Thanks for the links. We should do lunch some time.
You say, "Only liberty can bring prosperity to our children in a sustainable way." Whereas the Planning Guide foreword asserts, "The transition to sustainable development is not a soft option, but an imperative for our survival and well-being."
Help me evaluate these statements, please. I like my liberty as much as the next guy. Survival and well-being also appeal to me. In general, I see Agenda 21 (and things like the master plan that favors dense village centers over corridor sprawl) as promoting changes that you resist or seek to roll back. Fair enough?
Let us set aside the question to what extent UN influence actually filters down to Montague politics. Whether through coercion, corruption, propaganda, or careful consideration of evidence, some of us in Montague seem to agree with this "sustainable development" argument. Could one factor be the perceived global threat from human-caused environmental change and resource depletion?
That is the connection to climate change and Peak Oil. If these threats are real (which I understand you doubt) do the policy proposals not make sense, in a way? I admit that the UN (and Federal and state governments) tend towards corruption like any concentration of power, and the elite will try to turn every disaster to their advantage by scaring us out of our freedoms. But can't we resist elite predation while at the same time reacting ethically (and locally) to these global crises?
Personally, I doubt the feasibility of "sustainable development" as promoted by UN types. I also doubt that your status quo can yield "prosperity" for more than another generation at best. Rather, I expect a phase of history that 99% of people will consider a catastrophe. Commerce will seize up. Hunger, violence, and disease will spread. Perhaps, like the collapsing Anasazi, we will bite the heads off of field mice and swallow them whole. (http://www.english.i...e_of_the_anasazi.htm)
Perhaps, as you fear, we will endure the UN boot for a while until the UN itself collapses. Besides the UN and Oathkeepers, we may see drug lords contend for power. Maybe the best option for liberty is to get the Oathkeepers talking with the drug lords and hope they combine to resist the UN.
Keep a copy of the playbook being used to run this town and now almost the whole country. You will become familiarized with how authoritarian world government policies get implemented here. Any other issue is just a distraction if your voice has no power without unalienable rights like we have it now. Support minorities, support the individual. http://www.democrats...1.planning.guide.pdf
Here are your rights under Agenda 21
(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
JohnToby. The School project debate is not directly about peak oil and have no idea why you went there, The real debate is about an assigned foreign power setting regulations that are about authoritarian social control and not about the rights or democratic process of the surrounding land owners and those paying federal taxes that get funneled to certain developers. The UN is a body of unelected foreign nationals, the state has mandated UN policies by executive fiat, the town planners implemented the system by the town meeting attended by a fraction of residents. Now the implementation of a documented plan is moving forward against the will of the people and you all wonder why? Don't worry, you folks have shot yourselves in the foot with the new UN stretch codes and planning agenda.. This town is in serious denial and deserves the UN boot on its face. Only liberty can bring prosperity to our children in a sustainable way. Voluntary interactions are the only ethical way in the future. Remember, "free money" is mine, my sons and your kids money to PROTECT, not to spend on social control!! The US Inc empire is bankrupt, and when it fails completely, remember that the power vacuum will be fill by either the UN or Oathkeepers. Decide now on who you support as it is coming weather or not you "believe". http://www.mass.gov/envir/smart_growth_toolkit/
I know the DPW worked most of last year installing a new water main to the school based on how many plumbing fixtures / load. My guess is it was for the lower number of potential plumbing demand load. Is this new buried water line big enough to handle the potential of more factor values
Good points about the progressive reasons to change the 700 foot minimum. I feel like the critics of this project have tended to ignore its positive aspects in this and other key areas. Although I think the number of units is too many, this project is in many ways a model for progressive development.
As far as the zoning board (ZBA) is concerned, I do not think they are in bed with the developer at all and I do not think they are bad people (I know several of them). For one thing they simply were not convinced by many of the arguments put forward by the critics, particularly the key one that this project would dramatically change the character of the community. To be honest, neither am I.
But the ZBA is in the business of making zoning decisions about things like variances and IMHO they did not do that properly at all. To me, it is a classic example of the abuse of the variance concept, something both the courts and the state have been warning against since the 1920s. I have a problem with going before town meeting and changing the zoning law to make up for that. It is not only wrong but it tends to pit Montague Center against the rest of the town. I also have a big problem with spending hours "listening" to the neighborhood and then going ahead and doing what you were going to do in the first place. Ditto the whole RFP process, which also may have violated state law.
So sorry, Mark 1, if I sound like a reporter on National Public Radio but honestly I do see two sides to this and am not sure how to vote on town meeting. I basically like the project but think the process was a disaster. That matters to me.
