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 fa├žade 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.

Sincerely,
Longmeadow Historic Preservation Partners
 
Chris Orszulak
Andrew Lam
Henry Clement

Monday, October 30, 2017

Longmeadow's Long Range Plan Anticipated Brewer-Young Project

About 17 years ago the Town of Longmeadow sponsored an intensive study of long range issues facing the town.  The report issued in 2004 highlighted and recommended the possible need at some time in the future to allow selected conversion (repurposing) of large historic homes on Longmeadow Street to professional office use.

[click to enlarge]

Here is some background information about this study...

In May 2000 a task force of 14 people- including both town residents and elected officials was formed to study long range issues facing Longmeadow.  There was $60K of funding to hire consulting companies Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. of Watertown, MA and RKG Associates, Inc. of Durham, NH.  The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission of Springfield, MA also played a key role in this study.

A public forum held at Bay Path College in February 2001 which I as well as many other town residents (120+) attended in order to provide inputs to be considered by the task force.

After almost four years and many hundreds of hours of effort a 116 page report: Longmeadow Faces the Future: The Longmeadow Long Range Plan (click link to view full report) was issued in April 2004.

One of the issues studied and detailed in the report was Housing.
Here are some details developed by the task force and the professional consultants.

Longmeadow Street Overlay Zone
"In the future, if large houses on Longmeadow Street no longer prove desirable for single family residences, and either do not sell as residences or begin to fall into disrepair, the Town may wish to consider an overlay zone with strict design guidelines to permit some homes to be converted into professional offices, bed and breakfasts, or condominiums. Creative site and design review would preserve the historic character of the area."

"The third strategy considered for this analysis was to allow certain properties on Longmeadow Street to transition from single family residential to office or mixed-use over time. There are many stately and historic homes located along this corridor, and there is strong support in the community to preserve the historic character of Longmeadow Street. There is also no evidence at this time to indicate that these homes have become too expensive to maintain as single-family residences. Property values on Longmeadow Street are high and the corridor remains a desirable residential location."

"It is not the Town’s preference to change Longmeadow Street into a commercial corridor. However, offering property owners the flexibility to locate office uses within larger homes on adequately sized lots may be necessary in the future, if the cost to own and maintain these residences continues to escalate. The consultant team proposes that the Town consider allowing some commercial uses along the corridor, in strictly controlled cases, within larger structures and on lots with sufficient area to accommodate off-street parking." 

"There was a recognition by the group that most houses on Longmeadow Street were either too small in size or lacked sufficient land to be consider for a home conversion to professional offices." 


[click image to enlarge]

It is interesting, possibly only coincidental, but the above diagram showing a potential home conversion to professional office points to 734 Longmeadow Street- the Brewer-Young mansion.  

Figure 7 (see below) from the Long Range Plan report shows a possible conversion of this property with suitable landscaping and necessary to maintain the look from Longmeadow Street.  

This design is very much in keeping with a similar design proposal being offered by the Longmeadow Historic Partners, LLC group.
 [click image to enlarge]


The plan outlined by the Longmeadow Historic Partners to preserve the 132 year historic Wolcott-Brewer-Young mansion and repurpose it to professional office use is in keeping with the recommendations as outlined in the Longmeadow Long Range plan issued in 2004.

Let's allow the property at 734 Longmeadow Street to be rezoned to Professional
and SAVE THE MANSION.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Fragility of Great Homes

This opinion column was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Alex Grant, a resident of Longmeadow and a former member of the Longmeadow Select Board.
____________________________________________

The Brewer Young mansion was the home of rich people, and the house, its outbuildings, and grounds had the trappings of grandeur from a bygone age.  The Town of Longmeadow will decide whether it will permit that mansion to be converted from residential to professional use, which is the only viable plan to save the deteriorating structure.  This residence of more than 10,000 square feet rests in the historic district on the green, and we must decide whether to hold fast to an abstract notion of historical purity, even if it means losing the mansion altogether.

The mansion was built in 1884 and had a succession of short-lived owners until Mary Ida Young, reaping the fruits of the Absorbine Jr. fortune, took hold of the property from 1922 to 1960.  It had its heyday during the Mary Ida era, boasting a large carriage house and a racetrack for horses that extended down toward the river.  The historical record shows that the mansion was the very picture of an extinct gilded age, of teas and dances and garden parties, a world of servants and footmen and gardeners, straight out of the Great Gatsby.

