By Gregory T. Federspiel
Below are some of the more critical projects for the Town and the status of each.
Public Safety Dispatch: There was a healthy exchange of views as to whether we should bolster our in-house dispatching services or instead switch over to the North Shore Regional 911 Center at the July 19 Selectmen’s Meeting. The Board will host another forum in early September with the aim of making a final determination about which direction to take soon after. At the last forum, there were supporters on both “sides” of this debate, with some expressing a willingness to spend substantially more to provide similar coverage in-house to what the regional canter can offer. Additional analysis is underway including a presentation of the various scenarios in table format for quick comparisons.
Compost Facility: Our current vendor for providing curbside pick-up and processing of organic waste, Black Earth Composting, was the successful bidder for our new facility to be located at the old landfill on Upper Pine Street. Work is underway negotiating the final terms of the multi-year, renewable contract with Black Earth for the construction and operation of the new facility. The goal is to have the contract in place by early September with construction work starting soon after. The new facility should be operational by next spring. The School Street site will then no longer be accepting new material. The School Street site will be under consideration as a possible new home of the DPW garage.
Re-write of Zoning By-law: A multi-year effort to complete a major update/recodification of our zoning continues to be a major focus for the Planning Board. The Board is working on a series of proposed changes that brings our by-law up to date with state laws and recent court cases as well as a reformatting of the by-laws to make them more user friendly. The Planning Board will complete their work soon and will hold public meetings to review the proposed changes. The goal is to have voters debate and approve a series of changes at a special Town Meeting slated for November 15th.
Limited Commercial District amendments: The Planning Board also has been working on options for amending the regulations governing development in the Limited Commercial District, an area of town to the north of Route 128. Rather then seek approval for a new 40R mixed use district, the Planning Board is pursuing various amendments to the existing zoning rules that will allow greater flexibility in what can be built. Various landowners within the District have expressed their desires to pursue new projects but zoning needs to be altered to allow the new uses to proceed. Again, the Planning Board will host public meetings on any proposed changes and voters will have the ultimate say either at a special or Annual Town Meeting,
Tuck’s Point Floats and Gangway: Fortunately, by going back out to bid and giving more time to complete the construction project, we will be able to move forward with installing a new system of pilings and floats off the Rotunda at Tuck’s Point within our original grant-funded budget. The floats will be situated further out to avoid bottoming out at low tide. A longer gangway off of the Rotunda will meet ADA requirements and will be much stronger than the old one which had to be condemned due to its weak structural integrity. The temporary shuttle dinghy will remain in place for the rest of this season. The new floats and gangway will be ready by next Memorial Day.
SLV’s 40B Application to MassHousing: We are awaiting word as to whether the State will issue a letter of project eligibility for the proposed apartment complex atop Shingle Hill. The Selectmen submitted a lengthy letter detailing numerous concerns about the project going forward. Included with the letter were comments from various other town boards. Our understanding is that MassHousing is working through the materials they received and will be making a determination in the coming weeks. If the project receives a letter of project eligibility, the applicant will submit plans to the ZBA to begin the comprehensive permitting process.
Manchester Housing Authority/Manchester Affordable Housing Trust Project: Meanwhile, an innovative approach to updating and expanding the affordable units the Housing Authority manages in town is progressing. The Selectmen will continue their discussion of possibly seeking voter approval for the concept of moving the DPW garage to the compost site on Upper School Street and allowing a housing project to be built on the Pleasant Street site as part of the larger effort to renovate existing Housing Authority units and build additional units at the Authority’s existing sites.
More details on these and other project can be found on the Town’s web site.