Public Works Planning Report to selectmen: Fairview is best site for water tank; pursuing Park Central is an alternative to consider

Above: Images cropped from the “PARE Report” demonstrate the difference between elevations of water tanks if placed at Park Central or Fairview. That “sight line” was one of the reasons given by the Public Works Planning Board chair in support of Fairview as the better site.

When Public Works Planning Board chair presented the findings on the Water Tank report, he made clear that the board believed Fairview Hill is the best site for a new water tower. But with public pressure to pursue Park Central as an alternative site, he left the ball in selectmen’s court.

At the July 19th Board of Selectmen Meeting, PWPB Chair Jamie Hellen said the report and his board both found:

the Fairview site is by far the most advantageous site to solve the community’s problems.

But given public push back to consider Park Central, Hellen said majority of board felt that “it should be offered to selectmen to look at that site.” Hellen clarified that it wasn’t in his board’s knowledge base or purview to decide if a site at Park Central could be acquired swiftly and cheaply.*

Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan said that building a new water tower likely won’t be needed for at least another 5-10 years. But they wanted to raise the option with selectmen so they could consider it before a tank is needed.

During public comment, Fairview abutter Mike Horgan pushed that there was a question as to how much better Fairview is. He followed that Park Central may offer an opportunity that is in the end the best option for the Town.

Hellen recapped that the PWPB and consultant had discussions with about two dozen residents from the Fairview Hill neighborhood who showed up to each meeting on the topic. He said they were well organized in opposing the project. But he felt the board’s responsibility was to the welfare of the entire Town.

The chair said that the Fairview site was the best from all aspects including cost and sightline. He explained that Fairview Hill abutters were concerned about looking at a tower from their properties. But he countered that an alternate at Park Central would be seen “from all of Metrowest”.**

Another abutter, Ravi Mynampaty, told selectmen that he disagreed with the report’s methodology for deciding which site was best. Mynampaty claimed there were flaws in the rating system used. 

Hellen and Galligan said the full information, including one of the abutters’ own screening calculations was available to selectmen online. But they stood by the report’s overall conclusions. Galligan said the ratings were just a screening tool based on what was important to the board. The abutter countered that he wasn’t arguing about how they chose to weight factors. He was arguing that the math used in “ratings” was wrong vs “weightings”.

Table comparing Park Central and Fairview, prepared by a Fairview abutter
(click to enlarge)

Horgan echoed a comment by Galligan that screenings could come out a million different ways. He said he was disappointed that the only direct comparison between the options at Fairview and Park Central were in the appendix. He said that a side by side comparison is compelling. (He was likely referring to the table right.)

Horgan also emphasized that a tank at Park Central would be “hugging” route 495 and near Route 9. He said that other towns have water towers near highways for a reason.

Pointing out that no one wants a tank in their backyard, Janet Sussman of Flagg Road said she strongly opposes a new tower so close to the Tara Road tower. But Sussman’s biggest gripe was discussing acquiring land that is part of a development project still being appealed.

Sussman recalled the developer “dangled the carrot” of donating the land for a water tank early in the proposal process. At the time, she objected that it was “very distasteful”.* She opined it’s still too preliminary to talk about.

There was a “next step” recommended in PARE’s Water Tank Report that wasn’t discussed last week – visual modeling of options for concerned abutters:

It is recommended that a visioning study be prepared that includes a visual model of the tank site that helps residents visualize what a new tank might look like. This model could be constructed from drone photography and 3D modeling, which would let neighbors see how the proposed tank would look from their property. This visioning study could also include a shadow assessment to demonstrate to homeowners how tank’s shadow might travel across their property. It is recommended that the visualization study be the next step in the tank siting process.

I followed up with Galligan to understand how Public Works proceeds from here. She confirmed that building a new tank, that isn’t being pursued in the short term. A new Water System Master Plan is expected to be done by next spring. That will give them a better idea of when they would need to move ahead with a project.

In the meantime, any actions in regards to Park Central were left with selectmen.

Board of Selectman Chair Dan Kolenda was initially opposed to pursuing a site at Park Central, given the Fairview recommendation. His position seemed to soften or waiver mid-discussion. Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf who had been involved in past water tower project discussions, indicated they should explore the Park Central option. Members Brian Shea and Lisa Braccio didn’t comment directly on the issue. There was no vote or formal decision made in the meeting.

*In the past, Park Central Developer Bill Depietri has indicated he would donate land from the site for a water tower. I don’t know if he currently intends to stand by the offer. He made an offer to at least “reserve a parcel” in a letter to Mass Housing prior to their February 11, 2014 response.

The most recent evidence I can find that he offered to donate a parcel is last August, one week prior to the Zoning Board of Appeal’s granting of the comprehensive permit for the development. ZBA Meeting Minutes note:

Mr. Depietri commented that he plans to donate a parcel of land to the town to build a new water tower.

Water tower option comparisons (cropped from Appendix E of PARE Report)
(click to enlarge)

**Hellen referred to the Park Central tank as a 2.5 million gallon tank. According to the final report, it would only be a .75 million gallon tank. Still, the report does show that the style of tank required would be taller and on a site already at a higher elevation. That would put the top of a tank at Park Central about 75 feet higher than a tank at Fairview. (You can ignore the other options shown for replacing the Tara Road tank. That option wasn’t recommended by the consultants or board.)

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Tim Martel
5 years ago

If the Selectmen pursue Park Central as a site for this water tower, they will receive a much larger “public sentiment”…

Ravi Mynampaty
5 years ago

Hello everyone,

There were many concerns expressed by the Fairview Hill abutters (including me) during the public hearings, not just the sightline issue. I highlighted a few while commenting on a previous mysouthborough blog post. Rather than copy/paste those comments I provide you with the link to said post where you can see these concerns.

The point I was making during the July 19th meeting was that the ratings used were arbitrary, and should only have been used as the first cut. These ratings should be fine tuned in repeated iterations until they converge on non-arbitrary numbers.

Please let me know if I can offer any clarifications.

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