Town Meeting: Potential Articles, including Town and Citizen Petition Articles related to St Marks Street and Pocket Park easements

by beth on January 19, 2022

Post image for Town Meeting: Potential Articles, including Town and Citizen Petition Articles related to St Marks Street and Pocket Park easements

The date and location for Annual Town Meeting has yet to be set. But the list of potential Articles on the Warrant have been. 37 Articles are listed in the Draft Warrant. Most of them are just placeholders at this point.

I’ll share the full list of Articles listed further down. But first, I want to highlight the only Citizen’s Petition Article and the other Article it is in response to.

St. Mark’s Street/Pocket Park project Warrant Articles

Under Article 30, the Town will ask voters to approve the easements for the project already under construction without them. 37 is a Citizen’s Petition Article to instruct the Town not to take that approach for future projects.

As, I’ve previously covered, residents and members of the Historical Commission have objected to the Town’s proceeding with a project on land owned by St. Mark’s School without Town Meeting’s approval of easements.* In Board of Selectmen meetings earlier this fall, Chair Lisa Braccio stated that Town Counsel had advised that legal agreements between selectmen and the school were sufficient to proceed prior to a Town Meeting vote. It’s a position that has been publicly questioned and criticized.

Michael Weishan, Chair of the Historical Commission, has been outspoken on his objection to the approach. Before the Warrant was closed, Weishan filed a Citizen’s Petition Article addressing the issue:

Prevent the Use of Public Funds & Easements to Improve Private Property without Prior Town Meeting Approval

Whereas the taxpayers of Southborough are facing unprecedented property tax increases to fund basic government services; and whereas the Town owns a number of parcels that could greatly benefit from the expenditure of public funds for improvements, the voters of Southborough wish to inform the Board of Selectmen that they are adamantly opposed to the expenditure of public funds, whether derived from Town, State or Federal sources, to make improvements of any kind to privately owned property without first presenting the proposed expenditures at Town Meeting and receiving the voters’ approval before physical work on the improvements begins.

Further, the voters of Southborough wish to remind the Board of Selectman that it is not within their right to grant easements involving Town Land to any person or entity without first receiving approval at Town Meeting, and that the ratepayers of Southborough will not vote to support the granting of such easements presented to them ex post facto. Nor will they support the use of “interim licensing agreements” to bypass this provision. All projects (other than routine utility and sewer) that necessitate the granting of easements must be presented at Town Meeting and receive the approbation of the voters before the start of any project.

Other Articles potentially coming this spring

When the Board of Selectmen voted to close the Warrant earlier this month, it was said to include the “universe” of Articles that may be addressed. However, Town Administrator Mark Purple noted that some Articles may be pulled if they aren’t ready in time for the meeting.

The first 17 were annual/regular administrative and fiscal authorizations. Those were the only ones that were included in the Table of Contents of the draft Warrant in selectmen’s January 4th packet. I failed to notice that at the end of the Warrant, placeholders for 19 more Articles were listed.**

A few of the other Articles are related to issues discussed previously on the blog, so shouldn’t come as a surprise: 

18: Payment of accrued leave time for retirees

19: CPA [Community Preservation Act] projects

20: Tree bylaw (Planning Board)

21: Establish Trails Committee as a Standing (bylaw) Committee

22: Rescind remaining unused borrowing authorization for Public Safety Facility

23: Capital project – Newton Street water pipe replacement (funding by borrowing, but include transfer of unused portion of previously authorized bonding authority from Route 9 water project and others)

24: Bylaw to regulate the process for boards and committees authorized to promulgate their own rules and regulations.

25: Capital stabilization fund for the Regional School

26: Fund mitigation funds for sidewalks from Legacy Farms and Stonebrook Village ($47,970)

27: Accept new CBAs [Collective Bargaining Agreements] and fund first year of contracts.

28: To see if the Town will transfer a sum of money out of Water Retained Earnings for use in the FY22 Water budget.

29: Release CPC funds previously voted by TM for AHTFC purposes, and allow them to be expended without further authorization (SHOPC request).  

