Sunday, April 8, 2018

Why not a new Adult Community Center in Longmeadow?

The article was submitted to the Longmeadow Buzz blog by Marybeth Bergeron, a Longmeadow town resident....

I will start by saying I am an elder resident of Longmeadow, and this article IS biased.

Longmeadow will  be voting once again for a new Adult Center in Longmeadow at the Town Meeting on May 8th.   At two past town meetings,  the voters rejected proposals for a new center ONLY  because they did not support the location, and certainly not because the voters did not recognize  and support the needs of our older residents.   In fact, last May the voters overwhelming supported a warrant article to fund architectural fees to build a new Adult Center at Greenwood Park in the amount of $250,000.00.  The voters recognized the current facility was not only inadequate to meet the existing needs of our elder residents, but also recognized the large demographic shift taking place not only in Longmeadow but across the country.  As of this writing we have 4,509 residents over the age of 60, and 2602  residents between the ages or 50-60.  Today elder residents represent close to one third of our town’s population, and in ten years could be close to  forty-five percent.    I think all of us agree that we  need to address the needs of this population.

The existing senior center is located in an elementary school at Greenwood Park.  Constructing a new senior center at Greenwood would provide much needed additional space,  implement appropriate ADA regulations, provide privacy for the town nurse, Veteran’s agent, director, and social services co-ordinator.  The new center could accommodate the growing elder population.  It has been shown when a new center is built by a city or town, the daily attendance doubles. 

Many people believe that the building is functional.  In fact the building is not only NOT functional for elders use, but is unsafe and does not meet basic ADA requirements, with 15-20% of the users having disability issues.  Clearly it is not functional for elder use.  The facility lacks privacy for counseling, no reception area, hallways are too long, poor lighting, lack of adequate recreation space, lack of meeting spaces, poor heating , and  no central air conditioning.

It is true that the proposed new Adult Community Center building that has been designed by Catlin-Petrovik Architects  is perfect.  It meets all of the existing and future needs of our elders.  John Catlin  is THE leading architect for senior centers with both breadth and depth of knowledge of what our elders need in a facility.   The design also includes a new gymnasium with a cantilevered running track which would provide wonderful space for sports activities of all ages throughout the year.  Additionally two outdoor pickleball courts are included in the cost of the  new center.   The gymnasium would be available everyone.   Basketball , volleyball, the high school track team, as well as  pickle ball could all enjoy this gymnasium.  Even teams like soccer and lacrosse could exercise and practice in there during the winter months.  It should be pointed out that when the most recent proposal for Bliss Park was being considered, a gymnasium was included in that plan as well.  This gymnasium would be used more hours by the under 60 population since it would be available till ten in the evening, and on weekends, scheduled by Parks and Rec Department. 

It has been said that the town of Longmeadow has the highest tax rate at  $24.31 per mil, in the state.  It should also be noted that other small towns, like Shutesbury, Greenfield, Wilbraham, Adams,  Amherst and Pelham are also in the top ten.   This is very typical in western Ma towns due to the lack of industrial and commercial properties.  It should be noted that when arranged by actual residential property tax bills, Longmeadow ($7,977) ranks  43rd in the state.  In fact discussion of our tax rate has no bearing on either our Moody’s rating, or the limitations our Select Board have established  to make every effort to abide by Prop 2-1/2.

Out of the operating budget of the town, this year the existing senior center will be allocated a yearly budget of $156,000.  Clearly, there exists no parity between the expenditures for our other residents and what is spent on services for our elders, and yet our seniors bear the brunt of the costs for the schools and operating budgets of other departments. 

The passage of this warrant article, will in fact necessitate a debt override.   The cost of this new, much needed facility would cost $.48/M on your tax bill.  This is a good breakdown:

If your home is assessed at:
$200,000 – The increase would be  $96.00/year or  $24.00 per quarterly tax bill
$300,000 – The increase would be $144.00 per year, or  $36.00 per quarterly tax bill
$400,000 – The increase would be  $192.00 per year or  $48.00 per  quarterly tax bill

The initial breakdown between the cost of the new Adult Center was  $9.6 million, and the cost for the new gymnasium $4.3 million.

According to the prior architect, the Turner Park/Dietz Greenwood  proposals were to be $8.3 - $9.4. without a  gymnasium.   Assuming even a 7% construction cost increase which is conservative, we are well within the numbers previously discussed.  If the town continues to delay this project the costs could increase significantly more as  there is no doubt that commercial construction  industry is enjoying a significant rebound over the past few years.

I will add  that are other senior centers like those in Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield, Agawam, Natick, Wellesley  that will all “out gleam” our center,with  Falmouth and Scituate also in the construction process right now.  That being said, at no time was the architect instructed, at least to my knowledge, to design a building that would be dull,  cheap and boring.  I cannot imagine either the Town Manger or Select Board giving this directive.    It will be a beautiful addition to our town facilities meeting the needs not only of our elder residents, but also town wide citizens interested in participating  at an in- door sports  facility.  I will additionally add that there are no “extra’s built in to this Catlin plan as it relates to the Adult Center.    In fact, there are room areas that smaller than originally designed, and one room was actually eliminated.  The  multi purpose room was made smaller, all to keep the project at a reasonable cost, while at the same time giving the rest of the town’s residents something that is very much needed by our youth and younger adults.

