it use to be Monday holidays did not affect the trash pickup schedule. Has this changed? Did not see anything on the town website about shift in trash pickup except the recycling pdf has Saturday colored in for this week which it normally doesn't.
One approach is to ask around for a neighbor with infrequent use of car late at night and arrange ongoing off-street parking, but commit to moving on-street by 7:00 AM or so. Landlord may offer ideas. Meet occasional short-term needs by arranging pull-in to a driveway of co-operative neighbor from 11:00 PM - 7:00 AM on selected nights to enable plowing overnight. In any case, w/need to move by 11:00 PM but restrictions stop at 7:00 AM. Final authority is town website http://www.montague-.../MontagueMA_DPW/snow, or Public Works phone 863-2054, but I believe default is parking be off-street. DPW is reasonable, but Police and Public Works have final say.
BTW, welcome to Montague and you have chosen a good town to live in. The Crossroads of the World is Ave A and Third St., but close behind are Bridge & Rte 63 in Millers Falls and Main & North St in Montague Center.
I am a new resident of Turners Falls and I only have street parking available in my rental agreement. I want to know how to handle parking in the winter months -- and I am also looking for off-street parking Nov-April. Can someone advise? Thank you!
Today June 10, 2015 Transportation Justice meets at the BrickHouse community Resource center on Third Street. Meeting is 3:30 to 4:30 and is actively recruiting new members .
Transportation Justice was formed by local riders and concerned citizens for the general discussion and the bettering of Public Transportation in Franklin County Ma. Discussion to be of the nature to influence the improvement and expansion of Public Transportation in Franklin County.
Agenda will include a search for new members and leadership.
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.
"Your position is _not_ 'neither for nor against.' By presenting the issue of infill development and higher density as a fait accompli, essentially saying, 'it's gonna happen anyway,' you're aligning yourself with the proposed change."
Please, that's nonsense. Believing that population density will increase in village centers and supporting any particular zoning change are two different things. Maybe you can't tell them apart, but I can.
"So following your logic, if it's gonna happen anyway, why try to fight it? Might as well drop the unit size significantly."
Again, _not my logic_. Yours, maybe, but not mine.
"This town doesn't need town meeting members pretending to be 'neither for nor against.' It needs town meeting members willing to ask the tough questions: Why is the town proposing changing a town-wide zoning regulation in response to one issue that's preventing redevelopment of a town owned property? How is this change justified and not just an attempt at spot zoning in favor of one developer?"
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?
Watched 1:13 to 1:20, and now I've got my Alex Jones fix for the year, thanks!
"We use the truth, they use lies." I enjoy the dirt on the CFR, UN, TPP, Bilderbergers, etc., etc., but it is not so clear to me that Peak Oil and Global Climate Change are complete hoaxes. The mere existence of an evil, scheming elite does not imply it.
Given that some, perhaps a majority of us who have studied the matter, sincerely believe the world faces an energy and environmental crisis, should you not focus on disabusing us of this notion? To get the ball rolling, I will assume anything you like about the elite's motives.
I was one of those planners who worked on the master plan way back when. There were many reasons for encouraging denser, in-fill development in the various village centers. Among them were the availability of basic infrastructure such as water and sewer connections that supported the greater population density and a desire to create a critical mass that would encourage more local businesses that depended on a certain amount of (foot)traffic to be viable. The idea was, that over time, all the village centers would be able to be self-supporting to whatever extent possible and a focus for a fuller community life that moved beyond bedroom commuter islands that turned into ghost towns during the day. There was also a recognition way back before it was the “in” thing, that open spaces and local agriculture were assets that once lost were gone for all future generations and must be preserved and promoted.
The master plan process included a number of meetings in each village where we presented our ideas, listened to the community, re-crafted our proposals and then went back into the community and had a reality check. This was ground-up community development and democracy in action driven by a committed group of citizen volunteers. As for Montague Center, using guidance provided by the master plan the zoning was changed pro-actively to allow neighborhood business along the main street and adaptive re-use of the number of barn structures that opened up possibilities to grow local commerce in service to the community. Prior to that, if the mini- mart had closed the pre-existing zoning would not have allowed a new store to takes its place. Can you imagine having to drive to Turners Falls or Sunderland to get a gallon of milk? How about a place to pick up a bite to eat, your hair cut, your car serviced etc?
