Fall Town Meeting this Saturday
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Manchester residents are urged to attend a fall Town Meeting this Saturday, 1:00PM at the High School. Voters should enter through the doors nearest the cafeteria for check in then proceed to the gymnasium. Once the gym’s capacity is met additional attendees will sit in the auditorium. The two rooms will be connected by audio/visual equipment. Please remember to wear a mask.
8 articles area on the warrant. Four of them relate to zoning. Two of these are being advanced by the Planning Board as part of their initial work to re-format and streamline the Town’s zoning regulations. Two citizen petition articles are slated to be passed over per the request of the petitioners. These four were described in my article last week and can be found on the Town’s web site.
The other four articles address the possible relocation of Chebacco Road in Hamilton that involves Town of Manchester land, the design of a new proposed athletic field at the location of the old burn dump on Pine Street across from Moses Hill Road, the purchase of a replacement boat for the Harbormaster along with some additional repair funds, and a non-binding vote regarding the conversion of the existing DPW facility on Pleasant street to housing as part of a larger effort to rehabilitate and expand affordable housing owned by the Housing Authority at Newport Park, the Plains, and Loading Place Road.
The Town of Hamilton has proposed moving the portion of Chebacco Road that passes along the banks of Gravely Pond, Manchester’s water supply reservoir, further away from the pond. Hamilton wants to provide a paved road that better serves the existing homes in the area. A paved road further away from the banks of Gravely Pond improves our water quality be reducing the amount of sedimentation that washes into the reservoir. The stretch of Chebacco Road that is in Manchester (the very end of Upper Pine Street) will remain a gravel road. Two existing road easements that Hamilton currently has will be abandoned and returned to conservation purposes while a new easement is created for the newly relocated road. The result is about an acre of land newly conserved. Because the parcel is under a conservation restriction any changes in use also must be approved by the State. Part of the vote includes authorizing the Selectmen to pursue this approval under Article 97 of the State’s constitution.
Some concerns have been raised about the permitting processes undertaken to date by Hamilton. If it turns out that there were some glitches, then a new permitting process may need to take place, but these permits can come after general town approval of the relocation. Concerns have also been raised about the road facilitating additional development in Hamilton. Most of the land along Chebacco Road is either already developed or conserved land. A 50-unit development proposal at the corner of Essex Street and Chebacco Road is in the early stages of review, at the opposite end of Chebacco Road from the Manchester town line.
The Parks and Recreation Committee seeks funds to advance the design of a new multi-purpose athletic field at the old burn dump location along Pine Street. Use of this parcel for a play field was the top ranked choice in a survey done during the master planning process. Field space has been at a premium for years in town and this additional field can help provide much needed practice and game space. It also will be very helpful to have the new field if Sweeney Park undergoes renovation. Funding for the design work and cost estimation development is proposed to come from the Community Preservation Fund ($46,100) and the other $46,100 from the Town’s Free cash (fund balance) account. There is some concern that there may be other Town needs that could be provided at this site.
Voters are being asked to approve $120,000 from the waterways account (mooring fees, etc.) to purchase a replacement boat for the harbormaster as well additional repair funds. The old Eastern has structural issues that are beyond cost effective repair and given the long lead time for new boats, this vote is needed now.
Lastly, Article 6 is a “straw-vote” aimed at gaining a sense of voter willingness to support converting the current DPW site on Pleasant Street to housing. The Manchester Housing Authority and the Manchester Affordable Housing Trust have been working for the past few years on a way to renovate and expand the affordable housing the MHA offers at Newport Park, The Plains, and Loading Place Road. These State-owned facilities are significantly under-capitalized and suffer from a back-log of needed upgrades. Through a new private/public partnership where-by market rate housing helps subsidize renovating and expanding affordable units, it may be possible to put the MHA units on a much more sustainable footing.
Here again there are concerns about what other uses are being precluded at the DPW site if we go down this path and to be sure there are many details yet to be worked out. Again, in a survey as part of the Master Plan, housing ranked high as a desirable use for the DPW property and ranked high again in a more targeted survey to the neighborhood just recently. Both the MHA and the MAHT feel that before too much more energy is devoted to the many details that will be needed to determine whether the project is viable, they would like to know what level of support the concept has.
These articles are being brought forth to the voters in order to help decide what actions going forward should be taken. As always, voters have choices to make. Let’s debate the merits of the choices before us in the time-honored tradition of Town Meeting and be guided by the votes taken.