The Longmeadow Building Committee unanimously recommended this project to the Longmeadow Select Board.

In conclusion, at our last three town meetings our residents were very vocal that they are willing to support a new adult  center at Greenwood Park.  

On May 8th, we will have the opportunity to vote this through to the June ballot.  Please show up and vote in favor of this facility that will met the needs of our elder residents both now and in the future.  It is simply time.

Marybeth Bergeron
Longmeadow Town Resident

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A new Senior Center for Longmeadow? The choice before us.

This article was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Andrew Lam, M.D. who is an author, retinal surgeon, and member of the Longmeadow Finance Committee.

An important article slated for the upcoming Town Meeting will consider the construction of a new $14 million Senior Center in Longmeadow. The purpose of this letter is not to advocate for or against this measure, but to share information that might help townspeople better understand the pros and cons of the proposal. All that follows was carefully considered at a recent meeting of the Finance Committee.

First, some background. The current senior center is located at Greenwood Park, in a former elementary school that was built in 1964. The building is outdated but functional. The benefits of a new center would include: increased space, a more inviting layout and reception area, and an improved office design that would offer greater privacy for staff and citizens, particularly when discussing social services. Two years ago, an article to consider construction of a new center at Turner Park was rejected at town meeting. Last year, a similar effort to place it at Bliss Park was also defeated. The current article now proposes the new center remain in Greenwood Park, next to the current Senior Center facility, which would also remain and be used in some yet-to-be-determined function by the town.

The most significant development is the addition of a full-size gymnasium to the
plan, which would be attached to the new senior center. This gym represents $5 million of
the $14 million cost. Greenwood Park’s pool and playground would remain. Two tennis
courts would be removed to help make space for a new, 141-spot parking lot. To pass, this
article requires a 2/3 majority vote at town meeting. Thereafter, as a result of the article
being contingent on a Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion,  it would still require approval by
town vote at the ballot box.

From a financial standpoint, Longmeadow’s main concern is that we are fast-approaching the state’s maximum allowed property tax “mil” rate of $25 per $1000 of home value. At our current trajectory, we expect to reach this maximum tax rate in approximately five years. Once we do we will no longer be able to increase taxes further and cuts to town services and schools will be unavoidable. However, it should be noted that approving a $14 million Senior Center would not bring us closer to the cap because these funds would be borrowed and termed a “debt exclusion.” Hence, it would increase our taxes but not actually bring us closer the looming $25 fiscal cliff. Incidentally, Longmeadow has had the highest residential tax rate in the state for the last four years in a row. To help forestall reaching the cap, the Finance Committee, Select Board and School Committee are unified in recommending a FY2019 budget that reflects a 2.3% tax increase (not the maximum 2.5%), and it would certainly be prudent to further decrease the tax rate in the years to come.

Let me next share some important considerations in favor of this project. There are 4,509 seniors (age > 60) in Longmeadow. That is almost 30% of the town’s population. Out of a $66.5 million budget, only $150k is spent on Senior Center programs, including social services, veterans affairs and the food bank. Out of every dollar spent by the town, seventy five cents goes to the schools (when building maintenance, transportation, debt, pension and health care costs are all factored in). Seniors pay property taxes but do not burden the school system. If a senior moves away, a family with young children may buy his or her home and the town would then bear the cost of educating those children. Therefore, promoting a happy and thriving senior community has not only a very positive social impact, but also a positive fiscal impact on our town. And it is probably not inaccurate to say that the amount of money devoted to the schools versus seniors is inequitable and has been for a very long time.

Clearly, the current Senior Center is not particularly attractive and a gleaming new Senior Center would be a gem Longmeadow would be proud of. There is always great demand for gym space and the gymnasium could be used by people of all ages, and even rented at times to generate some revenue. If the middle schools are later combined into onenew school, there will be a net loss of one gym in town. Finally, if history is any guide, construction costs tend to rise so that building this in the future is likely to cost more than it does today.

Conversely, there are many reasons why one might oppose approving this article. Two years ago, this project was originally presented to the Finance Committee as expected to cost $6-8 million. That figure has almost doubled, primarily due to the addition of the gymnasium. The current proposal is to build a gorgeous new facility with many nice, but possibly unnecessary, amenities such as a glass-walled gymnasium with a raised, second floor running track around its perimeter, and a stage that opens to both an indoor multipurpose room on one side and an outdoor seating area on the other. The size of the facility (24,200 sq ft) not only increases its construction costs but also will increase the costto maintain it over time.

Some townspeople feel we should make do with our current Senior Center, and consider this project more of a “want” than a “need”. Others may support a new Senior Center, but not at this price; they would prefer a more modest proposal, and an obvious option would be to eliminate the $5 million gym, which could always be added on at a future date if desired. Unfortunately, the only way townspeople will be offered a less expensive option will be if they reject this article and wait for that more modest proposal tobe presented at the next town meeting. Finally, this project would be more attractive if there was a clear commitment to private fundraising that would meet a meaningful portion of the cost.