As for the current proposal, I don’t think the real question is whether denser development in the village centers makes sense, it’s more a question of how dense is dense enough and what is the goal of that development? I believe that more and affordable housing is needed in the center both for younger people who wish to plant roots here as well as older folks who do not want to be uprooted as they age and their needs and finances change. I believe that looking at the proposal in terms of how it can promote a more energetic, cross generational, and engaged community and how it reflects our shared values offers the most potential for moving the scene forward positively.
Finally, I am troubled by the perception the planning board opened themselves up to by only starting the process of looking at minimum dwelling sizes after a specific project had been proposed and roundly rejected by the abutters. A coincidence or not, there are times that perception truly does become reality. I strongly urge the planning board to withdraw their proposal at town meeting and create a forum that involves greater community outreach and involvement and moves beyond a discussion of square footage to one that encourages a clear statement of values and a vision of what the village centers could look like 10 or twenty years down the road. In my estimation, we are rapidly moving to a time when access to local, sustainable goods and services as well as the scial connections of between people of all ages, races, incomes etc will be a part of a healthy life and as in the natural world, diversity brings resilience.
Your position is _not_ "neither for nor against." By presenting the issue of infill development and higher density as a fait accompli, essentially saying, "it's gonna happen anyway," you're aligning yourself with the proposed change.
So following your logic, if it's gonna happen anyway, why try to fight it? Might as well drop the unit size significantly.
This town doesn't need town meeting members pretending to be "neither for nor against." It needs town meeting members willing to ask the tough questions:
Why is the town proposing changing a town-wide zoning regulation in response to one issue that's preventing redevelopment of a town owned property? How is this change justified and not just an attempt at spot zoning in favor of one developer?
I warned you all about Agenda 21 over the years and now it is here pushing this project forward against the will of the People. I told you so! Other states and towns have written laws and regulations against Agenda 21 because it is tyrannical. This developer has all the ties to federal funding (stolen tax money) all the other green developers use across the country. Cui bono this developers cash flow into other projects completed and you will see.... I TOLD YOU SO!! Wednesday (3-20-13) Rosa Koire explained the scam on you again. Wake up folks! I care about you, but you cant see tyranny if it was kicking in your door! The big gun buildup by The People is not because of hunting.... The green dictatorship is the big reason...
At an hour thirteen the interview explaining what is happening here begins.
Clark - you're certainly more familiar with the history of the plan than I am, (and to repeat, I am NOT defending "bee hive" development), but whatever the intent of the planners was, IMHO it stands to reason: if you're going to encourage new housing in village centers and not along the corridors (which I believe is what the plan did -- can we agree on that?), then the effect over time (assuming population growth) is going to be to increase population density in village centers.
That's all I was saying. And that simple statement argues neither for nor against a 22-unit apartment complex in the MC School.
I really think the "Long Range Plan" is being mis -interpreted , at least as I remember my past particiption in it.
I believe the "intent" was to maintain the "five" 5 villages as the "centers" of the "most" dense areas , but NOT to INCREASE the denisty of any given village .
There was ALWAYS an expressed concern of allowing or encouraging "bee hive" types of deveopment. !!! Clark
"You're trying to use this plan as a critique of those opposed to this change."
No, I wasn't -- I was responding to Montocentrist's statement that "Lowering the min apt size will allow, in various cases, an increase in neighborhood density all over Montague" by pointing out that increasing neighborhood density in the "villages" is part of Montague's current plan for the future. I tried to be very careful NOT to take a position on this particular proposal.
"do you think it is a good idea to change a town-wide regulation with wide ranging impacts in order to help the town offload ONE surplus property?"
In my opinion, there would have to be a better reason for changing the by-law than the one you describe.
Not to straddle the fence but I think both Mike and Mark1 are right.
As Mike argues, the Master Plan creates a strong argument for the Montague Center project: increased density in village centers as opposed to new construction destroying woods and fields. Also, one would assume, use of an existing building rather than new construction. There are also good environmental arguments for reducing the minimum square footage: smaller apartments that use less energy are being advocated in progressive planning.
The problem is, as Mark 1 points out, neither the Master Plan nor the actions of town government (in particular the Planning Board) raised the issue of reducing the minimum footage prior to this particular project. So it does not seem like a planning decision, just a decision to move the goal posts to get this particular project through. In the context of all the other stuff that has happened with this building - the rejection of the Horace Mann proposal after moving the goal posts on that, potential violations of state law re procurement, community input appearing to be ignored, a ZBA decision that seems to ignore the criteria for variances.... this really does not seem like thoughtful "planning."