 [click to enlarge]

In recent years, the owners of the mansion have either had a lack of money or lack of willingness to maintain the place.  The racetrack is long gone.  The carriage house has been sold and converted to a residence, and the great house has been ravaged by time and neglect.  The peeling paint, evident for years, is just the most outward sign of decline as the house has suffered from more fundamental failings.  One of the great columns supporting the porch roof collapsed and had to be replaced with an unsightly wooden beam.  Water has leaked through the roof, destroying plaster and causing other damage.

The property has suffered many indignities, including foreclosure by the bank and occupancy by a renter who had to be evicted.  The house is probably close to being unsalvageable.  The days of orchids growing in the greenhouse, the pond stocked with koi fish, a menagerie of horses, peacocks, swans, pheasants, deer, and sheep residing on the expansive grounds are dim memories.  As one writer put it, Mary Ida Young is probably rolling over in her grave.

Into the breach has stepped a group of investors, willing to invest a king’s ransom to restore the mansion, but to make it into professional office space.  After all these years, not a soul has come forward with the funds and desire to live in the house in the grand tradition of Ms. Young.

There are some who want to keep the mansion a residence, as improbable as that option appears to be.  They want to keep the mansion just as it was.  To them, there is a psychic benefit in knowing that some wealthy tycoon is living in the property even if they themselves never set foot in the place.  

This attempt at historical purity shows a willful blindness to the lessons of history.  The train of human events is an unending pattern of fortunes made and fortunes lost.  Rising action and falling action.  Ascension and decline.  Periods of prosperity and periods of depression.  Empires rise to great heights, and they collapse.  Nothing is guaranteed, and nothing stays the same.

Great men and women can achieve immense wealth and power, they can hold the fates of multitudes in their hands, and yet they are as mortal as the rest of us.  When they die, they cannot take their fortunes with them, and they cannot control the upkeep of their properties.  Mary Ida Young may roll over her in her grave if she could see the desecration of her home, but that is all she can do.  Mansions, like any other house, require constant affirmative acts to maintain their splendor, and it is left to the living to choose whether to take those actions.

Time is not kind to great homes.  Monticello, the architectural marvel designed by Thomas Jefferson, fell into decay soon after his death.  His heirs lacked his aptitude to consistently secure loans he could not repay.  Mount Vernon, the house and estate owned by the great George Washington, nearly fell into ruin a few decades after he died.  It was left to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, a philanthropic group, to bring the property back from the brink of complete destruction.  Even today, those two estates depend on a steady stream of paying visitors to stay afloat.

It should be no surprise that a mansion in Longmeadow with a less impressive pedigree would decay over time.  The plan to restore the mansion and to achieve its original look, albeit with some interior modifications, is a remarkable gesture toward a property whose significance may be driven less by its impact on local history than by a fascination with the lives of the rich and famous.  For historical preservationists, this is as good a deal as the Brewer Young mansion will ever get.





Alex J. Grant is a lawyer living in Longmeadow. 
His email address is alex.grant68@yahoo.com.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

$50,000 is real money....

This article was sent to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Mark Gold, Member, Longmeadow Select Board for publication.
___________________________________________
 
To the Citizens of Longmeadow,

Thank you, Richard Foster, for correcting an error that could have cost the taxpayers of Longmeadow $50,000.  The issue is the purchase of a snow plow.  The story is complex.

I must preface this letter by noting that over my eight years as a member of the Longmeadow Select Board I have tried very hard not to extend select board differences beyond the discussions that are held during our meetings.  Although we may oppose one another during our meeting, sometimes quite vigorously, we pride ourselves on being able to “agree to disagree” and move on to the next topic, either at that meeting or the next.  Criticizing my fellow Board members in public is not healthy for the work of the Board, nor for the town.  The intent of this note is to thank Mr. Foster and to let the people in Longmeadow know that the system again worked, although it is clear to anyone who followed this story as it unfolded that not all town officials are singing from the same hymnal of “treat the town’s money as if it were your own.”