It is important to understand how this proposal, the already-approved $21.2 million DPW project, and a possible future $40 million Middle School will impact our property taxes. For the average home in town which is valued at about $350k and currently pays approximately $8,500 in taxes each year, the DPW, Senior Center, and middle school projects are projected to result in the following increases, respectively, at the outset of each project: $242, $210, $606 (in sum, about a 12% increase above current taxes). It should also be noted that 25% of the cost of the DPW project will be borne by increased water and sewer fees.
The Finance Committee recently weighed all the above factors and voted 3-2 in favor of the Senior Center article. This vote probably illustrates how hotly the merits and costs of  this project will be debated in town over the next few weeks, as they should be. Shall we construct this building to benefit our deserving seniors who have given much to our town and continue to pay steep taxes while receiving disproportionately less benefit? To what degree is a new Senior Center a want or a need? Should we build a gleaming, new building that is second-to-none, or aim for something more modest that is less expensive but still far better than the current facility? Or should we just make do with what we have, and not embark on another expensive building project at this time?

The answers are up to all of us to decide as a town. Please attend town meeting on May 8th and help make this important decision.

Andrew Lam, M.D. is an author, retinal surgeon, and member of the Longmeadow Finance

Thursday, March 29, 2018

New Longmeadow Senior Center

The Longmeadow Annual Town Meeting is scheduled to take place on May 8 at 7 PM in the Longmeadow High School Gymnasium.

One of the key article on the warrant is the approval of $14 million for the construction of a new Senior Center at Greenwood Park.  Below is Article #14 for this proposal.

To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $14,000,000.00, or a greater or lesser sum, for the purposes of constructing and furnishing a new Council on Aging Facility and that, to meet said appropriation, the Treasurer is authorized to borrow said sum of money and provided further that any appropriation hereunder shall be subject to and contingent upon an affirmative vote of the Town to exempt the amounts required for the payment of interest and principal on said borrowing from the limitations on taxes imposed by M.G.L. Chapter 59, Section 21C (Proposition 2 1⁄2).

The article would appropriate $14,000,000.00 for the construction and furnishing of a new Council on Aging Facility. This approval is contingent on a subsequent affirmative vote of a Debt exclusion vote by the voters of the Town of Longmeadow.
Two-thirds vote required.

A new Senior Center has been a long time coming.  The current Greenwood Park Center initiated operations as a Senior Center in 1982- 35 years ago when the Greenwood Park Elementary School was closed.

Here are some of the schematics and renderings for this new facility at Greenwood Park as proposed by Catlin-Petrovick ArchitectsClick here to view complete package of information.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Selectman Richard Foster provides his prospective....

Last Wednesday night I tried something different. Instead of sitting in the conference room at the High School listening to speaker after speaker solicit supporters of their views, I drifted to a point of five hundred feet above the room and concentrated more on the actions of the group instead of what was actually being stated. It was officially a Planning Board Public Hearing on the rezoning request for the Brewer-Young Estate (aka Mansion), but it was also a rehearsal for our upcoming Special Town Meeting on the rezoning issue. On one side of the issue was the emotional “Save Our Green” group and on the other side was a more logic driven group, “Save the Mansion”. The Save the Mansion group had a “plan” and the Save Our Green group offered emotional responses to justify their position.

Every person at this meeting has shared an equal opportunity in the past years for stepping forward with a plan that would have preserved the appearance of the Mansion, and yet, only one group of individuals displayed the vision and financial backing to do more than provide “lip service” to the preservation of the Mansion. The Mansion has been in decline for years, and now, when we finally have a group willing to take a chance on its preservation, the “nay-sayers” are coming out of the woodwork spreading every type of rumor possible in hopes that something will stick.

Where was this group when solutions to the preservation of the Mansion were being sought over the years? Ironically, the Save the Green folks could have formed a LLC years ago combined with a robust fund-raising effort and possibly purchased the Mansion from this grass roots effort. But instead, everyone has quietly stood by as the Mansion has declined. The Save Our Green group now has a vision, but that vision is narrowly focused on only stopping the Save the Mansion movement.

Unlike the Save the Mansion group, the Save Our Green group offers no solution or plans. In a final movement of defiance against the Save the Mansion group the Save Our Green group has resorted to smearing the activities of our Town Manager suggesting unethical behavior. This is just one more smoke screen designed the draw our attention away from the fact that they really don’t have a plan other than opposition. I believe everyone did an excellent job expressing their views in support of their positions, but my preference will always be to drift more favorably towards programmatic planning efforts instead of emotionally driven decision making.

In the case at hand, it appears that the Planning Board had similar thoughts in approving the Save the Mansion proposal setting the stage for approval at our Special Town Meeting which will be held on January 25, 2018. As viewed by many, this is a very important step forward for our community.
Please plan on attending our Town Meeting to support your position on the rezoning issue.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A letter from the Young family on the fate of the Brewer-Young Mansion

This is a letter to the residents of Longmeadow written by Todd and Tyler Young:
Young Family thoughts regarding the Brewer-Young Mansion
[Click image to enlarge]

When our family gets together, we often reminisce about the wonderful experiences we had over the years at 734 Longmeadow Street.  As young kids, playing hide-and-seek... as teenagers, celebrating the holidays with friends… as adults, hosting a party or welcoming a newborn to the family… the property is a bottomless well of memories.