(The rhetoric that implies that the town is trying to unload a building at all costs to benefit a money-hungry developer will probably not fly at town meeting.)
Does the master plan call for a reduction in minimum square footage in order to achieve the desired "neighborhood density"? My guess is not, or this would have come up a long time ago. You're trying to use this plan as a critique of those opposed to this change.
There are plenty of ways to create infill housing and higher density without going buns-up for a developer who wants to maximize cash flow.
I ask you as a town meeting member: do you think it is a good idea to change a town-wide regulation with wide ranging impacts in order to help the town offload ONE surplus property?
"Lowering the min apt size will allow, in various cases, an increase in neighborhood density all over Montague."
Without expressing an opinion on either the proposed MC School development or the proposed zoning bylaw change, it should be remembered that Montague has had for several years a Master Plan that calls for "an increase in neighborhood density all over Montague".
Specifically, it endorses the idea of "village centers" linked by "corridors",with the idea that housing should be encouraged in village centers but not along corridors (where scenic open space such as farmland should be encouraged).
If you assume that more people are going to want to live in Montague, it seems worth asking where they're going to live. The master plan says, increase density in places that are already pretty dense; do not destroy valuable farmland and wreck scenic areas by putting a driveway every 150 feet along, say, Turners Falls Road. And if you're going to try to increase density and at the same time keep housing "affordable" (which is a euphemism for "cheap", since rich people do not have an "affordability" problem ;-)), then arguably allowing smaller housing units is a viable option.
The master plan was put together by people who were both intelligent and committed to trying to formulate a good vision for a future Montague. That doesn't mean it's perfect, but it does exist, and it is taken seriously by people in town government (e.g. the planning board) -- because why shouldn't it be? What's the point of having a master plan that everyone ignores?
So, unless someone comes up with a new master plan, increased density in the village centers is likely to be part of our future. I'm not sure trying to argue that that's a bad thing is going to get you very far ....
"That's true, and in the actual RFP, it was framed very carefully that the minimum unit size of each apartment should be "at least 900 sq ft" in order to be sensitive to the character of the neighborhood."
This is a strong argument if true. You can not put out an RFP and then essentially throw something as important as this out the window once the contract is awarded. I would urge you to get your ducks in order before town meeting to prove what you are saying, with the appropriate RFP docs and quotes.
I doubt some of the other comments will be very helpful. For example the ZBA request for a variance as some sort of "bluff" by the developer who is just trying to gain excessive profit does not seem very well supported. Critics continue to completely ignore some very positive aspects to this project and in fact some of the good reasons why the 700 foot minimum may be a bad idea. These things will resonate with the majority at town meeting I suspect
Not only were there seven hours of ZBA hearings on the school but also there were a number of hearings in Montague Center that produced the RFP that led to the proposal.
That's true, and in the actual RFP, it was framed very carefully that the minimum unit size of each apartment should be "at least 900 sq ft" in order to be sensitive to the character of the neighborhood.
The ZBA, however, was eager to scrap minimum apt size to accommodate the developer's bluff. In doing so, they not only violated the intent of the RFP (and invalidated the community input that went into it) they also violated the law. Hence, the corrective appeal of the variance decision.
With everyone safely betting that that decision will likely be won by the abutters, the Planning Board now rushes to scrap the entire law! It seems 'Development' is the new idol to be worshiped, in pursuit of tax revenues over quality of life and the protections of existing zoning.
Lowering the min apt size will allow, in various cases, an increase in neighborhood density all over Montague. So, if you are currently enjoying your neighbors in that 2 unit apt next door, then having that turn into a 3 or 4 unit building should just bring more joy.
And instead of the approx 11-15 units consciously envisioned by the RFP, Montague Center will see an unprecedented 22+ unit apartment complex with 33+ bedrooms & parking for 50 cars, including the loss of some of the community ball-field park that the developer has already requested from the town for his tenants parking use and is likely to be granted.
The developer's own proposal submitted in response to the RFP, outlines only 16-18 units that will quickly pay off his construction debt, yield over $80K in profit and equity in the first year & would soon begin to yield over $200,000 in profit per year for him. Does anyone really believe he needs MORE than that? I guess the town boards do, as they yielded to him permission to develop 22+ units, with up to 10 of them below the legal minimum size. All of this in fixed disregard of any citizens' calls to mitigate neighborhood impact by reasonable (and legal) limits on density.
