Letter: Response to “Petition to Stop the Sale of 21 Highland Street”

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.

The following letter is from Al Hamilton, a member of the Select Board.]

To the Editor:

The Select Board recently received a petition from a group of neighbors in the Cordaville Neighborhood requesting that the considerations of the sale of the S. Union School or the 21 Highland Parcel be put on hold and that a committee be formed to study the future of the site. I agree that a more fulsome discussion about the future of this property is in order, and I agree that neighborhood input is important. The Select Board put the future of this parcel and building on its agenda for the express purpose of starting this discussion. For the purpose of furthering this discussion, several points should be addressed.

  1. There is no plan in place to sell either the 21 Highland Parcel or the Old South Union School Building. The Select Board has not received a valid offer to purchase the building or parcel (more on this below) nor, is it currently soliciting an offer, nor has it taken a position with respect to this matter.
  2. Even if the Select Board wanted to dispose of the property, it has no power to do so. The disposition of real property requires a 2/3 vote of Town Meeting which is a tall order.
  3. In fall/winter 2020, the Capital Improvement and Planning Committee started digging into the operating costs for South Union Building and looking at its potential for sale. Following up on their findings, the Select Board asked them to pursue an RFP for selling the property, so they could bring an actual proposal to Town Meeting voters. That was issued in spring 2021. There were significant questions about the bid and it was withdrawn. The board then decided that they would withdraw the Article, but it was already in the ATM warrant. The article was Indefinitely Postponed.
  4. Both the Capital Improvement and Planning Committee and the Southborough Housing Opportunity Partnership Committee have issued a report suggesting that the 21 Highland site and South Union School might make a good site for affordable housing, potentially funded by the Community Preservation Act funds dedicated to affordable housing.
  5. The Select Board at its annual planning meeting put developing a plan for 21 Highland as a goal for this fiscal year. I am tasked with taking the lead on this matter. I issued a brief report based on my assessment of the building after a review with our Facilities Department. At present I am working on answering the question “Is conversion of the building to affordable housing practical and affordable?”.
  6. I have done a very preliminary review of the site and listened to feedback at our Select Board meeting from neighbors in the Highland Ave. area. 2 items stand out:
    1. Whatever we do we should not impact the playground. I am on record, multiple times, saying that the town invests too much money at the intersections of 30 and 85 at the expense of neighborhoods this is the sort of neighborhood resource we need more of, not less.
    2. Whatever we do we should not impact the sledding hill. I saved and restored the sledding hill in my neighborhood. I am a firm believer that sledding hills are an important neighborhood resource. Getting outside in the winter is vital for our health both mental and physical. What better thing is there to do on a “snow day”?
  7. Against this background, we need to be cognizant that the town, in aggregate, has a surplus of space, albeit it is not well distributed. In addition, we are facing an extremely expensive capital project in the not-too-distant future in the form of the renovation of Neary School. This renovation will be by far the most expensive capital project we have undertaken, far, far more expensive than the Public Safety complex.

I plan to be outside the South Union playground on Sunday 9/17 at 1:00 if residents want to discuss the future of 21 Highland with me. I am also available to meet with resident groups, if so desired at a different time.

You can contact me at a.hamilton@southboroughma.com

Al Hamilton
35 Pine Hill Road

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David Parry
14 days ago

What on earth is wrong with keeping the building as its name states. “Southborough Arts and Community Center” ?

The building contai s multiple public activities right now and is actively used. All these uses need to be housed somewhere. If not here.

It seems the ONLY “problem” is the the cost of heating and cooling. But that same problem affected ALL Town buildings. Vast sums have been spent on Town Hall to increase climate efficiency.. Why not also the Arts Center ? Does the north side of Town get all the remaining money.?

As for costs and shortage of money, Mr Hamilton … please answer this question — Why is this Town spending $1.5 million on a new road and intersection we do NOT need and NOBODY asked for ? … I refer to the “St Marks Road Project.”… (Please read my separate , detailed comment about that disaster.)

stand up, and say it like it is.

IF the present use of the Arts Center is changed — WHERE will those activities go? Other towns are. building expensive arts centers (Natick. Framingham, etc ).

I always regarded that building and site as a point of local neighborhood PRIDE. Letting it become a typical housing condo project is a shame. Just give it new windows. Not expensive .

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