Perhaps that is why it was so difficult for us to sell the property back in 1989.  The moments, the history, the sentimentality of it all.

But if we said that is primarily why it was so challenging to sell the property, we would be lying.  The reality is that there was another aspect in owning and selling an approximately 11,000 square foot home that is over 100 years old.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves in this story.  Let’s back up a little.

When our matriarch of the family business, Mary Ida Young, purchased the property in 1922 to use as her personal residence, she initially employed a large staff of caretakers, landscapers, an arborist, maids, and a cook to help run the property.  If you look at some of the archived black & white photos of the interior and the grounds from that period, you get a sense of the attention to detail and the sheer scale involved.

In fact, care of this very large home with its sizable carriage house and adjoining horse stables, as well as the detached greenhouses, fountains, rose garden, horse track, and over 30 acres of architected land became a 24/7 responsibility for Mary Ida.  Subsequently, some of her staff lived on the premises full time, both within the servants’ quarters of the main house as well as in the rear carriage house.

Although Mary Ida decided to name the property “Meadowview Farms”, our family eventually used a more informal nickname when referring to the main house itself… it simply became “the big house”.  Thinking back, we can’t recall a single instance of anyone in our family referring to the property as “the mansion”, “the Young mansion”, “the Brewer-Young estate” or any other mix of formalities.  That was too much outside our comfort zone.

Over the decades, the overall size of the property diminished.  In 1959, numerous acres were lost to the construction of Interstate 91.  In 1977, the carriage house, adjoining stables, and a few surrounding acres was parceled off to create an additional residence for the family.

Likewise, the size of Mary Ida’s staff diminished over the years, especially after her passing in 1960.  By the 1980s, her grandson and president of the family business, Wilbur Young III, relied upon local contractors to maintain the property.  Members of the family also took on some of the work around the property, which we honestly relished at times.  Especially when it involved putting around on the tractor, or being rewarded with mouth-watering burgers from renowned White Hut.

Yet even with reductions in the property’s size and overhead, annual expenditures including maintenance, utilities, insurance, and taxes exceeded $50,000 during the 1980s.  And this was without any mortgage, or any major expenditures such as the much-needed replacement of the knob-and-tube electrical wiring that continues to deteriorate to this very day.

Upon the sudden passing of Wilbur Young in 1987, we were faced with the difficult decision to put the main house and surrounding land up for sale.  What we suspected and validated over the following two years, was that no one was seriously interested in purchasing this very large and very old house as their personal residence.  Keep in mind this was during a time when the local economy was very strong, and the structure itself was in much better condition than it is today. 

After considerable reductions in our initial asking price, we finally sold the property to a pair of investors at the end of 1989.  These investors intended to re-purpose the house for non-residential use, while simultaneously parceling off most of the land in the rear to develop single family homes.  Upon the inability for the new owners to receive approval for a change of use of the main house property, they eventually were forced to re-list it for residential use.  This began an ongoing cadence of re-listings, ownership changes, price reductions, foreclosure, eviction, and ultimately, neglect.

Whenever the main house was put back up for sale over those many years, friends occasionally would ask us purely out of curiosity if anyone in the family wished to buy the house back.  As much as we all love the big house, in all sincerity, the usual response was “Not even for a dollar”.  

Yes, the house was our family home for over five generations, and we miss it dearly.  And from the community’s perspective, it is a distinctive landmark that has significant historical and architectural value.  But the other reality is that this aging edifice and its surrounding grounds is an extraordinary financial burden for anyone who owns it.  To think otherwise would be foolish.

In light of recent conversations happening within the community, we’d like to impart you with five relevant beliefs based on our experience of owning, maintaining, and selling this unique property:
  1. When considering the lack of any offers over the last seven years to purchase the house for residential use, combined with extensive restoration costs and annual maintenance costs, we believe the likelihood of someone purchasing the house for residential use is “less than zero” and is a non-starter.
  2. When considering the various use cases (bed & breakfast, condominiums, etc.) and related market & financial analysis the current owners have undertaken, our family honestly believes that the proposal of re-zoning this property for professional office space is the most realistic and best use of this uncommon structure.
  3. Based on our own knowledge of the structure, we believe the current owners have a solid understanding of the work required to properly renovate it. Equally important, we trust that the current owners are operating in good faith when it comes to trying to preserve the aesthetics of this historical landmark.
  4. As many residents have witnessed firsthand, Longmeadow moves at its own speed and with a great amount of deliberation when it comes to re-zoning a property.  For example, public discussion related to the re-zoning of this very property commenced in 1990, and yet over all these years, nothing has changed.  Hence, we do not subscribe to a fear or uncertainty that this single change will introduce a rapid or gradual wave of re-zoning elsewhere around the Green.
  5. Outside of a viable re-purposing and renovation, we sincerely believe demolition of this prominent building is a certainty once it is officially deemed uninhabitable -- or a catastrophic event such as a partial structural collapse or fire occurs -- whichever comes next.
We can only hope that people vote “yes” on January 25, so that future generations can experience this distinctive town landmark for another 100 years and create some new memories.  Ultimately, this is for you, the residents of Longmeadow, to decide.

Todd and Tyler Young
The last Young family members to reside in what is currently referred to as the Brewer-Young estate.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Longmeadow Residents Urged to Save the Mansion

This letter to the editor was submitted by Marie Angelides, a member of the Longmeadow Select Board for posting on the LongmeadowBuzz blog.

On Thursday, Jan. 25 there will be a Special Town Meeting in Longmeadow.  The residents will be making an important decision regarding the Town Green. The discussion is framed by the following issues: should we preserve the Town Green for primarily residential properties or should we preserve the historic Young mansion by converting part of the property for commercial usage. Only the residents of Longmeadow can only make this decision. The boards and committees and employees have done their work in bringing the issue to the legislative body, the Town Meeting. Only the citizens of Longmeadow have the power to make this change.

The residents of Longmeadow must decide what best represents the character of the town: the preservation of the Young mansion or its destruction. One thing is clear, the cost of maintenance and renovation has proven too much for a single homeowner. This has led to the severe deterioration of the structure resulting in a blight in the middle of Longmeadow.

Longmeadow has a rich history. When we lose part of our history we lose an important part of our identity. As a town, we have shown a dedication to investing in maintaining our historic documents, architecture and landscapes. The Young mansion is an important part of our historic architecture. I urge you to take a tour of the Young mansion to see what we will lose.

With the acceptance of this project comes a responsibility to preserve the historic residential character of the Green and the safety of our pedestrians and bikers. Our boards, committees, and staff will work diligently to plan for traffic safety as required, as Longmeadow is a "Complete Streets" community. As a community, we should also review the long-range plan for the Green with the Historic District Commission, Historic Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission and Longmeadow Historic Society to establish policies that recommit ourselves to the preservation and care of our Green and historic district.

Voting "YES" on Thursday, Jan. 25 will be the first step in preserving the Green and the architectural history of our town.

Please come out on Thursday, January 25 at 7 PM at Longmeadow High School and help with this crucial decision.

Marie Angelides, Longmeadow

Monday, January 8, 2018

Eight Reasons “Save-Our-Green” is opposed to The Re-Zoning of the Brewer-Young Home

This blog post was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Jeffrey Wint, a resident of Longmeadow, MA at 930 Longmeadow Street.
  1. Rezoning sets a Terrible Precedent.  This is the first step in the Town Manager’s plan to implement a commercial Overlay Zone on up to 37 homes on Route 5 from the Springfield line to the Connecticut border.  (The Town Manager has gone so far as to ask Town Counsel if Route 5 can be commercialized “one house at a time” (information obtained through Freedom of Information Act Request)).  Rezoning the largest and most visible home first would make it very difficult to prevent others from following suit.
  2. Re-Zoning Is No Guaranty.  Re-zoning applies to LAND, not structures. If the property is re-zoned the investors are under no legal obligation to preserve the home.  While the value of the land would increase dramatically, the investors (or some future owner) can still demolish the home.
  3. We have enough Professional/Office Space.  Zone changes are meant to address a perceived need of the community. Longmeadow presently has well over 20,000 square feet of office space for rent.  Another 54,000 square feet of medical office space is being built along the East Longmeadow/ Longmeadow border.  We don’t need more office space anywhere in town… least of all in the middle of a residential zone on our lovely Town Green.
  4. Parking.   The investors’ plan shows 26 on-site parking spaces.  Office Use under the Town By-Laws requires a minimum of 36 on-site parking spaces. If the Town were to impose the same parking requirements they did for the development of the 54,000 square foot medical office facility being built along the Longmeadow/East Longmeadow border approximately 80 on-site parking spaces would be required. Inadequate on-site parking will result in the taxpayer subsidized use of the Town parking in front of the Community House and the Library to the detriment of residents seeking to use those facilities.
  5. There Are Other Options.  Rezoning from residential to commercial is certainly the most profitable option for the investors but not the only option.  The investors bought the home in an eight day bidding war for $470,200.00, almost $30,000.00 more than the asking price.  (Per Multiple Listing Service home listed July 15 for $444,200.00, and went under contract July 23 for $470,200.00.)  This bidding war confirms intense interest in the property once it was finally priced to reflect its condition.
  6. Public Safety.  Rezoning will dramatically increase traffic and require a substantial curb cut very near the already dangerous intersection of Williams and Longmeadow Streets.  A Professional Office will generate far more traffic than any residential use.   Couple this increased traffic with inadequate on-site parking (drivers looking for parking at the Community House and the Library) and you have created a very dangerous environment for the many Center School and Montessori students, bikers and pedestrians in the area.
  7. Spot Zoning.  Spot Zoning, defined as the process of singling out a small parcel of land for a use which is totally different from the surrounding area for the benefit of the property owner and to the detriment of surrounding owners, IS NOT LEGAL in Massachusetts.  We believe the investors are asking the residents to consider something which is simply against the law.
  8. We love our Green “AS IS”.  It is UNIQUE.  Our Town is primarily a residential community with a few small pockets of commercial space located in carefully selected areas.  This is not unintentional. Starting in the 1850’s our predecessors commenced the process of removing all the businesses from the Town Green as well as up and down Longmeadow Street so that by the 1890’s the only business remaining on the Green was the general store, which is now The Spa On The Green.  This represents the earliest example of community planning and landscape restoration in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Longmeadow’s Long Range Plan describes the Town Green as “a living museum”  to be maintained “as is”.  Bringing  commercial businesses back into the Historic District is directly contrary to this plan.
For more details, checkout our Save Our Green Facebook page.
to RE-zoning at the special meeting on January 25, 2018

Jeffrey Wint/ 930 Longmeadow Street

Thursday, December 28, 2017

History of the Town Green- Part II

Figure 1- Aerial View of Longmeadow Town Green
[click image to enlarge]
Opponents of the restoration efforts by the Longmeadow Historic Preservation Partners would have you believe that the proposed project to re-purpose the Brewer-Young mansion at 734 Longmeadow Street- built in 1885 would violate the trust given to town residents by Longmeadow's founding fathers.  However, nothing could be further from the truth. 

As Part I of this series has shown, it was the businesses located ON the Town Green that were removed prior 1831.  The land on the Green had been leased to shop keepers and when their leases expired, they were required to remove the shops from the Green.  According to an 1831 map of Longmeadow there were no business shops located ON the Green.

There were NO concerns expressed at the time about businesses such as the Cooley Store- now the Dr. Brooks/ Spa-on-the-Green (built in 1802) that were located AROUND the perimeter of the Green.

It is interesting to take a look back at the Green during the 20th century.  

It turns out that in 1894 after the split with East Longmeadow, Longmeadow leaders granted a franchise to the Springfield Street Railway to operate a trolley service from Springfield, MA to Enfield, CT with two sets of trolley tracks + electric power poles.  The path ran directly through the Green

See History of the Town Green- Part I for additional details, maps and photos.

It is interesting to study the Longmeadow Historic District during the 20th century and learn that there were at least 18 different businesses located in 8 different locations AROUND the Green (see figure 2 below).  Only two remain today- Dr. Brooks/Spa-on-the-Green and the Montessori International School. Remember... the Montessori School has been located for the past 20 years in the Old Parsonage that once stood at the location of the Longmeadow Community House.  This mid-19th century home was re-purposed from the First Church parsonage --> private residence --> private school (see additional information).
Figure 2- 20th Century Businesses on the Longmeadow Town Green[click image to enlarge]
One other point that should not be forgotten.  The Community House built in 1921 by the First Church of Christ for the Town of Longmeadow as a "community center" for all town residents was purchased by the Town in 1927.  In recent years the Town has utilized significant space in the basement of the building for conducting town business operations- quite different from the original intent of the building. You might say that a significant portion of the Community House was re-purposed.

WWI and WWII memorial monuments and a flag pole were added to the Green during the 20th century (see additional information).  It was only after the trolley tracks were removed by the Springfield Street Railway in 1940 that the commercial aspect on the Town Green returned to its mid-19th century appearance.

Question:  How does the restoration of the Brewer-Young mansion cause any effect on the so-called "pristine" nature of the Town Green?Answer: It doesn't.

Vote YES on January 25- Let's SAVE an iconic structure in our town.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

History of the Longmeadow Town Green- Part I

The Town Green has been the focal point of life in Longmeadow for a long time. This summary (Part I) looks at the changing landscape of the Town Green from the late 1700's to the early 20th century.

Proceedings at the Centennial Celebration of the Incorporation of the Town of Longmeadow (aka "The Centennial Book") was published in 1884 for the 100th anniversary celebration of the incorporation of Longmeadow in 1883.  It contains a wealth of information about the first hundred years including the history of the Green.  In addition, a review of the historic Longmeadow maps (1831, 1855, 1870, 1894, 1910 and 1920) of the Green provides some great insight as to its history.

Here are highlights of the early history of the Green through the early 20th century....
  • Prior to 1831 there were numerous shops on the Green as well as a School House and the Meeting House.  These shops were granted 40 year leases on the Green with the last lease starting in 1795.
  • The 1831 map shows only the School House and the Meeting House (--> Congregational Church) remaining on the Green.  There were no shops in 1831 since most of the leases had expired and town leaders decided to remove them from the Green.
  • The 1870 map shows only the Congregational Church and the weigh scale(?) for the Colton Store.  The School House located on the Green was destroyed by fire in 1852.
  • Two shops (marked sheds on the 1870 map)- the blacksmith and the wheelwright had been granted leases for a section of land west of the Olde Burying Yard but these shops were not removed when the leases expired.  The owners eventually achieved legal ownership (squatter's rights?) and the Parish was required to purchase the properties when the Congregational Church was moved from the Green to its current location.
  • In 1874 the Congregational Church was moved to its current location and at that time there were no visible structures on the Green.
  • In 1895- the Springfield Street Railway was granted a "franchise" to operate a trolley service from Springfield, MA to Enfield, CT along Longmeadow Street.  It is interesting to note that the original proposal on the 1894 map showed the trolley tracks + electric power poles/ lines avoiding intrusion onto the Green.  However the 1910 map shows the actual north/south trolley path being placed directly on the Green.
  • For 40 years (1895 - 1940) trolleys transversed the Green carrying Longmeadow residents and others to their destinations.