I hope the town meeting members see through this & vote no on the zoning change, if only in the interest of protecting their own neighborhoods.
I'm not fully online and can't read the volume of threads here, but as someone who lived in a Housing Authority property that was considered a SRO, (not even a studio) I don't think changing the square footage bylaw is a good idea.
I'm not aligning the proposed developer with the corrupt Housing Authority, Board of Health or Housing Court. But I am saying I've had numerous problems with an established "developer", who was already "granted an exception". There's NO shortage of housing in Montague, but there is a shortage of affordable housing in the Center and quality housing in Downtown.
I didn't attend the zoning meeting, does anyone know if there is an MCTV video? ( I don't know who said it, but I completely agree that many Town departments don't have what is supposed to be "public information" listed at all online, let alone any updates being on time!)
I agree with Mike but it would be nice if we could learn something from this whole experience and improve the process moving forward.
Unfortunately what is happening right now seems to continue in the same direction. We now have an article apparently coming before town meeting to reduce the minimum square footage in the bylaw from 700 feet to 500 feet. In theory I am inclined to support this, although my mind is definitely not made up. I believe they also will propose to allow square footage under 500 feet by special permit, which is of course a lower bar than a variance. I have questions about this unless it is clear what the standard for the special permit is.
The problem is, in the context of the history of this building and the proposed project, this article will definitely be interpreted by many in the community as an effort to shove the project down the community's throat. Honestly you can hardly blame people for feeling that way and for thinking that the article is specifically designed for this project.
With all due respect to our town planner and the planning board, that really is not "planning," which is supposed to be making decisions for the long term not incremental decisions based on the needs of specific projects.
".... if people cannot vote, then at least they want to feel heard."
Yes, absolutely, and IMHO they should. As I tried to say in my earlier post, if there is a problem here (and I'm relying on what I've heard and read, since I was not there), it's that the people who showed up to oppose the project did (do) not feel that they were heard. From what I've heard, the ZBA did little or nothing to acknowledge the points of view that were expressed, and if that's true then it seems like a mistake. I want to be cautious because I _don't_ know all the facts, and I have occasionally run into people who don't feel that they've been heard until everyone around them agrees with them, but I have no reason to think that might have happened here.
First, I don't know anyone who has suggested that there is corruption!
I want to also clarify that I do understand how the system works, for better or worse, and don't expect all issues to be voted on Town-wide. I was expressing frustration about the way the ZBA handled the situation which in my view made the public hearing process irrelevant and further that I think democracy demands reasonable discussion of the issues. If we all can't vote then at least we can expect careful consideration of issue that are important to the community.
I guess we can argue over the meaning of democracy for ever, but if people cannot vote, then at least they want to feel heard.
I think there are good arguments for this project, although personally I think it is too big. Reasonable people can disagree, to use a cliche, and it is best to try to keep the debate on that level. I do not think there is the level of corruption or undemocratic behavior that some of my neighbors seem to feel exists in town government. There have been some unfair attacks on the developer and some very good, environmentally progressive aspects of this proposal are being ignored by the Montague Center community. I am not convinced the project will turn Montague Center into some sort of student ghetto.
But most of my neighbors concerned about the issue seem to disagree with me. The problem is, zoning and especially planning decisions place a huge emphasis on public/community input. Not only were there seven hours of ZBA hearings on the school but also there were a number of hearings in Montague Center that produced the RFP that led to the proposal.
So while it is not necessarily a question of democracy per se - that is how many people show up to a hearing or even putting the decision up to some sort of vote - when you place this much emphasis on public input and then proceed to go against the overwhelming majority of people that show up to participate without giving evidence that their participation had some impact... well it seems to me you have a pretty big problem.
This on top of the fact that a proposal for a school that had much local support was thrown out by the school committee which seemed to violate its own criteria. It does not build a lot of trust.
I agree with Jeff that if there is a problem (and I have not followed this issue directly, so I'm relying on second-hand reports), it's not that the ZBA didn't agree with those who opposed the variance but that they didn't clearly explain why they didn't agree. I agree that members of the public need to be heard, and agree or disagree I think it behooves a board to provide some evidence that they heard and understood what the public was saying.
