Monthly Archives: January 2012

Answers to Questions on Patch about the proposed 40B on West Street

Patch limits responses, and this one would be too long there, so here are my responses to the questions raised about the proposed 40B on Wst Stree.

Shawn Collins asked -

“do the Planning Board members and your fellow Selectmen still have the same opinion of 40R, especially with current sentiment from residents over the Gatehouse Group LLC’s proposed project?”

The opinions of my colleagues on the selectmen and planning board about 40R were expressed at one meeting about employing 40R at the Medfield State Hospital project, so I do not know their current opinions with respect to the Gatehouse project.

“Does the Gatehouse Group benefit from the fact that the Medfield North Meadows LLC’s proposed project was already permitted by the Town back in 2008? Are they (Gatehouse) submitting what is essentially the same plan? What kind of timeline for approval are we looking at here?”

The two 40B proposals are very different from one another, as the current proposal is for 96 rental apartments whereas the previously approved and permitted proposal was for around 37 ownership condominiums.  The prior proposal should have no effect on the current proposal.  Almost all town permitting on a 40B is done by the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Medfield, whereas in the usual course the planning board would permit many aspects of a non-40B development.  Where the ZBA is dealing with so many issues, it often needs multiple hearing dates to get all the information that it needs to be able to make its decision, and each hearing date needs to be advertised weekly for two weeks, so the process can be extended.  Once the hearing is closed, the ZBA has 90 days to issue its written decision.  The members of the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Medfield are all volunteers, and the decisions must perforce get written around their regular jobs, so they often need all that time to get the decisions done.

Under 40B, only 1/4 of the units built need to be actually affordable, and the rest can be market rate units.  With owned units (condominiums) a town only gets credit on its affordable housing totals for the 1/4 of the units that are actually the affordable units, whereas, with rental units (apartments), the town gets credit for all the units in the project towards its affordable housing despite only 1/4 of them needing to be actually affordable units.

As that applies to the West Street site, if my recollection of the number of units in the prior proposal is correct, the town would have only been credited with an additional nine units of affordable housing, whereas the apartment proposal would credit the town with 96 units of affordable housing.

The current proposal is to have all 96 units actually provide affordable housing, despite only being required to have 24 provide affordable housing to qualify under 40B.

Rich Callahan asked “when does the town meet to discuss this significant matter?
Do you know how many states have 40B, can it be overturned?”

The town can go tot he public hearings before the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Medfield on the proposed 40B to provide input on the specific project.  The town meetings and/or the Board of Selectmen meetings are the places to have discussions about affordable housing strategies.  I do not know what is done about making affordable housing possible in other states.  40B was the subject of a recent initiative petition drive, asking that it be overturned, and the state’s voters opted to keep it in place.

Errin Chapin commented “I think it is ridiculous that our town cannot protect itself against these situations. How do you go about getting the state to take this burden into consideration when the project is appealed? Given the fact that the state is already in a position to ruin our town, adding this additional potential development is that much more disturbing. Not sure when the state passed this ramrod bill that they even understood the infrastructure domino effect. I will ask again, is there no tax on developers?”

Impact fees on developments in Massachusetts are controlled by the case of Emerson College v. City of Boston, which set forth a three part test of a legal fee from an unconstitutional tax.  Those criteria were used to invalidate Franklin’s $2500 fee per new house to cover increased school costs.  Massachusetts courts have upheld as OK fees for moorings, annual sewer use charges, and  electrical hook up fees.  Towns are not allowed to charge the developers for the costs that may occur because of the 40B development.  The state’s Housing Appeals Commission has rejected town arguments against 40B projects on the basis of school crowding, drainage, traffic, sewers, water, noise, inconsistency with local plans, environmental degradation, open spaces, and density.

The Board of Appeals must approve the 40B, or it will be approved by the state Housing Appeal Commission.  The trick is for the Board of Appeals to attached reasonable conditions.  The standard is that the conditions may not make the project “uneconomic.”

The Massachusetts rulings have been on the more restrictive end of the spectrum.

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Free thermal imaging in Medfield – save energy – sign up TODAY

From the Medfield Energy Committee -

You may have heard about the free thermal imaging happening in Medfield next week to show residents if their homes are losing heat. Make sure you’re included – go to www.sagewell.com/medfield  to sign up.  Almost 200 Medfield homeowners have already registered. It’s free and quick, and there’s no obligation. Should your house be a candidate, there are substantial rebates available for energy-saving improvements.