At its meeting on October 21st, the Longmeadow Select Board was asked to authorize that Article 5 be placed on the warrant for the Special town meeting that is being held on Tuesday, November 7th.  Article 5 seeks town approval for the purchase of a truck, plow, and sand spreader to replace the vehicle that was destroyed in the tragic accident that took the life of DPW employee Warren Cowles last winter.  The town manager proposed that the town appropriate from various funds, a total of $225,000 for the purchase of a replacement vehicle.  The “leftover”, but new, 2016 model vehicle was available immediately, and would assure that the DPW entered the 2017-18 snow-plowing season with a full complement of plows.  The requested vehicle was, by several thousand pounds and over 100 horsepower, larger than any that had previously been purchased by the town.  During the discussion on accepting this warrant article, Mr. Foster opposed its adoption on procedural grounds: the specifications had not been vetted through the town’s Capital Planning Committee and there had been no review of the vehicle with the fleet management study and plan that had been adopted by the Select Board several years ago.  I opposed the placement of this article on the Warrant because I felt the vehicle was too large and $50,000 more expensive than the purchase of an equivalent replacement.  The Town Manager and DPW Director argued that the timing and availability made the purchase of this vehicle essential to assure the proper care of town roads this coming winter.

On a vote of 2-2 (Ms. Angelides and Chairman Lachiusa voting for the measure, Mr. Low being absent) with Mr. Foster and me voting against the placement of this article on the warrant, Article 5 did not receive the majority vote needed to approve its placement on the warrant.  The Select Board proceeded to consider additional warrant articles.

More than 15 minutes after the vote was taken on Article 5, Town Manager Crane asked that the Board reconsider the vote on Article 5.  He noted his concern about the need for the plow and the importance of having the purchase of the plow approved at the November 7th meeting.  The chair accepted Mr. Crane’s request, and a motion to reconsider was approved.  During the reconsideration, an additional 20 minutes of discussion took place.  It was noted that the long lead time for most DPW vehicles was such that if the appropriation were delayed until the May, 2018 town meeting, it was likely that the town would be without a replacement snow plow for both the 2017-18 AND the 2018-19 winters, but by appropriating funds now, although we would be short one plow this winter, we would have the plow in time for the 2018-19 season.  My background as former chair of the Capital Planning Committee gave me the confidence to know what a snow plow should cost, and I was willing to approve the placement of a warrant article for $175,000 on the Special Fall Town meeting warrant as a way of assuring that the Town wasn’t short a plow for the next two winters.  Among the variations considered to get this article approved for placement in the Warrant was indeed to revise the appropriation from $225,000 to $175,000, with the intent of more closely examining the vehicle specifications prior to Town Meeting. 

That proposal was quashed, when the Town Moderator, who was serendipitously present during this discussion, made it clear that a $50,000 increase in the written appropriation request would not be in order, and the Town Manager wanted to retain the ability to authorize the higher amount.  I would not support the warrant for $225,000, believing that we were purchasing a vehicle that was too large, and too expensive for the town.  My ire was particularly piqued when it was noted that because over $60,000 of the appropriation was coming from the accident insurance settlement, the actual cost to the town was not $50,000 larger than in the past.  My comment that most homeowners who receive a $6,000 settlement when losing a $25,000 vehicle didn’t go out and buy a $31,000 replacement was
essentially answered with “well I did”.   When a vote was called, the reconsideration of Article 5 passed by a vote of 3-1, with me being the only dissenting vote.

Early the next morning Mr. Foster called me and noted that his personal review following the Select Board meeting identified that the truck that was being recommended for purchase through Article 5 was indeed too large – it was not in compliance with the DPW fleet study and was probably $50,000 more money than the town needed to spend.  Mr. Foster then took it upon himself, over the next two days, to work with the DPW staff to identify the properly sized replacement vehicle. 

On Wednesday, October 18th, Mr. Foster and I requested that a special meeting of the Select Board be called to change the dollar appropriation request in Article 5 on the Special Town Meeting Warrant.  That meeting was called for 5PM on Friday, October 20th.  Between Wednesday and Friday, the DPW found an appropriately sized truck, plow, and spreader assembly that was available for immediate delivery.  The cost of the appropriately sized 2018 model vehicle was $175,000 – precisely the $50,000 reduction that had been discussed at our Monday meeting. 