If that was not done in this case, that I would think that's a problem. I do NOT think it's necessarily a problem that a five-member board disagrees with a roomful of people, no matter how big the room. Unless the plan is to submit every zoning variance (or other similar decision) to a referendum of the entire town, then simply pointing to the number of people who signed a petition or attended a meeting is meaningless. [NB: their opinions are not meaningless, but the fact that they outnumber the board _is_. They may be outnumbered by all the people who didn't attend the meeting -- in this case, they clearly are -- and there's no way to know what they think without a general vote of the town. So comparing the number of petitioners to the number of ZBA members is a red herring, IMHO.]
The question i think depends on what we mean by democracy - is a decision by five appointed members of the ZBA or Planning Board democratic when there are many more opposed? In the case of the ZBA there was a petition with at least 150 signatures opposing the variance. In the case of the Planning Board there were not as many attendees at the Public Hearing but I think that was in part because we all know essentially what the Planning Board would recommend, a change in the Zoning By-Law that will allow the Montague Center School project to continue unabated. Maybe this is the only way that our system can operate but democracy at least demands serious thought and consideration of the issues at hand. As you state, this was clearly not the case. One would hope at the local level, serious consideration can be given to the legitimate concerns of those who had taken the time to attend these public hearings.
We will see if Town Meeting can have a serious discussion of the proposed change to the zoning by-law as it applies to the whole Town. I actually think this is too complicated for debate on the floor of Town Meeting and should be referred back for more study on the part of the Planning Board.
But Roy, one question is, what happens when the board does not agree with the opinions of those who are attending the meetings? Are they absolutely required to vote in accordance with the opinions of people who attend the hearings for this to be a democracy? What happens if the majority of elected town meeting members disagree with the residents of Montague Center re changing the law on variance?
You seem to be arguing that unless the various boards vote in accordance with the impassioned majority in Montague Center, then the system is not democratic. I'm not convinced. I totally agree with you that the way this process was conducted created the impression that no one "listened" to what was being said. There was no evidence that the Planning Board or the ZBA heard or seriously considered anything that was said. In fact, the entire process created exactly the opposite impression: that board members had essentially made up their minds in advance.
But to me that is not a problem of democracy but rather a problem of this whole process industry that has grown up since the 1960s. "Listening" consists of sitting there and smiling (or frowning) while "stakeholders" (God save us from this jargon) talk and then going ahead and doing what you were going to do anyway. It's not democracy that is the problem. It is the professional process industry and the notion of public "hearings."
On the school committee they have "public participation" time. People get up at the start of the meeting and talk (guided by a whole page of rules in the policies manual). Committee members smile, nod and say nothing. Then an hour later the topic comes up on the agenda and committee members talk about the issue again, often as if no one has said anything. Give me town meeting where there is old fashioned debate and discussion.
I just read Chris Sawyer-Laucanno's OP-ED piece in the Montague Reporter and though he is correct about the lackluster participation in Town Meeting, democracy does not end there. All citizens have to have some faith that there voices will be heard if democracy is to flourish. The Montague Center School issue becomes a prime example of how citizens can and have become discouraged with a failed democratic process. A five-member board (Zoning Board of Appeals) basically ignored the opinion of about 150 individuals and in many minds overstepped their authority in approving a variance for the residential development. Another five-member board ignored the views of the majority who attended the Planning Board hearing and will ask the Select Board to change the the Zoning By-Law so that this development project can continue unabated.
In addition, when agenda's and minutes are not posted on the website in a timely manner it becomes almost impossible for citizens to know what is going on.
So yes it is important that Montague citizens participate in Town Meeting, but it is also important
that boards, committees, and Town officials keep others informed and respect their opinion.
So the final decision was a minimum of five members, a maximum of seven and a quorum will be a majority of members? If so this sounds reasonable, although not sure why it needs a maximum.
And I agree with John that Fin Com meetings have generally been very open to public input and discussion. Board members do their homework and are respected by town meeting members. I served on the board for about seven years and learned a tremendous amount about local finance. Honestly speaking it was one of the best experiences of my life.
I know budgets and spreadsheets are not everyone's thing but I do hope more people would consider joining the committee. We live in a world in which it is very hard to have input and influence on the policies that impact us. You actually get to have that experience when you serve on the Finance Committee.