You bet your sweet bippy there's a need for a zoning change to allow smaller living spaces. Who knew there even was a minimum size for a legal dwelling in our town? Is this really the case? What if I had a piece of buildable land and wanted to put up one of these to live in: http://www.designboo...ary/tiny_houses.html ? Would that really be a problem for our town? Or a benefit? I'm thinking benefit. I'm thinking we're all going to be living (or our kids/grandkids are) in smaller dwellings to save resources, save space, and save our sanity.
This being said, 22 apartments in the (foolishly abandoned) ex-school building, is a really poor zoning decision, making any thoughtful person wonder at the neutrality of the zoning board in this matter. I mean what were they actually considering other than the town's fear of losing the only interested developer for the site? This decision reminds me of the kinds of decisions the Nuclear Regulatory Agency routinely makes to protect the industry they supposedly are regulating.
I'm with those who are suggesting the two issues absolutely ought not to be being considered at the same time. Hopefully the lawsuit will end with the developer being forced back into negotiations with the abutters to find a mutually agreeable development plan. And then hopefully the town will have another look at zoning regulations that will actually encourage rather than discourage smaller dwellings - appropriately sited - and less development on arable farmland and further preservation of our beautiful open spaces.
Mike, thank you for your thoughtful reply, but at this time I really don't think the zoning change and the school project can be regarded separately. And, I am all in favor of protecting farmland, but I also suspect that the person wanting a private home on an acre of land with a garage and all that, would not chose an apartment in the village. Additional zoning changes are necessary to prevent subdivisions from eating up farmland and open space, and all this should be deliberated at the same time, along with some conversation about housing needs in the entire town. I believe Walter said the population had actually decreased, so where's the pressure coming from for this infill development? The largest pressure I see is in affordable housing for working people who can't get by on paltry wages, and senior housing for aging Montague residents who are going to have a hard time maintaining big old houses and paying the taxes. I wish the proposed MCS project had that in mind. I wonder if a developer with such priorities might have come forward had he or she known the water service would be improved and the zoning changed.
"I think it would be great if we, as a town, could consider the zoning change apart from the proposed MC school development."
Why not amend the proposal to make it effective in 2016? Too soon? Then 2018. If MCS is still unresolved then, I don't see much hope for our buns. If a resolution comes before then, nothing stops us from making the size change immediate.
A wee question. Which village doesn't have a dense center population? I don't think there is one. The ZBA should be run out of town on a rail for going along with the idiotic changes they approved. Took a ride and looked REAL close at the Center School. No way in He dbl toothpicks is that a fit for the area. Any of your town meeting members that go along with the change should also be run out of town as well..Like I said , my old dude in the village is adamantly apposed to the whole debaucle. Go get em Montague Center.. Again just MY thoughts... Ed
I do indeed acknowledge the history, and I've said before (and I'll say again now) that from what I've heard I think the ZBA may have erred in its decision to grant a variance for the MC school project, and other errors may have been made as well. I don't blame MC folks for feeling frustrated with the process, and I wish that things had been handled differently.
I think ddz summed up my views pretty nicely, both about the MC school project and the proposed zoning change. I think that the timing of the proposed zoning change is unfortunate, in that it inevitably creates the impression that it is aimed at accommodating this developer; I also think that it may be an appropriate and perhaps even overdue response to the shifting realities of the world we live in.
I think it would be great if we, as a town, could consider the zoning change apart from the proposed MC school development. (As ddz asked, "what is it you are really against- the MCS proposal or reasonably sized dwelling unit standards for the community?") But I'm also becoming convinced that we, as a town, may be incapable of doing that, which I think is too bad.
Having said all that, my original post on this thread was a response to someone who warned that making this zoning change could lead to icnreased density anywhere in Montague; my response was that increased density in some parts of Montague is exactly what people who have been thinking about the future of our town have been recommending for some time. Although I tried to make it clear that I wasn't expressing an opinion on the MC school project, I was immediately accused of "going buns-up for a developer who wants to maximize cash flow". When I tried to point out that that was a gross distortion of my views, I was met with more of the same. Hence my comment about listening being a two-way operation.
I think this is the first post in this thread where I have discussed my views on the MC school project. Why anyone would think that they know what I do or don't think about that project based on my previous posts is a mystery to me.
I appreciate your well thought out comments and questions. No, unfortunately I no longer have a copy of the Comprehensive Plan and I’m sure Walt Ramsey(Town Planner) could provide it for you. I agree with all of what you wrote and think that reducing the minimum dwelling size standard could all be presented as congruent with the 2004 Housing Plan as well as the CDBG of 2013. Of course, the reduction in dwelling size is only one part of the larger picture that the entirety of our zoning regulations look to address(hence my suggestion that the Planning board do more effective community outreach on the subject).