Here are some additional details....

The Centennial Book provides a great snapshot of the Green in the early days following the American Revolution.  Here are a few excerpts...

"THE BROAD AND BEAUTIFUL LONGMEADOW STREET has been at different times the subject of many votes, showing how narrow has been its escape from the most serious encroachments, urged in the interest of individuals, or even of the public itself.  It may surprise some to learn that the present central section of park-like sward was originally a long sand-drift, -similar to many now found in the wood-belt eastward, and that this was reclaimed and converted into its present verdure by a process of enrichment and cultivation extending over several years, carried on by a citizen (Capt. Calvin Burt), who was permitted for that purpose temporarily to enclose a long section of the street. The northern half of this same central section was also by town permission occupied for many years by a central series of shops, stores, and manufactories, under forty year leases, in the same way that the front portion of the Burying-Ground grant was permitted to be occupied by a blacksmith's and a wheelwright's shops."

"These last [blacksmith and wheelwright shops], unfortunately, by unchallenged occupancy for more than forty years, gained finally a title to the land itself which it cost the Parish several hundred dollars to extinguish when this corner was desired as a site for the remodeled Church edifice in 1874.  Fortunately the danger was earlier discovered in regard to the Main Street [Longmeadow Street] leases, and the removal of all those buildings was secured at the expiration of the lease-term- while a sentiment of jealous and loving care now exists which would make their renewal forever impossible."

The Town stopped granting 40 year leases to build shops in the street (Town Green) in 1795.  By 1831- because of expired and unrenewed leases, there were no shops remaining on the Green- only the School House and the Meeting House (see Figure 1 below).  The School House burned down in 1851.

The 1870 map in Figure 2 shows the sheds which are the blacksmith and wheelwright shops referred to in the above passage.  Because the blacksmith and wheelwright shops (west of the Olde Burying Yard) had been in place for greater than 40 years, the renters became owners (squatter's rights ?) and the Parish was required to purchase the land when the Congregational Church was moved from the Green to its current location in 1874.

By 1870 the only remaining structure on the Green was the Congregational Church which was moved to its current location in 1874 (see Figure 2).

Figure 1- 1831 Map of Longmeadow Town Green 
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Figure 2- 1870 Map of Longmeadow Town Green
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The Old Country Store built by Calvin Burt and Stephen Cooley in 1805 remains today as the Spa-on-the-Green/ Dr. Glen Brooks as the only commercial business on the perimeter of the Town Green.

Figure 3- Old Country Store[click image to enlarge]

Figure 4- 1894 Map of Longmeadow Town Green
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After the split of East and West Villages of Longmeadow on July 1, 1894, the Springfield Street Railway launched a commercial enterprise to provide trolley service from downtown Springfield to Enfield, CT.  The original layout of the trolley tracks shown in the 1894 map (see Figure 4) avoided use of the Town Green but the final implementation actually utilized a significant portion of the Town Green for the tracks and electric power poles/ wires (see Figure 5).  Trolley service was initiated in 1895 and the last trolley run was in 1940.
Figure 5 - 1894 Map of Longmeadow Town Green 
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Below is an Emerson photo- Figure 6 (courtesy of the Longmeadow Historical Society) showing the trolley tracks traversing the Town Green.
Figure 6 - Springfield Street Railway- Looking North on Town Green 
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 The next increment of this story is Town Green in the 20th Century- stay tuned!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Saving the Brewer-Young Mansion and Our First Open House

Longmeadow Historic Preservation Partners wish to share this letter with town residents about their plans to save the Brewer-Young Mansion....

Since we announced our plans to save the Brewer-Young Mansion by converting it to professional offices we’ve been gratified to hear from so many who support our plans. It’s wonderful to see how many recognize this structure as an important part of Longmeadow’s history. We look forward to welcoming everyone to see the interior of the building at our first open house on Saturday, November 18, from noon to 3pm.

[click image to enlarge]

Our plan for this property is based on the following factors.
  1. The mansion is too large and too costly to maintain for it to ever be a private residence again.
  2. The deterioration of this structure has reached a point that we must act soon if it is to be saved.
  3. The only long-term solution for this building will be for it to become self-sustaining.
The mansion was put on the market seven years ago and has had no interest from any residential buyers. Restoring it will cost more than $2 million and the annual cost of living there, according to a prior owner, was approximately $100k (including taxes, insurance, heat, electric, grounds maintenance and routine repairs).

