Category Archives: Uncategorized

Forms of town governance

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services has a regular informational email with articles that I often find instructive.  The article that I am sharing below has to do with explaining the various forms of local government available to us – I put in blue text the town material at the end.

We have a town administrator, and when I asked Mike the difference between town administrators and town mangers, he explained that under the former the selectmen make appointments and under the latter the manager makes appointments.

I think the town administrator form is right for us, but I do think that we should consider whether a five member Board of Selectmen and a representative town meeting would be better for Medfield.

Due to the heat I ran indoors this morning at the Kingsbury Club, and the office was over 90 this morning (now a refreshing, by comparison, 85).


Review of Municipal Government Structures
Tara Lynch – Technical Assistance Bureau Senior Project Manager

(The following is the first of a two-part series examining current local government structures and financial management frameworks in Massachusetts.)

The Technical Assistance Bureau (TAB) provides guidance to cities and towns on a variety of municipal matters, including those related to structural issues. Communities often contact TAB because they are contemplating merging their treasurer and collector offices, regionalizing a position or function, developing a charter, or transforming to a city form of government, among many other decisions.

As a resource for our analyses, TAB maintains a database of the various structures in effect in the Commonwealth’s 351 municipalities. Sources for this include municipal websites, other external agencies, community reviews that TAB conducts, and the Gateway Local Officials Directory, whose data is submitted to the Division of Local Services (DLS) annually by individuals in each community. Although the quality of the accumulated data is imperfect since it is subject to the timeliness and accuracy of local submissions and updates, it nevertheless provides a credible overall picture of municipal governments statewide. The information also reflects and allows TAB to track trends that emerge as the governance landscape grows more complex and as communities mature and evolve.

Based on TAB’s current data, Massachusetts today comprises 295 towns and 56 cities. Among the cities are 14 that retain “Town of” in their names, including the Town of East Longmeadow (pop. 16,022), which adopted a city form of government effective the first of this month. Although the uninitiated may assume that a large population is the crucial influencer of town versus city government structures, this is not the case. In the Commonwealth, city populations range in size from Palmer’s modest 12,157 to Boston’s 645,966, while towns range from Gosnold’s 76 to Framingham’s sizeable 70,441.

Generally speaking, towns begin to consider petitioning the state to transform to a city form of government when the traditional, organizationally flatter and less legislatively nimble town model increasingly strains to effectively manage fiscal complexities, economic development, and service demands. Apart from population factors, the point at which this happens can be affected by unique historical aspects, rooted socioeconomic factors, regional changes, and local political momentum toward an ever more vertically aligned, accountable government structure. Population, though, is the easiest of these to quantify.

The tipping-point population range when there is a somewhat even balance of cities and towns appears to be from 25,000 to 45,000. Of the 51 municipalities in that range, 23 (45%) are cities and 28 are towns (55%). The prevalence of cities becomes far more pronounced once populations exceed 35,000. By this point, only seven (16%) of the state’s 45 communities over that size remain towns: Natick (35,214), Shrewsbury (36,309), Amherst (38,919), Billerica (41,888), Arlington (44,028), Plymouth (57,826), Brookline (59,128) and Framingham (70,441).

But what exactly is the difference between cities and towns? In Massachusetts, the essential difference is structural: a city is defined by the presence of a city or town council as the alternative legislative body to a town meeting. Having a mayor as the chief executive officer is optional though predominant in the state, this role being present in 43 cities (77%). Chelsea, Cambridge, Lowell and Worcester each have as their chief executive officer a city manager, who is appointed by and reports to the elected city council. While the latter three cities also have mayors, they hold only ceremonial positions. Additionally, there are eight “Town of” cities that have town managers and one with a town administrator.

In a town, executive authority is vested in an elected board of selectmen. The selectmen may choose to appoint a full- or part-time professional to manage town affairs on a day-to-day basis, and the incidence of such an administrator generally correlates to the town’s population size. The creation of this type of position can be effected through a charter, bylaw or town vote.

MGL c. 41, sec. 23A is the general law that authorizes selectmen “to appoint an executive secretary or town administrator.” Although the statute makes no distinction between these two titles, in practice, a greater degree of management and appointing authority tends to be delegated to town administrators, either by formal job description or bylaw. Furthermore, some towns choose to give a different job title to the administrator position, such as town coordinator or executive director. As a well-established best practice, TAB consistently endorses centralized government structures with clear lines of authority because they enable better oversight and accountability. In pursuit of this, many progressive communities refashion the town administrator position and retitle it to town manager, oftentimes doing so through a charter or special act. On a case-by-case basis, though, the difference between a town administrator and town manager can also be purely semantic.

The vast majority of towns statewide now have an appointed, professional, administrator-type position (260 towns, 88%). The ranges of work hours, salaries, oversight authority, and appointing powers among these officeholders vary quite widely, however. In 35 towns (12%), the select boards have appointed no administrator position, although there is usually a person performing at least a clerical function for the selectmen. Statewide, the job titles for the professional administrator in towns break out as follows:

  • Town administrator: 172 (58%)
  • Town manager: 63 (21%)
  • Executive secretary: 8 (3%)
  • Town coordinator: 6 (2%)
  • Other titles: 7 (2%)
The second part of this series will be presented in a future City & Town and further examine local government structure in the context of financial management and the options available for effecting structural change.

Tower seller pays for wasted water

water towers at MSH

The new water tower at the former Medfield State Hospital site was only just finally filled last week, when the new tank sprang a leak.  To fix the leak it had to be drained of all that water just used to fill the tank.  The issue then arose as to who should pay for all that water, and the tank manufacturer has agreed to pay per the email today from Mike Sullivan.

I asked if I could have the drained water for my lawn – we even numbers cannot water for another week.

I will ask Mike just how much we charge for a tank of water.

BTW, I recently undertook a survey of water tower styles for the town by driving to Indiana and back, and I can now report that one-third the water tanks are our style and the rest are rounded.  Some of our styles, however, do have peaked tops.

Phoenix Fabricators, the contractor for the State Hospital water town has agreed to pay the cost of water for having to drain the tank to repair the leak. Mike S.

DEP requires more restrictive water ban

water ban-2


The Town of Medfield has received notice from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) to increase the level of outdoor watering restrictions due to increasing drought conditions.

Therefore, the Town of Medfield is declaring a mandatory one day a week outdoor watering program.

  • Houses with odd numbers may perform outdoor watering on Monday evenings
  • Houses with even numbers may perform outdoor watering on Thursday evenings.

Daily handheld watering of vegetable gardens and flowers is permitted.   If you have further questions, please contact the Medfield
Water Department at 508-906-3004.

Financial data online


ClearGov put our general financial data from the Massachusetts Department of Revenue on-line for us as a promotion, seeking to sell us more services.

If  residents want access to the details of the town’s finances, it too can be put on-line for them.  The state and the City of Boston have both put their checkbooks online.

Hospital Road 40B documents


To review the documents related to the Larkins’ proposed 40B project on Hospital Road, see the link provided below in an email this morning from Sarah Raposa.

Kristine is in the process of making a page on the town website. In the meanwhile here is a link to a Dropbox folder containing the submission to MassHousing.


Sarah Raposa, AICP

Town Planner

Watch you tax money at work

MHS sigh

At the selectmen meeting last night Jeff Marsden, the School Superintendent, reported on the status of the turf field, amongst other things, and as an update today Jeff Marsden shared that the MHS webcam actually shows the work in progress.  Just scroll down the page to see the actual image of the field getting built.

I forgot to mention last night that the field project can be seen live on our website at



Hospital Road 40B


Hospital Road 40B filed with State

The Larkin Brothers of Reading and Fred Santucci of Needham filed with the state to start their permitting process for their planned 40B development off Hospital Road adjacent to the former Medfield State Hospital site.  Below is a draft of the current town response, which the selectmen will seek to finalize at the meeting tonight.

The Larkins shared with me last Thursday that they were willing to start meeting with the town representatives again, meetings they broke off to focus on their state filing.  The real question will be whether they will be willing to make real changes to their project to make it more acceptable to the town, to the point that the town would be willing to seek to help them facilitate their permitting.

The big sticking points are the current density, the costs, and the target buyers not matching town needs.

July 23, 2016

Mr. Gregory P. Watson, AICP
Manager of Comprehensive Permit Programs
Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency
One Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02108-3110

Re:     Application for Project Eligibility Determination/Site Approval Country Estates
Municipal Comment Letter; Due July 29, 2016

Dear Mr. Watson:
In response to an application for Project Eligibility Determination/Site Approval (the “Application”) submitted to the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency (MassHousing) by Country Estates of Medfield, LLC for a proposed development of forty-eight (48) units on Hospital Road in Medfield pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40B, Sections 20-23 (Chapter 40B), the Medfield Board of Selectmen submits the enclosed material as written comment pursuant to 760 CMR 56.04 (3). The correspondence contains comments from Town department heads and officials. It is our understanding that some Medfield residents will be submitting their own comments.

I.    Introduction
The proposed project (the project) would include forty-eight (48) units on 7.34 acres, 0.02 acres of which are wetlands. The breakdown of the development is proposed as follows: twenty-eight (28) three bedroom units and twenty (20) four bedroom units; 24 single family units with attached two-car garages (24 buildings) and 24 duplex units with attached one- or two-car garages (12 buildings). The existing property is adjacent to conservation land owned by the Town of Medfield and open space land owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The property fronts on Hospital Road, a well-traveled public way that connects North Meadows Road (Route 27) to Harding Street.

II.    Previous communication with developers
Prior to submittal to MassHousing the Applicants had a series of meetings with town staff, officials, and residents on the general concept and layout of the project.
•    December 1, 2015 – Applicants, Michael Larkin and Patrick Larkin, expressed their intent to submit a 40B on Hospital Road to Sarah Raposa, Town Planner.
•    February 3, 2016 – Applicants, Michael Larkin, Patrick Larkin, and Fred Santucci, met with Michael Sullivan, Town Administrator, and Sarah Raposa, Town Planner, to discuss the proposed project. The Applicants were informed of the Town’s draft Housing Production Plan and were recommended to meet with the Council on Aging to understand the needs of the Medfield’s aging population.
•    March 14, 2016 – Applicants, Michael Larkin, Patrick Larkin, and Fred Santucci, met with Osler Peterson, Selectman, Michael Sullivan, Town Administrator, Sarah Raposa, Town Planner, Frank Perry Member, Board of Assessors, and Ralph Costello, Resident. The Applicants proposed sixty (60) units with a mix of duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes. The Applicants were provided feedback about density, price points, site design, and connection to open spaces. The Applicants were also queried on their ability to provide “reasonably” priced homes suitable for seniors.
•    April 4, 2016 – Applicants, Michael Larkin, Patrick Larkin, and Fred Santucci, met with Osler Peterson, Selectman, Michael Sullivan, Town Administrator, Kristine Trierweiler, Assistant Town Administrator, Sarah Raposa, Town Planner, Frank Perry, Member, Board of Assessors, and Ralph Costello, Resident. The plan was reduced to forty-eight units comprised of singles and duplexes all with the ability to have first floor master bedrooms.
•    April 20, 2016 – Applicants, Michael Larkin, Patrick Larkin, and Fred Santucci, Jon Studebaker, Architect, and Bradley McKenzie, PE, met with Osler Peterson, Selectman, Michael Sullivan, Town Administrator, Kristine Trierweiler, Assistant Town Administrator, Sarah Raposa, Town Planner, Frank Perry, Member, Board of Assessors, and Ralph Costello, Resident. The elements of the site plan and design elements were presented by Studebaker and McKenzie. Feedback was given on utilities, infrastructure, stormwater, mature trees, stone walls, and open space connections. Town staff remained concerned about the proposed unit size and affordability.
While the Town was assured there would be an additional meeting to better understand the pro forma prior to submission to MassHousing for Project Eligibility, we were disappointed when communication ceased.

III.    Comments from Town Staff and Officials
Based on the conceptual, un-dimensioned, un-detailed plan that was submitted with the Application, the Town offers the following comments, hopefully useful in developing the plan set for application to the Medfield Zoning Board of Appeals:
A.    Environmental, Historical, and Archeological:
•    The former use of part of the subject property was a gas station/garage, Ford dealership, and a small business making street sweeping brooms in the back of the garage.
•    A large portion of the property is shown to contain Prime Farmland Soils
•    Add vegetation to property boundary – do not rely on State-owned fields as buffer
•    Keep large trees (and protect during construction). Any loss of significant vegetation within 10 years of project completion will require replacement (same location, substantial height and caliper size).
•    Add additional substantial vegetation along Hospital Road to buffer new construction.
•    About half of the property is in the Well Protection District, Aquifer Overlay Zone
•    Retain and enhance the stone wall along Hospital Road.
•    Retain any historical site features (gates, fences, stone walls).
•    Use drought tolerant lawn grasses and vegetation throughout the site.
•    The proposed project is not in an Archeological Protection District.
•    The proposed project not in Hospital Farm Historical District.
•    Hospital Road is not a Scenic Road.

B.    Infrastructure:
•    Water and Sewer connections were made as a courtesy to the former residents who sold their land to the developers. Otherwise, a 5-year moratorium would be in effect.
•    The Board of Water and Sewerage agrees with the Fire Chief’s proposed hydrant locations as sketched on concept plan.
•    Mega lugs will be necessary at all hydrants.
•    Six (6) inch ductile iron pipe and six (6) inch gates must be used at all hydrants.
•    The Medfield Water Department requires a looped water system with eight (8) inch ductile iron pipe.
•    It will be necessary to place one gate valve at each roadway and one gate valve at approximately halfway into the subdivision circle. All valves will be eight (8) inch.
•    One (1) inch Type K, copper service, piping will be required at each house.
•    The Medfield Sewer Department requires manholes to be installed 300 feet apart and at all turns.
•    Provide four (4) foot sumps and catch basins.
•    Proposed infiltration basin design to the standards of the July 1, 2017 EPA standards (PE stamps required).
•    Ensure that the detention area appropriately sized to handle run-off; not too sloped so that it may appear as an amenity rather than necessary infrastructure. Alternatively, provide adequate safety provisions to prevent residents from entering/accessing the drainage structures.
•    Provide operations and maintenance agreement for stormwater system
•    Inclusion of LID Best Management Practices (bioretention, rain gardens)
•    Provide draft homeowners association agreement with submission for maintenance of stormwater system (roadways, common areas, vegetation)
•    Provide operations and maintenance agreements
•    Provide dark sky compliant site lighting / street lights (include photometric plan with cut-sheets for submission)
•    Provide traffic impact report with submission
•    Provide estimated water and sewer usages for proposed units
•    Natural gas service exists in road, in front of 21 Hospital Road
•    Upgrade sidewalks, ADA compliance
•    Provide underground utilities
•    Snow storage areas have not been designated. Lack of planning for this could result in reduced visibility for drivers and pedestrians in the development.
•    Provide earth importing, movement, and removal information that will be required to establish grades that will accommodate the dense development in this site.

C.    Fire Protection and Life Safety:
•    Building setbacks should be at least 8-10 feet apart
•    20’ wide one-way road circulation with Cape Cod Berm instead of vertical granite curbing
•    Use vertical curbing on Hospital Road and at curved radii.
•    No parking on street (with enforcement via Homeowners Covenant) or provide wider streets
•    Install three (3) fire hydrants on loop around Road A (locate at access points and mid-way around Road A)
•    Ensure ability to flush hydrants but locate hydrants so they are useful in fighting fires
•    Shaft liner for duplex units

D.    Overall Site Plan:
•    The site plan is aggressively dense.
•    The density and alignment of the units around the ring road does not respect the street view or country road.
•    Provide more differentiation in the unit design and face them in a purposeful direction not just vehicular (the way the decks and backs of the houses face the center circle does not create much of a neighborhood).
•    Eliminate one of the structures at the end of Road C in order to free up space for visitor parking (also removes Conservation Commission jurisdiction).
•    Eliminate one of the structures in the northwest area in order to free up space for visitor parking.
•    Create bus stop and mail locations.
•    Include fully dimensioned detailed site plans showing setbacks, FARs, lot coverages, etc.
•    No further expansion of dwellings allowed.
•    Provide for third party building inspection.
•    Provide for third party road and infrastructure construction inspection.