On Friday, October 20th, a special meeting of the Select Board was held to revise the wording of Article 5 of the November 7th Special Town Meeting warrant. By vote of 4-0 (Ms. Angelides was unable to attend at that time), the Select Board revised the article to ask that Town Meeting approve the purchase of a truck, plow and spreader assembly that reflects the reduced purchase of the properly sized vehicle for a total cost of $175,000. 

[click to view Warrant article]

Again, I write this story because I believe it is important for Longmeadow Town residents to know that the system does indeed work.  Mr. Foster’s diligence in examining the proposal, and his willingness to turn his realization that his vote was wrong into action, is worth noting.  The initial vote was taken during a regular, televised, Select Board meeting, and based on the communications I received, was noted by many.  This corrective action was taken in a special meeting not widely communicated to residents.

$50,000 is real money, and town residents need to know that although there may be those who would short-circuit the review and approval process in the name of expediency, there are others, like me and Mr. Foster who, in fact, spend the town’s money with the same care as they spend their own.  I have chosen to communicate this story, and thank Mr. Foster publicly in this manner, because I will be on a medical leave that will prevent me from thanking him at the next Select Board meeting or at Town Meeting, and I believe that Town Residents should know that the controversy and disagreement they heard in the televised October 16th meeting have been resolved.  It is in the town’s best interest to approve the revised Article 5 as it now appears on the Special Town Meeting warrant for November 5th.

Mark Gold
Member, Longmeadow Select Board

Monday, June 5, 2017

Vote YES for a New DPW Facility on Tuesday June 13

The following Letter to the Editor about the upcoming vote on the new DPW Facility was submitted to Longmeadow Buzz by Richard Foster, a member of the Longmeadow Select Board.
___________________________________

Longmeadow Residents,


On June 13, voters will be asked to fund a new DPW facility.  The replacement of our Department of Public Works (DPW) complex has been the most studied event in the history of our town. We have three different engineering studies and reports from three or four resident volunteer task forces who have evaluated this replacement. Without question, the current effort is the most systematic and in-depth of all studies, which is why it has enjoyed overwhelming support at four Town Meetings since 2014.


In 1931, when our Department of Public Works maintenance complex was constructed, it was a simpler period of time, a time when trolleys provided transportation along Longmeadow Street connecting Enfield and Springfield.  It would be another twenty-five years before the high school building that we just replaced would open. In 1931, Longmeadow had 1294 dwellings, a population of 4437, and 23 miles of roadways.  According to the 2010 census, our town has 5948 housing units with a population 15,784. We presently have 91 miles of asphalt roads, 71 miles of sidewalks, 100+ miles of roadway drains and over 100 miles of water lines of various sizes.

In 1931, our fleet was comprised of Model T Ford trucks. Today our DPW fleet includes dump trucks, back hoes, tractors, mowers, a sewage vacuum truck, as well as many smaller pick-up trucks, sedans, and SUVs. Our maintenance shops are so small and outdated that our snow removal trucks do not fit into our repair shop resulting in our staff working on these vehicles outside when we have active snowplowing operations underway.

Our DPW operations experienced significant increases in responsibility over the years.  DPW now includes the Parks and Recreation Department. DPW cares for all town buildings including the schools, water systems, sewage systems, roadways, and recreational facilities including grounds.   The DPW is also classified by the federal government as a first responder agency, and as such, needs to be self-sufficient and operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. In addition to public works emergencies like water main breaks, they are called to support the activities of our Police and Fire Department for emergency operations under their management. Unlike other departments and operations in our community, DPW doesn’t shut down during emergencies. They report to work and perform critical support functions to protect the health and safety of our community.

Throughout the past year, there have been public meetings, public forums, websites, social media, and other direct interactions with town residents dedicated solely to this project.  The questions of “why can’t it be rebuilt at the current site?” and “why does it cost so much?” have been answered many times.  I encourage anyone who is unfamiliar with the project to go to the project website at longmeadow.org to see those answers or trust your friends and neighbors who have done the research and fully support the project.


As a resident and as a member of the Select Board, I ask you to vote yes on June 13 for a new DPW facility and to finally address a long overlooked problem in our community.