The Medfield Energy Committee, the Medfield Selectmen, and Medfield Green all recommend this thermal imaging program.

Please forward this message to friends who might be interested, and accept our apology if you receive this message more than once.

For more info: http://hometownweekly.net/residents-show-strong-interest-in-thermal-imaging-to-detect-home-heat-loss-p7124-133.htm

English: Thermal imaging Khmer houses

Image via Wikipedia

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Blake’s MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey Information Night

BMS last night reported, via Susan Cowell and Kelly Campbell, on the results of the results of the November 2010 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey.  This was the email from Nathaniel Vaughn advising of the event -

MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey Information Night

Every other year our 7th and 8th grade students participate in the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey. The Education Development Center (EDC) administers the MWAHS to monitor trends in health and risk behaviors among middle and high school adolescents. The survey is funded by the MetroWest Health Foundation, an independent philanthropy providing over $5 million in annual financial support to address the health needs of twenty-five communities in the MetroWest area of Massachusetts. The data from the survey is used to inform planning, policy-making, health education, and prevention programming at the local level. An overview of the data from the 2010 survey for Blake will be presented on Thursday, January 26 at 7:00 p.m. in the Blake Auditorium.

My main take always were -

  • minimal drug and alcohol use – later confirmed by my daughter
  • BMS kids generally reported that they felt more secure, felt a greater ability to talk to an adult at school, and felt they were having fewer problems than kids from the rest of the area
  • 32% reported having been bullied in past year
  • 16% reported having been cyberbullied in past year
  • 7% have thought of suicide
  • 1% have carried a weapon to school
    Map of Massachusetts with MetroWest highlighte...

    Image via Wikipedia

     

The Parent Resources handout is available here via this link http://medfield02052.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/20120126-parent-resources-handout.pdf

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Weekly Political Report – Week Ending January 20, 2012

The Weekly Political Report is prepared by a political consulting group, Rasky/Baerlein, and shared with me by John Nunnari.

$260 Million Revenue Proposal Pursued by Governor

Governor Deval Patrick’s office announced the administration’s revenue plans for FY2013 this afternoon. Governor Patrick plans to include a 50-cent increase on cigarette tax in Massachusetts making users pay $3.01 in taxes per pack of cigarettes. The tax increase would generate $73 million in additional revenue towards the Commonwealth Care Trust Fund to cover half of the cost associated with legal immigrants’ integration into the state’s subsidized insurance program as mandated by a recent Supreme Judicial Court decision. Similar to past revenue proposals, Governor Patrick’s plan will include a state sales tax on candy and soda to generate an estimated $62.5 million and an expansion of the bottle bill to include water bottles, juices, coffee, and sports drinks. The expansion of the bottle bill is estimated to generate $22 million in revenue with the plans of $5 million dedicated towards recycling programs and $10 million towards transportation and school building. In the past the Legislature has rejected Governor Patrick’s call for taxing candy and soda and expanding the bottle bill.

 

Governor Patrick’s revenue proposal also assures $5.2 billion in local aid to Massachusetts cities and towns. The majority of the local aid plan, $4.1 billion, will be sent to municipalities that classify as Chapter 70 and provide financial support for public education. Included in the aid is a $145 million increase in funding for local school districts which marks the highest level of state aid to local school districts in Massachusetts’ history.

 

House and Senate Pass $131 Million Budget Bill

This week, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a $131 million mid-year spending bill. The supplemental budget includes $27.6 million for the local sheriffs’ departments, $21.2 million for low-income heating assistance, $35 million for adult day health programs for the elderly and disabled, and $20 million to cover IT costs for various state agencies. House and Senate lawmakers rejected an amendment that would have instituted a meals tax holiday in mid-March.  It was estimated that $8.8 million would have been waived in sales tax during the proposed six-day holiday. The bill also contains language that would prevent a steep increase in the unemployment tax rate paid by Massachusetts businesses. Without the bill, employers would see unemployment insurance taxes increase to $935 cost-per-worker, an increase of 25%. The spending bill will now go to Governor Patrick for his review.