My translation for those who aren’t familiar with all the acronyms: Release Community Preservation Act funds previously voted by Town Meeting for Affordable Housing Trust Fund Committee] purposes, and allow them to be expended without further authorization (Southborough Housing Opportunity Partnership Committee request)

30: Easements for St. Mark’s Street park and roadway

31: Capital Planning Committee as bylaw (standing) committee

 32: Noise Bylaw

33: Codify fall town meeting; change date of spring town meeting

34: Feasibility study funds for Neary School

35: Scenic Roads bylaw (sponsored by Planning Board)

36: Definition of terms to ensure consistent, policies and procedures for all Boards and Committees

Stay tuned for more details on Articles as we get closer to the meeting later this spring.

*The easement issue was just one of multiple objections to the handling of the project. I’ll cover an update on Historical’s plans to deal with other issues related to the park project in a future post.

**The Citizen’s Petition Article was verified by the Town Clerk’s office as meeting signature requirements too late to include in the posted packet for the January 4th meeting. Purple verbally updated selectmen on the addition to the Warrant before they voted.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tim January 20, 2022 at 2:36 AM

Beth, what is Legacy Farms and Stonebrook Village? Where are they located? Who are the principals behind the LLC’s developing these projects? Who on BOS or other boards introduced this article? Also, how could the warrant be closed? It just opened in December? The warrant opened and closed in just a matter of weeks? Over Christmas and New Years holidays, when the public is tied up and attention is elsewhere? During a Covid spike? This is highly objectionable. The public should have an opportunity to weigh in without numerous placeholders.

Why would any public monies, taxpayer funded dollars go to complete development of private property infrastructure, I.e. sidewalks? This doesn’t make any sense at all. Like the ludicrous St. Marks and pick pocket park situation, isn’t this another example of using taxpayer dollars to subsidize and enrich private property and private developers? Increase private developer’s returns? Is the project actually Stoneybrook Village off Oregon Road? If so, wasn’t that a development that was promised to the town to be affordable housing, but turned into market rate? The only Legacy Farms reference found is a proposed massive housing development in Hopkinton that apparently would deforest much of Hopkinton. As an important side note, if this is the same project, Hopkinton has been in the press for water bans, not enough water already. Thanks for whatever clarifications you can help with.

Reply

2 beth January 20, 2022 at 9:15 AM

I don’t have any information on that Article yet. Yesterday, was the first I learned of its existence and the title of the Article is all of the information I had. As I noted, stay tuned for details on the Articles closer to the meeting.

As for residents getting the chance to weigh in, voters will have that at the meeting.

Reply

3 Taxpayer March 17, 2022 at 12:50 PM

Is there a rule for how long the warrant must be open?

Reply

4 Resident January 20, 2022 at 8:38 AM

I am not sure why this “Pocket Park” is even on the docket. This isn’t our land if I understand correctly. St. Mark’s owns the land. They buy up the properties all around the school, we lose tax dollars, they pay as little as possible in PILOT funds and now we pay for their park? What is wrong with picture? Let’s not forget this was supposedly sacred ground that has already been disturbed, so we will put up a plaque. People, we should not be paying for this. St. Mark’s has more than enough money to fund this. Have you seen the new building they are putting up. Yet, we are spending money hand over fist via the DPW to fund this project of a park we don’t even need. If we don’t vote this down, and stop spending money on this project what will be next that we pay for? We should all be outraged!

Reply

5 Kelly Roney January 20, 2022 at 11:35 AM

Is the Newton St. water pipe replacement already underway? There has already been a cut and fill in the pavement (which happened while I was away, or I’d know more). Or are the concrete pipes on the lot at Newton and Main for a drainage project in the same area?

Reply

6 Taxpayer March 17, 2022 at 12:49 PM

Isn’t this really all about fixing the flooding of the road that began when St Marks built the new wall at the corner of Marlboro Rd and St Marks Rd? All that flooding began AFTER St Marks regraded the land and built that expensive stone wall.

Reply

7 beth March 17, 2022 at 3:10 PM

That was an issue raised in meetings.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: