First of all, thanks to all of you who have returned petitions in support of protecting the 66-acre Oak Hill parcel in North Chelmsford. We did a very limited mailing of petitions in support of the citizens’ warrant article to designate this land as an open space conservation area, and in the first two days of returns we have received hundreds of signatures, more than a 15% response. That is truly phenomenal. The fact that the BOS doesn’t feel they need to listen to residents shows how incorrigible they really are, even after a huge segment of the town just voted to remove them en masse in favor of empty chairs.
The selectmen and Town Manager have stepped up their lobbying to have the town sponsor construction on the Oak Hill Property in North Chelmsford. If you haven’t already communicated with your precinct Town Meeting reps, now is the time to do so.
Town Meeting is next week. The BOS article, filed in direct opposition to the citizen-sponsored article, would fund a study with public funds to determine how and where to build on the property.
The usual proxies are lobbying hard against the public interest in favor of development. Since there’s no justification for filing an article so blatantly against the wishes of the town’s residents, town officials are claiming they have no choice. Some say the Master Plan requires a study, which is complete balderdash. Some say that the town has to build 40B units at Oak Hill – to stave off unwanted 40B development.
Doesn’t that sound like we all have to cut our noses off, because someone else might cut some part of it off later?
The biggest problem with their “we have to build” logic is that citizens have proposed an article to protect this property from any development by formally designating it as conservation land. So, how is a developer going to come in and put a hostile 40B development on it? The answer is, they can’t. The reasons that the town “must” build, being put out there by town officials, don’t hold any water.
Local self-styled “economist” John Edward posits that a taxpayer-funded study “wouldn’t cost the town anything” if the funds come from the Community Preservation Committee rather than the operating budget. I guess we can tell he’s an economist because he clearly doesn’t understand anything about money. Clearly, like our Town Manager Paul Cohen, he regards “the town” as the operating budget, not the residents or the town we live in. Only in that sense could one assert that funding a study with tax dollars from the Community Preservation Fund to destroy priceless open space “wouldn’t cost the town anything.”
Community Development Directory Evan Belansky and 40B lawyer Paul Haverty join the Board of Selectmen in asserting that the way to head off private 40B developments is to sponsor public 40B development! Claiming that the town has to build approximately 65 40B units each year in order to head off private 40B development, Belansky and Haverty have been lobbying to use the Oak Hill property for that purpose.
Last year Evan Belansky said the town should place six to eight units on the property. Now he’s shilling for as much development as possible along with Paul Haverty, George Dixon, Jon Kurland, Jim Lane, Paul Cohen et al. You know the list. George Dixon now states that the town should develop “10 or 15 acres.”
In fact, however, the only 40B developments in the past 6 years have been supported by the town itself. Some have been built in cooperation with the Chelmsford Housing Authority. One of the first things Paul Cohen did upon his hiring five years ago was to lobby hard for town-sponsored 40B units on wet land on Bentley Lane, which would have flooded neighboring properties and done virtually nothing to get the town to the “10% mandate.” Previous to that, selectmen Bill Dalton, Sam Chase and Phil Eliopoulos had voted for a “friendly” 40B development, the so-called Hillside Gardens project, over the objections of the other two selectmen. This “friendly” project, to place housing on a commercially zoned lot in a heavy industrial area, has caused years of political wrangling by abutters before town boards, followed by years of legal challenges that have cost tens of thousands of dollars. This “friendly” project is still tied up in court.
Since the submission of the Slow Growth petition five years ago, it’s become crystal clear to private 40B developers that they are in for a big fight if they try and exploit Chelmsford for private profit at the expense of the community.
Now the BOS wants to continue, as one resident puts it, to “make the town the developer everyone hates.” Supposedly the reason to do this is to protect ourselves from development.
Does this make sense to anyone?
There was a state-funded study of this parcel last year. Why does that study need to be superseded? Apparently it didn’t produce the desired result.
I’m hardly scratching the surface of idiotic rationales and illogical statements coming out of Town Hall in support of the BOS warrant article to fund a study of development that residents ardently oppose.
Roland Van Liew