 

Senators Eyeing Changes to the Green Communities Act

Senate leaders are drafting a bill aimed at lowering Massachusetts energy costs by updating the way utilities are regulated and energy contracts are awarded to utility companies. This move follows a daylong hearing in November where a number of business leaders complained about high energy costs. On Wednesday, Attorney General Martha Coakley called for an end to any “sweetheart deals” between energy generators and utility companies and recommended a switch to competitive bidding for energy contracts. Coakley wants to reform the state’s Green Communities Act, which currently allows no-bid negations between utilities and energy suppliers. Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, has been tasked with producing a bill in the coming months.

 

Early Education Funding Boosted

On Tuesday, pre-kindergarten programs received $50 million in federal grant money to be used to support the state’s effort to bring early education to more Massachusetts children before they enter kindergarten over the next 4 years. Massachusetts finished second to North Carolina in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge. The Race to the Top funding will be spent on a combination of professional development, student assessment programs and support for communities and public school systems. In addition, Massachusetts will also spend $1.6 million on campaigns to promote early literacy and family literacy activities. After a study revealing that 39% of Massachusetts students in the third grade cannot demonstrate proficiency in reading, education officials have identified early education intervention as one of the key strategies to closing the achievement gap.

 

Massachusetts Unemployment Rate Falls to 6.8%

Massachusetts companies lost 6,200 jobs in December, despite a decrease in the unemployment rate to 6.8%. December’s decrease in jobs came after two consecutive months of employment increases. Massachusetts unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008 and is below the national unemployment rate of 8.5%.

 

 

John Nunnari, Assoc AIA

Executive Director, AIA MA

jnunnari@architects.org

617-951-1433 x263

617-951-0845 (fax)

 

MA Chapter of American Institute of Architects

290 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston MA 02110

http://www.architects.org

Idea 4 of 5 – MMA annual meeting – LED streetlights

LED streetlights – town owned

At the MMA’s annual convention on Friday afternoon I attended a presentation on energy saving ideas, one of which was to the effect that now is the time for towns to buy the streetlights and installing new LED streetlights, as the savings are running 20-60%.  The presenter, George Woodbury of Republic ITS (www.republicits.com) formerly worked for the DPW in Lexington.

First, the statute requires the utility to sell the town the streetlights at their net book value as carried by the utility, and the utilities have depreciated the streetlights over time such that the values are low.  One city paid $40,000 for all its streetlights.

Second, the LED fixtures are now ready for prime time:
•    the price of LED fixtures has recently dropped 50%, making it economical to install new LED streetlights.
•    With the LED streetlights up to 98% of the light generated leaves the fixture
•    light can be distributed more uniformly over large areas
•    LED’s like to operate in our cooler New England climate
•    55% energy reduction
•    adaptive controls can be installed, which will allow dimming the fixtures, and which will also read the water meters – NB, the utilities do not yet credit towns for the lower energy usages these achieve
•    grants are available from the utilities and the Public Technology Inc (PTI) – faster paybacks if used to but the lower wattage lights
•    night time visibility is actually improved by the elimination of the current hot spots generated by current streetlights
•    expect to get 150-180 lumens per watt

Third, the town would contract with a third party to provide the required maintenance.

Lastly, deciding at what time to adopt a new technology is always an issue (e.g. – do you wait for the next iteration of the cell phone or computer you need to get a better product).  Woodbury opined that the LED’s will improve 20% in  the next five years.  My question would be, how long do we want to wait to save some money?

This link gets you to George Woodbury’s contact information http://medfield02052.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/contacts-business-cards.pdf

Idea 3 of 5 – MMA annual meeting – solar

Solar Energy Systems - Town owned

It makes sense for the Town of Medfield to look at the installation and ownership photovoltaic arrays to generate electrical power.  The old landfill is an ideal candidate for such an array, which would be mounted on concrete ballasts that avoid damage to the membrane that caps the site.  I saw a presentation on a solar array in Easthampton on top of its capped landfill.

Easthampton installed its solar array by using both Borerego Solar (Borregosolar.com) and Tighe & Bond engineers.  Borrego will actually finance the installation in exchange for a 20 year contract, so the town does not have to put up any money if it opts to go that route.

Figure on using 5 acres per megawatt, or 6 acres per megawatt with the infrastructure included.  Cost tends to run about $4 m. per megawatt, and is more expensive on a landfill due the the higher cost of the ballasts over poles into the ground.

Parts are warranted for 25 years, and Borrego will include a 19th year bond to cover the cost of the decommissioning, if that is what the town wants.

The town can have access to the remote monitoring, and can even set up a kiosk at a school to tie it into the curriculum.