This is the Right Plan – The Right Place – The Right Time…Thank you.

Richard Foster

Friday, May 5, 2017

Vote YES on Article 31

 

Marybeth Bergeron, long time town resident and current chairperson of the Adult Center Building Committee shares her thoughts on Article 31 that will be considered by town residents during night #2 of the Annual Town Meeting.
______________________________________





It has been said for the past decade, that baby boomers will change the way people live the last years of their productive lives.  As one of the baby boomers I agree.   Many of the Longmeadow older residents I know continue to play tennis, exercise daily, or go to the Jewish Community Center to swim.  When I attend learning opportunities at Storrs Library, I am impressed that the vast majority of people there are older residents of our town.  Vibrant and active, our residents seek out opportunities to live out their lives healthy, active and engaged.

So, I write today as the Chairman of the Adult Center Building Committee to encourage you to attend the SECOND  night of the Town Meeting on May 10th, and support the decision made by the Adult Center Building Committee and the Select Board to seek funds for architectural and design  of a new senior center at Greenwood Park under article 31 of the warrant.

ARTICLE 31- To see if the Town will vote to transfer from available funds in the treasury, the sum of $250,000.00, or a greater or lesser sum, for the purpose of funding Architectural and Engineering Services for the design of a new and/or renovated Adult Center at Greenwood Park, or take any other action relative thereto.

Our committee had submitted  to the Select Board four potential sites that might work.  Additionally, the original architect submitted a plan through the town manager which is called the “Greenwood Master Plan”.  That plan has been rejected by both the Select Board and the Adult Center Building Committee for many reasons.  That  Master Plan is not longer on the table, but the other four locations need to be reevaluated by an architect for a dedicated building for our senior residents.

The facility also services not only our senior residents needs, but also the Town nurse, the Veteran’s Agent, the Food Bank, and all of the Social Service Outreach in our town. Additionally the building is used after hours by various committees and groups, all of which we expect would  to continue in a new adult center.

The residents in Longmeadow represent one third of our population.  This is  tremendous growth in the past five years, and  that demographic  will increase through 2030. This growth indicates that the trend across our country of “aging in place” is also true in Longmeadow.

Our existing senior center is not large enough to accommodate the hundreds of people that currently use the site daily, nor the participation of the increasing numbers of senior residents that  is expected. The building was a school, built for children.

You will recall that at the Town Meeting in October 2016, our residents spoke loudly and clearly that they wanted the Adult Center to remain at Greenwood.     We heard you.  If Greenwood  is where our residents want the senior center, we believe it may be a challenge, but it is do-able. 

In order to proceed, the town needs approval of article 31, in order to secure the services of a building architect and a landscape architect.    We cannot move this needed project forward without design funds.

Aging is a gift and a privilege.  There are some  people that will never have the gift of  aging.  So,  as community, let us age gracefully and with dignity…… together .

Vote YES on Article 31.

Marybeth Bergeron


Upcoming Two Night Annual Town Meeting



Below is a LTE from Select Board chair, Marie Angelides with some comments about next week's two night Annual Town Meeting.






   
Tuesday May 9th and Wednesday May 10th Longmeadow is having a two night town meeting. This year there are too many important issues to be appropriately discussed and voted on in one night.

This year the Select Board and School Committee worked together on a balanced budget and we were still able to maintain our commitment to a quality education, address our unfunded retiree benefits, increase our investment in our crumbling infrastructure, and not go to the full 2 ½ % tax increase as allowed by law.

The Town will continue deliberations regarding the effort to build a new DPW. This is a difficult project, the town has delayed since the 1980s. We can no longer allow our employees to work in the current conditions at the complex. Every year we delay the project, the town is risking its substantial investments in equipment, on a site and in building that is not fully insurable because it is located in the floodplain. Previous town meetings made it clear that the facility should not be sited on town-owned land, especially open space.  Therefore, the site that has been recommended by the volunteer DPW Committee is the Grand Meadows Tennis Club property on Dwight Road.  Like most residents, I do not want to spend over 20 million dollars on a new complex, but it is necessary to do what is right  for the community. Delaying the project the past 30 years has not made it any cheaper; any delay will only increase the cost of this necessary project.