E.    Municipal Planning and Affordable Housing Comments:
•    Housing goals articulated in Medfield’s 1997 Master Plan Goals & Policies Statement  remain applicable today:
o    Protect Medfield’s environmental quality, town character and fiscal condition as growth continues. (LU-2)
    Decisions affecting land use should be guided by an understanding of the environmental, social, and fiscal implications of development.
o    Medfield will accommodate residential development that is consistent with the Town’s character and its ability to provide high quality services. (H-1)
    Residential development should be concentrated in areas that can accommodate development without jeopardizing the environment and town character.
    Ensure that densities reflect infrastructure and natural resource constraints.
o    New housing development will include the variety of lot sizes, unit sizes and housing costs that contribute to Medfield’s diverse community. (H-2)
    Plan for and support development of a wide range of housing options in order to accommodate households with diverse housing needs, as well as changing family structures.
    The Town should take a direct role in provision of affordable housing in order to protect the character of the community while meeting identified needs and targets.
o    These goals formed the basis for the housing vision stated in Medfield’s 2004 Community Development Plan:
    Medfield will accommodate residential development that is consistent with the Town’s character and its ability to provide high quality services while ensuring that units that are affordable to a range of incomes are also developed.
•    The Town has completed a draft Housing Production Plan and intends to submit it to DHCD by the end of the year. One of the promising strategies for providing broader types and affordabilities of housing in Medfield is in the redevelopment of the nearby former Medfield State Hospital. The Town purchased the property from the State in December 2014 and is currently undergoing a master planning process.
o    The size and price of the of units do not meet the needs of the community as evidenced by the following key findings for the HPP:
    Medfield’s housing stock is relatively homogenous, and there is a need for more diverse housing options in town suitable for households of all ages, sizes, and incomes. Increasing the diversity of housing options in Medfield will enable seniors, younger adults, and extended family households to establish and maintain long-term residence in the community.
    There is a need for affordable rental units suitable for families, including single parents. Medfield has a large population of families and large family sizes. Even though most families are homeowners, there is a population of families in town who rent. Medfield’s existing rental units are very small – the median number of rooms is only 3.4 – which suggests a need for larger units suitable for families.
    Medfield’s homes are large, and there are few options for seniors and empty-nesters to downsize and remain in the community. Smaller single family homes or condominiums would allow residents an opportunity to stay in Medfield as they age.
    Single family homes in Medfield are very expensive. There is a need for more affordable homeownership opportunities for younger adults, people who work in town, and care providers. Medfield will have an increasingly difficult time recruiting quality candidates for municipal, school department, service, or other private sector jobs as employees cannot afford to live within a reasonable commuting distance.
    Demand for the existing rental properties in town is high, suggesting a surplus demand for rentals in town. Conversations with social service providers in the region suggests that there is a need for rental housing for all types of households, including young adult households, single parents, traditional families, seniors, and single individuals.
•    Medfield’s Subsidized Housing Inventory is approximately 6.7%
•    Provide potential school impact estimates

IV.    Conclusion
Overall, our suggestions about this project relate to the density and unit sizes proposed which seem to be somewhat excessive given the surrounding residential neighborhoods and the interest in providing affordable housing for families of modest means. The variation of pricing between the affordable units and the market units appears to be excessive. The Town would like to see some of the market units priced at a more reasonable level to accommodate the needs of residents who are being priced out of the local housing market as prices skyrocket. In addition, it would seem that the disparity in price between affordable units ($200,000) and market units ($500,000 to $720,000) may not be the most advantageous arrangement. The site has water and sewer in the adjacent street, substantially reducing development costs, which should permit unit housing costs to be reduced to a more reasonable level for the market units. We have discussed this with the developers and suggested scaling back the size and the amenities in the market units to put them within the price range of moderate income families, e.g., reduce square footage of the units, eliminate granite countertops and high end appliances, offer lower priced options in flooring and bathroom fixtures, etc. Medfield currently has six 40B developments, including a recently completed 92–unit rental complex. It has never turned down a 40B project and is proud of its track record of welcoming a variety of housing types. Three of these developments are for families, two for senior housing and one for developmentally disabled individuals. Recent housing surveys have indicated a strong demand for affordable housing for older individuals, whose children have left home, who would like to downsize and would like to stay in the town where they have lived for all or most of their lives. Presently, we have seen an outflow of older residents to surrounding communities because the type of housing they would like to purchase or rent is not priced within their means. The vast majority of Medfield’s housing stock consists of large single family homes, not suitable for an aging household. In supporting a 40B project we would hope that it would serve people of modest means, both low and moderate incomes. We do not consider the purpose of a 40b development is to maximize a developer’s profit margin.  Given your mission we are confident that you will concur with this position by requiring that both the affordable and market units be reasonably priced and not be priced at levels well beyond the reach of average citizens. We would also ask that, given the diversity of our existing 40B projects, that the need in Medfield for housing options for aging families be incorporated into this project.
In addition to the above observations, we do have some concerns about the lack or suitable parking spaces proposed within the development. Given the number of bedrooms and of dens, and family rooms suitable for conversion to bedrooms, as well as the proposed street widths of 20 feet, we do not feel that the proposed parking is adequate. Keep in mind that this is a somewhat rural site with no public transportation and that Medfield, with a population of just over 12,000 issues some 12,000 motor vehicle excise tax bills each year. Finally, we are concerned that the building designs seem to be based more on how many units can be configured than on how the development will look and function as a neighborhood. When we made suggestions about placement of garages and decks, we were told that the design was based on minimizing the asphalt surfaces. A well-designed neighborhood should be based more on how it works for the residents than on how asphalt is measured. A little creativity in design could do wonders for both.

Chairman, Board of Selectmen

cc: Jessica L. Malcolm, 40B Specialist, MassHousing