By MATTHEW FERREIRA
March 28, 2013 11:16 AM
The selectmen voted Monday night to recommend favorable action on projects to be funded with Community Preservation Act money if they are approved by voters at the April 22 annual town meeting.
Meanwhile, Conservation Commission Vice Chairman Steven Ventresca indicated his board will withdraw a proposed local wetlands control bylaw after the town manager and selectmen said town counsel had 40 questions about the bylaw that were not addressed by the ConCom.
The selectmen voted to support Article 19, which reads, “To see if the Town will vote to appropriate $3,500 from the Historic Resources Reserve of the Community Preservation Fund to fund the Planning Phase of the Middleborough Historical Museum’s project for preservation of historic town records and artifacts contained in two buildings by conducting an assessment of the exiting conditions of the buildings, determining their condition and suitability for renovations and to prepare a scope of work and construction cost estimate”¦”
Community Preservation Committee Chairman Jane Lopes presented on the article.
“The Historical Association initially came to us with a request for about $43,000 on a “¦ $59,000 project,” Ms. Lopes said. “At that time they wanted to install some HVAC systems in the two main museum buildings and also deal with the windows in those buildings.”
Ms. Lopes explained that because the Middleborough Historical Association has limited funds, the CPC came to the conclusion that funding a study that would assist the organization in assessing the two buildings first.
“They have things there—textiles, paintings and so forth—that require a certain type of climate control so they are now planning to hire a consultant who will advise them on exactly what they need to do “¦ to protect those items,” Ms. Lopes said.
Article 20, which the selectmen also voted unanimously to recommend, reads, “To see if the Town will vote to appropriate ($4,000) from the Historic Resources Reserve of the Community Preservation Fund to Refurbish and Preserve an 1890 Woodberry and Harris Historic Pipe Organ located in the Unitarian Universalist Church and to record a preservation restriction on said organ”¦”
“It has nothing to do with the fact that this is a church. It has to do with the fact that this is a historic pipe organ that happens to be in a church,” Ms. Lopes said, addressing the “separation of church and state” issue that the project brought into question by some. “It’s believed to be one of about eight pipe organs of its kind that has not been converted to electric.”
Article 21 reads, “To see if the Town will vote to appropriate $20,000 from the Community Housing Reserve of the Community Preservation Fund to fund a portion of the Middleborough Housing Authority’s Nemasket Apartments Window Project for the purpose of improving housing conditions for ten elderly housing units in two buildings”¦”
“The $20,000 for this project will be to replace the windows on Sproat Street only,” said CPC member and Housing Authority Director Jo Ruthwicz. “This is part of a bigger project that the town is working on with Jane (Kudcey) from the Community Development office and doing street and sidewalk repairs. We’re also going to be doing underground gas lines. I think the total project is about $200,000″¦”
The board voted to support the article.
Article 22 reads, “To see if the Town will vote to appropriate $40,000 from the Historic Resources Reserve of the Community Preservation Fund to fund a portion of the Shoe Shop Affordable Housing Project located at 151 Pierce Street for the purpose of constructing 24 affordable housing units”¦”
“This one is an unusual application in that we will be funding a tiny portion of this $8 million project but our participation is going to help the applicants obtain $1 million in grant money from the state,” said Ms. Lopes.
The CPC chairman also explained that not only will the project provide the town with another restored historic building that will be listed on the national register which will add to the town’s reputation for historic significant community, but it will also contribute to the affordable housing quota. Though similar attempts at developing the site have failed in the past, the town’s contribution of $40,000 would fulfill the community investment portion of a current grant opportunity.
“Not only is it a significant building historically but as you can imagine the neighbors I’m sure aren’t happy with the fact it’s becoming a giant eyesore,” Ms. Lopes said.
The board voted to support the article.
The fifth community preservation article contains the breakdown of the Community Preservation Fund for the coming fiscal year, setting aside $13,000 for administrative costs and assigning $26,000 to each of the areas required by the Community Preservation Act: historic preservation, acquisition and preservation of open space, and creation or support of affordable housing. The balance of the estimated fund for the fiscal year that begins July 1, $151,000, can be used for any or all of the categories or for new or existing recreational facilities.
CPC Vice Chairman Mo Franco explained the reasoning behind proposed structuring of appropriation.
“We’re figuring the assessments, based on the 1 percent surcharge after the first $100,000 assessment on real estate tax, are going to be just over $200,000 in fiscal year 14,” said Ms. Franco. “This past year we received $56,000 in a state match from the state of Massachusetts in our collections so we totaled $256,000 “¦ which is a great return on our initial investment so based on that, based on what the state CPC committee projects we will receive in 2014, we estimated a little bit conservatively. ”
The last article to be presented Monday night, article 23, posed the question of the town adopting a Wetland Bylaw based on a template provided by the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions that would expand upon the existing Wetlands Protection Act put forth by the state. However, due to issues raised by town counsel on various points in draft and the fact that the 40 comments were not addressed by the Conservation Commission before moving forward, the selectmen determined the article should not be supported in its current form.
“Town counsel really is our legal advisor when it comes to bylaws and no one’s saying that town council is always right “¦ but you at least need to argue your points with them,” said Town Manager Charles Cristello. “You have a non-criminal disposition provision in this bylaw that you just can’t have. It’s possible and that’s why the MACC puts it in the template because it’s a recognizable method of enforcing a bylaw like this, but there’s no authorization that you can have this.”
The Conservation Commission vice chairman, Mr. Ventresca, said he was withdrawing the article with plans to resubmit for fall town meeting, having worked with town counsel to resolve conflicts by that time. Selectman Allin Frawley recognized a need for the bylaw despite missteps by the commission in its pursuit and volunteered to serve as a liaison between boards throughout the process of redrafting.