neighborhood committee. She hoped that volunteers could work together to come up with safety recommendations and report back to everyone. Rooney supported the idea.
Rooney and Phaneuf also answered questions about their back and forth involvement in and conflict out of discussions. Both selectmen have conflicts which prevent them from taking action specifically on the Park Central development.** (Something like authorizing the Planning Board to consult special counsel to appeal the project would fall under that.)
But, as wardens of the road, they are not conflicted out from making safety decisions about Flagg Road, which impacts the safety of all residents.
Residents will also be keeping an eye on future selectmen agendas for the filling of a vacancy on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Freddie Gillespie opined to the crowd that the current situation is rooted in a pro-development ZBA. She reminded that selectmen are responsible for appointing those members, and David Eagle left a vacancy.
*Note: The Planning Board is scheduled to continue its hearing on the Park Central Site Plan Review on 9/19. The application deadline is 9/23. In August, the developer’s attorney made it clear they would push back hard on any further extensions. He will be looking for a decision at that meeting.
**Phaneuf is a member of SHOPC (Southborough Housing Opportunity Partnership Committee). Because of the Affordable Housing component of the 40B, that is a conflict. In addition, her son’s business has a relationship with one of the developer’s businesses. It’s not a legal obstacle, but does cause appearance of potential conflict. Rooney is a tenant in the Park Central office building, which the state has confirmed is a conflict.