If this historic building is going to be saved, it has to be now. We don’t have the luxury of waiting more years, hoping for a buyer to appear who can afford to spend $2-3 million on a home. We have all seen the mansion degrade to the point that it has become an eyesore and embarrassment to our town. The new columns put up by the bank look nice, but this is quite literally a façade because the rest of the structure has endured the same degree of degradation that caused those columns to collapse years ago. The shell of this building is rotting away before our eyes.

It is natural for any change to engender questions and concerns. Here are some important things to know.
  1. Re-zoning this property would be for professional office use only, not commercial. So it can never be a retail store, restaurant, industrial park, or anything else. It can only be offices.
  2. Re-zoning this property in exactly this manner was set forth in Longmeadow’s 2004 long-range plan which foresaw the need for large, costly homes on Longmeadow Street to one day be converted to professional offices in order to survive.
  3. The Longmeadow Historical Commission has unanimously endorsed our plan. This group of historically minded public servants has spent the last seven years studying this problem and searching for alternative solutions. They evaluated our plan, feel it is consistent with preserving the history of Longmeadow, and believe saving this landmark is beneficial to the historic district and the town of Longmeadow as a whole.
  4. The parking area will be set back from the street and almost completely shielded from view. The necessary parking will begin more than 100 feet from the street and the entry drive will be curved to limit the line of sight into this area. There is already an opaque hedge that runs across the front of the property and another layer of opaque landscaping around the parking area will further obscure it.
  5. The impact on traffic should be minimal. A traffic study is being completed, but we already know that the traffic generated currently by our primary tenant, Dr. Glen Brooks, at his current location four doors away from the mansion will now simply move to our location, on the same street, approximately equidistant from the same intersection.
  6. Fully restored, the mansion would generate about $50,000 in property taxes for the town. If the mansion were to be lost, the property would generate practically no taxes.
  7. The Longmeadow Historic District Commission (HDC) will forever protect the historic appearance of this structure. No future owner can change its appearance without approval from the HDC. If the mansion were to be struck by lightning and burn down, the design of any new building would also have to be approved by the HDC. Therefore, anything built at this location in the future would look historically appropriate.
  8. Professional offices are the only use that can generate enough stable income to restore and maintain this property long-term for our town. We have analyzed numerous other commercial uses. If we fail to be re-zoned we will not be coming back with another business idea (such as B&B, condos) because no other idea is fiscally viable given the mansion’s high restoration costs. In addition, with professional offices, much of the historic interior can be preserved and we hope to install a permanent exhibit that the public can come and enjoy that will highlight the history of the mansion and its importance to Longmeadow.
  9. There is no historical foundation or benefactor that will rescue this mansion. Members of the Historical Commission labored for years searching for such an entity, to no avail.
  10. Re-zoning this property does not mean it will suddenly be easier for other houses in town to be re-zoned. Any such properties would still have to go through the very arduous and robust process we are currently pursuing and could be blocked by multiple boards along the way and at town meeting. To suggest that re-zoning the Young Mansion would lead to the re-zoning of many other homes is to ignore the obvious uniqueness of this structure and this circumstance. There is simply no other home like it in town. Its size and prominence sets it apart from all the other buildings in the historic district. We can trust that future planning boards and town meetings will recognize this and realize that this action was necessary to save this irreplaceable structure on our green.
It’s true that our town will always have a penchant against re-zoning. The only reason why we are hopeful that our request will pass is because it is clear that this building is too large to be a single family home but too important to lose, both historically and architecturally. To be re-zoned, we need a 2/3 vote at a special town meeting (probably in early January), which is a tall order. We are definitely the underdogs. We will need everyone who cares about saving Longmeadow’s history to come out and vote.

We know that there are some opponents to our plan who would rather see the mansion demolished than be re-zoned for anything but residential. They sincerely believe it is better for Longmeadow if there are no changes at all with respect to the green. We respect their views, and we truly wish the mansion could simply be a family’s home in perpetuity, but we think it is obvious that this will not happen. Quite frankly, if the mansion is lost and an empty lot took its place, that in itself would be a significant change in the appearance of the green.

We feel it would benefit Longmeadow and the historic district to preserve this building so that it again looks grand and beautiful, while also serving the community in a useful way. The character of the green is comprised of the buildings that surround it. If we lose those buildings, we will lose that character, and it cannot be replaced.

It is important to remember that the green is not a museum like Sturbridge Village. Nor is it entirely residential. There’s already a business, school, library, church, and community house in the historic district. These institutions, even more than the houses, are what give the green its vitality because they bring people to it. The green is not static; it continues to change with time. In the past, there were several businesses in the historic district. Some even reverted back to residential homes, such as the “Old House on the Green,” which was a restaurant and B&B next to Center School at 797 Longmeadow St until the 1960s, or the house at 857 Longmeadow St, on the other side of Center School, which used to be a doctor’s office.

Please follow us on Facebook where our prior posts have addressed topics like why offices are the best use, why condos won’t work, and the parking area in more detail.

And we hope everyone will come to our open house on November 18 and see firsthand why this building is worth fighting to preserve.

Longmeadow Historic Preservation Partners
Chris Orszulak
Andrew Lam
Henry Clement