Residents continue to express frustration over the delay in getting lights installed at Mooney Baseball Field. They aren’t the only ones.
The night following another continuance of the public hearings, Recreation Director Tim Davis took a public stand that the next hearing would be the last. Meanwhile, when the process ends, the discussion between Planning and Rec may be just beginning. A member of the Recreation Commission is urging they hold a “post mortem” to avoid future fiascos.
On Monday night, Davis agreed to extend the Planning Board’s decision deadline and continue the hearing to November 30th. The latest delay was based on critical materials not received from Planning’s consultant engineers. On Tuesday, Davis told the Board of Selectmen he plans to take a “firm stand” on the 30th. He said they wouldn’t be allowing more extensions.
Davis stated that Rec and Southborough Youth Baseball had already made a number of concessions on the project. He projected confidence that he and his team of contractors had given Planning and their engineers everything needed to move forward. Though, on Monday and in materials, Davis acknowledged that they will need Planning to grant some waivers as part of the process.
Speaking as an individual on Monday, Recreation Commission member Kristen Lavault pointed out that Planning Chair Don Morris’ acknowledged the four light project isn’t a big one. She wondered what went wrong in the process. She urged Planning and Rec work together to figure out how to avoid repeating missteps in the future. Lavault also echoed another commenter, and asked to have consultants Fuss & O’Neill participated in the next hearing. Planning members didn’t respond to either request.
On Tuesday, Board of Selectmen Chair Marty Healey referred to the lengthy process as making “everyone in town look like Keystone Cops.” He concurred with Lavault’s post mortem suggestion. (That discussion took place during Davis’ update to selectmen on the Recreation Dept.)
Commenters (both nights) referred to wasted money on consultants caused by the extended process. On Monday, Southborough Little League Vice President David Fialkow criticized the inefficiencies in the process. Complaining to selectmen the next night, he argued that Planning had ignored Town Counsel advice. According to Fialkow, attorney Aldo Cipriano had advised Planning to outline a limited site plan review process. That didn’t happen.
Healey noted he was concerned about some of the comments, in terms of avoiding wasting money on consultants. But he indicated selectmen don’t have jurisdiction on process of the elected Planning Board.
To get a better understanding of the context, here is a basic timeline:
- After months/years of communications between Recreation and Planning, the application for Site Plan Review was submitted on September 30th. (According to members of Rec, this included a lot of behind the scenes work by Davis before this date and between dates below. Planning Chair Don Morris has pointed out that Town Planner Karina Quinn has also dedicated a lot of time.)
- Thursday, October 15th, the applicant received the response from Planning’s peer review engineering consultants (Fuss & O’Neill) with 50 comments on the plans.
- The public hearing opened on Monday, October 19th. The applicants weren’t ready to respond to all of the comments and said they would be submitting revised plans for the next hearing.
- The hearing was continued to November 2nd. At the meeting, Davis said he decided not to submit the revised plans yet, wanting to hear all questions from the board first. The hearing was continued to November 16th.
- On November 9th, Recreation submitted their detailed responses to each comment from F&O and revised plans.
- On November 16th, Planning and Rec were unable to hash out final decisions because F&O had yet to respond to the new submissions. Chair Don Morris explained to the public that most of the board aren’t engineers and they rely on their consultant’s expertise.
As for the time it should take F&O to respond, Morris said the time varied by project. He noted the consultants aren’t sitting around waiting for materials from their board. He was hopeful it would be within a few days. As of earlier today, F&O still hadn’t responded.
With Thanksgiving next week, selectmen and Rec expressed concern on Tuesday night about F&O materials arriving in time for Rec to be prepared for the 30th.