I spoke with Dartmouth’s town administrator, who shared with me that they own five solar arrays, and that it takes only two of them to generate all the electricity that the town uses.

There are other town owned sites that would be suitable, such as behind the Wheelock School.

Here is a link to the contact information of Borrego Solar and Tighe & Bond http://medfield02052.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/contacts-business-cards.pdf

Medfield Youth Action Committee (MYAC) started

I just got word of a new youth led initiative – their notice follows -

Please join us for a meeting, on February 1, 2012, at 3pm, in Room 125 at Medfield High School to introduce the Medfield Youth Action Committee (MYAC).  Below is our mission statement, a little bit about our group, and what we hope to do!

Medfield Youth Action Committee (MYAC). a newly formed youth-led initiative, seeks to provide a forum for Medfield’s youth to unite with the broader community.  We strive to build bridges by forming mutually beneficial relationships with community leaders.

It is our goal to:

  • Act as liaisons to community leaders in developing youth policy and programs
  • Provide education to youth regarding social issues with topics such as:  Stress reduction, prevention, and healthy relationships
  • Link youth to service, volunteer and mentoring opportunities

You are invited to this meeting because of your important leadership role with youth and for the support you have given youth initiatives in the past.  You represent an important piece of the puzzle. We are looking to build a permanent bridge of communication between the youth of the town and important community leaders.

Ideas for exciting events and creating invaluable community resources are ready to be unveiled at this first meeting! We also suggest that you, or a designee you select from your organization, come with an idea of how you think MYAC can help you. Other ideas about events in the community or ways to strengthen the community are also appreciated! While this is an introductory meeting, it will be beneficial to hear your ideas as well about how we can help you!

Please let us know if you cannot attend the meeting at      MedfieldYAC@gmail.com

Vine Lake Preservation Trust’s new website

Vine Lake Preservation Trust has been doing an excellent job of preserving and restoring the Vine Lake Cemetery, while making the whole process uncannily interesting.  Follow them by subscribing to their monthly newsletter (also excellent), and visit their new website http://www.vinelakepreservationtrust.org/

Also see my nephew Jack Farrell’s two excellent winning photos in their ongoing photo contest – nice job Jack!

Idea 2 of 5 – town to resident communication

The second idea from the MMA’s annual convention is the technology from myGrapevine, which was created last year for Weston to allow the town communication to better get to the residents, and for the residents to be able to filter out all but just what they want to receive.

myGrapevine allows many authors/writers from different town and school departments to write the messages, but also allows the residents to only subscribe only those topics that interest them.  For example, one could sign up to only get the messages about the Medfield High School, the Board of Health, and the DPW, and not all the rest of the town departments.  Delivery can be by SMS (text messages), Facebook, Twitter, or email.  Residents can opt to receive messages as they are written, consolidated in a daily or weekly summaries, or only in urgent situations.  Customized daily summaries  are available, with the new messages, event lists for the day, and reminders.

This from their website – http://mygrapevine.org -

Informed citizens

myGrapevine provides smaller towns with the communication infrastructure they need to keep their citizens informed.

myGrapevine is a web-based service, so pretty much anyone can access it. Town residents set up a free account and identify the topics in which they’re interested (say, everything about third and fifth grades, and also environmental conservation). Staff from the schools, the town government and from town organizations classify their messages by topic.

And myGrapevine makes sure every message gets to the right group of people – via email, text message, even Twitter or Facebook.

The cost for Medfield to subscribe would be $3,000/year.  That’s a lot of communication bang for the buck, both for the town government and for our residents.

Governor’s proposed local aid for next year

At the opening session of the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting that I attended last  Friday morning, the Lieutenant Governor told us the Governor’s proposed local aid figures for the next fiscal year (FY13) that will be in the Governor’s upcoming budget, which budget I believe will be released tomorrow and which becomes HR-1 (House bill #1).  All local aid is proposed to be funded at last year’s levels, except the Governor proposes to add $145 m. to the education funding levels, so we may get somewhat more.

Secretary of A&F Jay Gonsalves and House Ways and Means Chair Brian Demsey both emphasized that even though the state’s revenues are expected to be up, that the health care costs and some other parts of the state budget will more than eat up those increased revenues, such that they are proposing a tight FY13 budget, with many cuts to make things balance.

The Governor’s local aid summary hand out, with my hand notated local aid numbers for Medfield is attached.  http://medfield02052.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/20120120-governor-local-aid-budget-figures.pdf