Unfortunately, the ZBA is the controlling body in the review of proposals such as the MCS and the Planning Board has no statutory review authority. I agree that the ZBA, in my estimation, didn’t use their deliberative authority to review all the aspects of the MCS proposal as thoroughly as I would have hoped and the end results is what we have in front of us now. And, I think this is all fixable. I may be wrong, but my guess is that the court will nullify the ZBA’s decision and there will be another chance to have the MCS project be reviewed with greater sensitivity to the valid issues that you and others have raised. I believe the enlightened approach would be for the ZBA and developer to see the handwriting on the wall and take a more pro-active approach, but hey, that’s just me talking. I truly hope at some point the dwelling size issue does receive a fair and impartial hearing as I believe it does have merits. One thing that I think the Planning Board can do in the future is to look more closely at all those places where the ZBA has used variances and ask some tough questions about how the zoning regs could be better crafted so variances truly become a rarity in our community.
And Mark1, I'm not an avid birdwatcher, and I yet I think I can recognize a snark(comment) when i see one. I'd ask you to look at your own postings and see if it's possible to communicate what your frustrations and judgmenst are without dissing the people who are involved in the process, volunteering their time, putting themselves in the hot seat, and doing the best job they can.
Okay, so how many Town Meeting members are reading this board? I have written a letter to Town Meeting members that can be inserted into the materials they receive prior to the meeting. It should be signed by people from all the towns, not just Montague Center. Can someone help with this?
"Unfortunately, I think that the ZBA, rather than looking at the more important site issues such as the wetlands, the parking and traffic issues(where are 50 cars going to park on School Street?), the impact of adding such a concentration of people into a small area in one project and using their authority to find a balance between the needs of the developer and the abutters they mis-applied the law with respect to variances.This set up the dynamic where the only way the people who don’t want the MCS project to move forward, as approved, is to rally against what otherwise would be a reasonable proposal with respect to minimum dwelling size."
The ZBA has shown Montague Center the middle finger. That much is clear after hours and hours and hours of public comment against the project, culminating in a fatally flawed decision for it.
Now the town is trying to squirm out from under this bungled ZBA process (and the legal challenge it now needs to pay to defend) by creating a rule change that would allow this project to go through.
There would be opposition to the square footage change even if the MCS project was not on the table too. Do we really want the slumlords in Turners and Millers carving out even crappier, smaller apartments?
The smart thing for the town to do would be to withdraw the item from Town Meeting. But they're hoping enough town meeting members buy their post hoc rationalizations.
The rest of us are doing what we can to make sure they don't.
Thanks for your comments. Can you possibly provide a copy of the Comprehensive Plan as it does not seem to be readily available on the Town's website.
Certainly the Comprehensive Plan is one document that the Town should rely on though it has not been updated since 1999. The 2004 Housing Plan, in its section on zoning recommendations, makes no mention of a reduction of unit size. It also says that the Town should "require new multi-family construction to meet design standards and limits on the number of units to ensure compatibility with existing neighborhoods."
The Community Development Strategy,completed for the 2013 CDBG application says the following:
"To maintain and enhance quality of life in the town’s residential neighborhoods.
To encourage a mix of housing types, densities, prices and ownership patterns that
serve diverse Montague households while maintaining the community’s character.
To direct growth and development of new housing to areas that have the resources and services to accommodate it, while protecting important agricultural, natural, scenic and historic resources from residential sprawl."
The RFP also makes mention of maintaining community character.
So I think that these are all points that should have been discussed by both the ZBA and the Planning Board prior to making decisions.
Does this development (MCS) maintain the community's character?
Does Montague Center have the resources and services to accommodate this sudden growth?
Does this variance have any bearing on the protection of other land? In fact there has also been some residential sprawl in Montague Center without any discussion of this by the Planning Board.
Further the Housing Plan and the Community Development Strategy explicitly state the need for a mix of housing types that should include at least some affordable housing which is not included in the proposal for the Montague Center School.
I am not suggesting that a reduction in unit size is inappropriate, only that many other factors should have been discussed prior to what appears to be hasty decisions on the part of the boards involved.