Just one pretty big example.. the Combined Sewer Overflow project of a few years ago. You may laugh but the Fin Com supported the debt exclusion and now the amount of junk we pour into the Connecticut River has been massively reduced. On the other hand I supported several Proposition 2.5 overrides and the voters knocked them down. Fair enough and you learn something from that too!
I am reading the thread on this Fin Com membership issue and am not clear what the final decision was.
I also wonder why the discussion took so long and was so complicated to be honest. (Although an hour is not that long for an issue like this I suppose) You can torture over different permutations and combinations of people forever but at some point common sense would tell me you go down to a lower odd number that we have generally been able to achieve in the past and see if it works. That pretty much means five or three minimum in my mind, take your pick, and use the normal definition of quorum. I say five. The problem with three is that no one can talk to anyone else ever due to the SOML.
You learn something new every day. I always thought a quorum was defined as a majority of the committee period but now it appears that the SOML allows a different number if "provided in a general or special law, executive order or other authorizing provision." Why?
Sawmill River Restoration
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Montague Public Safety Complex
180 Turnpike Road
Turners Falls, MA 01376
Please join us for a public meeting regarding the proposed design and methods to restore a portion of the Sawmill River in Montague that will help reduce erosion and sediment loads, improve water quality and habitat for fish and other wildlife.
For more information please contact Deborah Shriver, Franklin Conservation District: 413-665-8142
No, I was referring to Mark2, based on what Mike N wrote: "with posting your wishlist on this corkboard being probably about a zero and going to the meetings, learning about the requirements and restrictions, and trying to find a good balance among competing interests rating a solid ten"
No offense but opinions are like you-know-what, everyone's got one.
A while back there was a lively discussion on this board about the fate of the MC school. Without wanting to revisit that, I read with interest recently that the sole responder to the RFP has appeared before the Planning Board and asked for a number of things, involving parking, space for solar panels, and infrastructure improvements. The Planning Board also has its own concerns. Negotiations are very much ongoing, and nothing is set in stone yet.
All of which is to say that anyone who is interested in what happens to the MC school still has a chance to weigh in. There's a good chance you can help shape the nature of whatever actually happens there and/or influence whether this developer's plan falls through or not.
As usual, your success in this effort will likely be proportional to the amount of effort you're willing to put into it (with posting your wishlist on this corkboard being probably about a zero and going to the meetings, learning about the requirements and restrictions, and trying to find a good balance among competing interests rating a solid ten) :-). But for anyone who's interested, here's your chance -- don't on the sidelines now and then complain down the road ... ;-)
Hello. My name is Michelle. I just moved to Leverett/Montague area and I'm very interested in child care. I have lots of experience with children. I'm 21 years old, trustworthy, fun loving,and I like to help out. Some of my interests include, organic gardening, vegetarian cooking, hiking, meditation, etc. I am hoping to start working as soon as possible. Please contact me if you or someone you know is interested and we can discuss more details. References available.
I am looking for someone to repair an antique table.
Small round table used in the church sanctuary. One leg is broken off,
pedestal split and the top not level. MIght not even be worth repairing but
hoping someone is willing to try!
Please contact me: 367-2812
The debate over this was rather shrill at Town Meeting, but it's a difficult question for the town (hence, I presume, the need to do a study).
The two biggest issues, as I see it, are that we are better off dealing with our own waste but the treatment plant is about as far as you could travel from Millers Falls without leaving town. If the costs over time are in any way close (including whatever offset to the Erving improvement bill would result), then we should probably bite the bullet and build the infrastructure now. It won't get easier in time, and it most likely won't get cheaper. But if we are going to have to take on massive debt, way above and beyond what is negotiated for the Erving contract, then it's probably not something we can afford at this time.
Really, you guys. How hard is it to get down to the Town Hall to pick up a dog license? We all have to buy dog food, take them to the vet's etc. A once a year visit to the Town Hall is not a bad thing. The process is really fast; compared to a 40 pound bag of dog food, it's really cheap; and the people in the town clerk's office are friendly and efficient (they have dogs too). There are even dedicated parking spaces within 30 feet of the Town Hall front door. I got licenses for Trixie and Pudge in under ten minutes, though it did take a while for me to find their rabies certificates. Apparently my vet is not yet turning us in electronically or otherwise and I don't really think it's a piece of "privacy" that I'd sweat about maintaining anyway. Let's worry about the big stuff.............
Also, let's go a little lightly on the "gestapo" thing. I know some people who have real gestapo stories and they don't have anything to do with Montague police, dog officers, or town officers reminding people that it's a dog owner's responsibility to buy a license.