Mark, the Master Plan serves as a framework for the development of zoning regulations that support a vision for the future of our community. The Master Plan actually does support the idea of creating reduced unit sizes if they meet the criteria I tried to describe in my previous post. I actually believe that smaller unit sizes than currently allowed does make sense and is entirely appropriate in the village centers. I think, too, that the Master Plan calls for the Planning Board to do exactly what they are trying to accomplish here in interpreting the vision of the plan into new zoning regulations that reflect the changing reality of the current time. If you take the Montague Center School out of the picture here for just a moment, the idea of allowing 700 square ft apartments isn’t unreasonable at all in my view. By way of example, Cliffside Apartments in Sunderland offer 400 square foot 1 bedroom and 650 square ft two bedroom units…I lived in both in my younger days and found them to be quite nice and affordable for a struggling student. So, strictly from a size standpoint I don’t think that the proposal is setting an unreasonable standard.
I actually wrote to the town planner and shared my views and received a very thoughtful answer and could easily find myself supporting the proposal if it weren’t so linked to what’s happening at the MCS. So Mark, the question I have for you and others is what is it you are really against- the MCS proposal or reasonably sized dwelling unit standards for the community? It is possible to be for one and against the other. Unfortunately, I think that the ZBA, rather than looking at the more important site issues such as the wetlands, the parking and traffic issues(where are 50 cars going to park on School Street?), the impact of adding such a concentration of people into a small area in one project and using their authority to find a balance between the needs of the developer and the abutters they mis-applied the law with respect to variances.This set up the dynamic where the only way the people who don’t want the MCS project to move forward, as approved, is to rally against what otherwise would be a reasonable proposal with respect to minimum dwelling size.I fully expect the ZBA will lose the appeal of their original decision and we'll be back to square one at the MCS. If there was a way that the ZBA and the Town could unwind the process and negotiate with the developer of the MCS a reasonable accommodation that really addressed the valid concerns of the abutters of this project then I think the dwelling size proposal could be more easily de-linked and stand a better chance of being approved at Town Meeting and BOTH proposals could move forward in some form.
I think it is important to acknowledge a little history here. People in Montague did not object to the original proposal for 16-18 units. During the long hot summer, the prolonged water pipe project aimed directly at the school caused some to believe that other developers might have come forward had they known that the water service was to be improved and the town would pick up the bill. In the fall the developer said he needed 22 units for financial viability. I, for one, wonder why he didn't know that when he submitted his proposal. When the abutters sued over a variance that would allow him to squeeze 22 units into the building by reducing the size of some units, the Town turned around and proposed a zoning change for all the villages. There are people who want to make sure that zoning changes are done in a mindful way and not just as an accommodation for one project. People have been listening and paying attention to this developing issue, and I think it's important to acknowledge that the ground keeps shifting.
Mike: "I believe the town planner is preparing answers to those very questions, among others. I'm ready to listen carefully to the answers and to try to consider them on their merits. Are you?"
Mark1: "I have no reason to depict myself as a fence sitter. It's like those absurd diner interviews on NPR during a presidential campaign. Is there really a defensible position in the middle? Of course not."
Mike: Okay, I'll just put that down as a "no".
In the discussions of the proposed MC School project, there have been a number of comments to the effect that town officials have not "listened to" or "heard" the concerns of the abutters or "the community". I believe that listening and hearing are two-way operations, and abutters and "community members" who have no interest in opinions that are different from their own are as much a part of the problem as town officials (if they exist) who have no interest in public input.
Sitting up here on the mountain watching the dare I say battle, I have come to two conclusions. #1 the school should have NEVER closed and #2 you folks in Montague Center DO NOT LIKE ANY CHANGE to the status quo. Look at the polling place change. I would bet the farm that if the change was in ANY other of the villages there word be NOT ONE word against it. The old NIMBY.............Course I'd probably P&M if it were to be built next to me. It's called human nature. I know my old dude is going to vote against the change at the Town Meeting...
I have no reason to depict myself as a fence sitter. It's like those absurd diner interviews on NPR during a presidential campaign. Is there really a defensible position in the middle? Of course not.
As for this regulation change, there is no way the Town Planner or anyone else can convince me (and a significant number of other Montague residents, as far as I can tell) that this rule change is a good idea.
It is irrevocably tainted with the stink of the Montague Center School boondoggle and has no prior precedent in either recent public planning proposals or the town's master plan.
I'm not going to pretend to consider the town's post hoc rationalizations and I urge every other Montague resident and TM member to do the same.
Thanks for your perspective, Doug! As usual, you've made a useful contribution to the discussion.
I'm afraid you may be right that it may have become impossible to consider this proposed zoning change without both participants and bystanders looking at it as a referendum on the proposed MC School project. In my mind, that would be a good reason to hold off until that project is resolved.