I like your way of thinking. In this electronic world it would seem the vets could fax or email all documents to the town. And the town could tack on the fee to our property taxes, they have no problem taxing me for my business tools and
computers office equipment etc, all of which I already paid taxes on. But no that would be too hard to figure out. Greg, I have all my shots:)
$5 per dog for a town tax collector to simply look at a vaccine paper and file it. Multiply that times all dogs in town. Wow, that's a lot of cash. I know this official already collects a salary from us tax payers so why then does she still need more money to do her job that she is already paid for of checking rabies papers? If they wanted to take this seriously then they wouldn't have laid off the dog officer and spread his salary to other town officials. Besides the fact that the town threatens its tax payers with Gestapo tactics to collect they also offer no services for pet owners. No dog officer, no dog park, no rabies vaccines. It's simply another tax that funds their salaries more. It's a conflict of interest. Once again I want to make the point that I feel all pet owners should be responsible. My pups are like our children in the house. I have no problem in paying the vet (whom by the way now reports ownership of animals to your town) for my pups vaccines. I do have a problem with them reporting ownership without my consent and if they can do that then why can't they also show proof of vaccine? We could eliminate the need for the town official who briefly glances at the certificate. Just have our veterinarian do it when they report us to the town. I have a privacy issue with the vet too now in case you couldn't tell.
I've heard so many stories about the "non highlights" of police duty. However they are the ones choosing their careers. If I was apposed to protecting freedom then I wouldn't have joined and served in the military. If they don't agree with the town using their duty to "protect and serve" as a Gestapo tax collection agency I would choose another career. That's based on morals though.
"After I changed my shorts I drove as fast as I could through red lights over side walks through people yards to get there before they closed for their big 4 day week, I'm still shaking just talking about it"
Mark2 your sarcasm is always enjoyable.
Why do you think the town charges $10 for a dog fee? To ensure that all dogs have been properly vaccinated for rabies. Towns have to take this responsibility seriously. If a dog owner was "too busy" to get the annual vaccination and their pet strays onto Mark2's property and bites him or some other rabid animal. The dog runs a real chance of contracting rabies and spreading it further.
The fee is one way of insuring that each pet is inoculated and that the cost of that monitoring gets paid for. As far as the police involvement I don't think its a real highlight of their job either.
Disregard the Mark2 reference...I'm sure he has had his shots ;)
Scares the hell out of me too. That's why I want to get a discussion going about it. More people should utilize what could be a very powerful tool. This town blogging site. I always wonder what the silent majority really thinks. I know they don't vote. It would be nice to get everyone's opinion though. Who has the time though right?
I have a message on my answering machine of the town collector's office telling me that if she wasn't paid by the end of this week that the police would come collect the fee money plus the delinquent fine. However I don't know if it's only scare tactic or if the town would actually send the Gestapo to collect. It's wrong enough for me to take the time and try to reach out to other citizens to see how they would feel and time is in short supply. I know growing up in RI we were never threatened with police for not licensing our pets.
Greg I got the dreaded call last year About my 2 dogs. I was told to come in and pay the fine or the police would "deal" with it. After I changed my shorts I drove as fast as I could through red lights over side walks through people yards to get there before they closed for their big 4 day week, I'm still shaking just talking about it
Thank you for your response. I appreciate it.
I did have my girlfriend go in on her day off and pay the dog license fee and as stated, I have no problems with that. My problem is the threat of using the local police as a collection agency when the same money is what pays their salaries. It's a conflict of interest. Plus the money goes into a "General Fund" which does nothing for local pet owners.
I think using the police as scare tatic becUse someone did not license fluffy is a little much. I should hope the police have better things to do like rid downtown turners of gangs, drugs, illegal immigrants, etc etc.
I totally agree that people should be responsible pet owners and file the paperwork with the town. That said, having the police come to your residence to make inquiries and/or collect the money reminds me of Mark's line, "Show me your papers!"
I like to think that residents of the town and the town officials are working as partners. Having the police come to your house for the above-named purposes (if they do indeed do that) doesn't support a good working relationship, in my opinion.
"I don't like our town police officers being used to come to people's homes for the purpose of collecting pet license fees. Sounds super sketchy to me. " Where are you papers!!!!! The town needs money and they want yours. It's only going to get worse so hold on to your wallet