The first night will also include discussion on three articles related to the private development on Dwight Road. This project does three important things:
  1. Increases the tax base without changing the character of the community
  2. Addresses the problems of the two of most dangerous intersections in town.
  3. Creates a more convenient health care facility for the community. 
    The District Improvement Financing is a creative approach to financing and developing this project. Additionally, this public/private partnership may open up additional revenue opportunities. 
The second night Town Meeting will address many other important articles including the planning of a new Adult Center. A new Adult Center is the second building priority established by the town’s elected officials. The current center does not meet the needs of our seniors and this is the fastest growing segment of the population in Longmeadow. Seniors already constitute more than 33% of the town.  Like the DPW project, previous Town Meetings decided not to use open space to site a new facility- preferring to keep it at Greenwood Park. The Adult Building Committee working with the staff has outlined the program space needed for the building and the need for a building dedicated to the services needed for this population.  The funds requested in the article will continue the planning effort for a building dedicated solely to Adult services at the Greenwood Park. The Select Board has also approved a goal of a zero energy building that requires extra design money. The design money will be necessary to get this project, with the necessary detail and estimated costs in front of Town Meeting next year.

The second night will also include the establishment of a Stormwater Enterprise Fund. The EPA has mandated significant new regulations for all towns and cities that becomes effective this July. The purpose of this unfunded mandate is for clean water in our streams, rivers, and lakes where stormwater (runoff from rain and snow) is directed by the drainage system.  In addition to water quality testing, the new regulations require additional maintenance to the drainage system.  The estimated cost to Longmeadow is $200,000. The new fee proposed by the Select Board is tied directly to the costs of the EPA mandates. We are also working on policies to reduce fees for commercial and nonprofit  property owners who manage stormwater onsite as well as policies of rates setting based on projects approved by town meeting.   Our current stormwater infrastructure annual costs are well over a million dollars and are completely funded by property taxes. These added increased costs will reduce current services if new revenue is not generated. 

I have included only the highlights in this year’s Warrant.  We also have by-law changes, Community Preservation Projects, and numerous citizen petitions (including the much discussed “bees”!). Please come to the two night meeting and have your voice heard. In Longmeadow, you are the legislative branch of government.

Thank you,
Marie Angelides
Select Board

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Town Resident Supports New DPW Facility





This "Letter to the Editor" was submitted by town resident Douglas P. Sarnelli in Support of a New Department of Public Works Facility for the Town of Longmeadow

  




 As a concerned resident of Longmeadow I am writing to urge all residents to attend our town meeting on Tuesday May 9th and to support the decision made by the Public Works Committee to relocate the Longmeadow Department of Public Works Facility from Pond Side Drive to that of site known as the Grande Meadows Tennis Club property located at 170 Dwight Road.

In January 2016, Town Manager Stephen Crane convened a Public Works Committee to confirm the need for a new Department of Public Works Facility, to determine the appropriate site for such a facility and to approve a facility design based on the current and future needs of our town.

The Public Works Committee is comprised of nine Longmeadow town residents from many professions who volunteer their time and talent. They have vested interests as residents and taxpaying members of our community. Under the superintendence of Committee Chair Christopher Cove and Co-Chair Arlene Miller, the Committee carefully analyzed well over two hundred possible sites as well as all financial, social, environmental, legal and all other practical considerations necessary for making a sound recommendation to the town. While I am not a member of the Committee, I have attended every Public’s Works Committee meeting for the past fifteen months and I have had the opportunity to observe the committee administer its civic responsibilities with the requisite professionalism, integrity and due diligence.

The Committee, in its many months of deliberations has deemed that the current public works facility is obsolete, incapable of adequately serving the needs of our community and unable to provide a sustainable work environment for its employees. The facility is located on an old ash dump and in a floodplain. To construct a new facility at the current location on Pond Side Drive would be too costly as the facility and our equipment would be uninsurable, being in a floodplain. In the event of a natural disaster it would present great risk to the Department of Public Works employees and to town owned equipment just when public work’s services would be needed the most.

In an October 2016 town vote, our community spoke clearly, affirming the Committee’s decision that the site selected should not affect any residential neighborhoods, parklands or athletic fields or our precious “green space.” 

The proposed facilities designed by Weston Sampson Engineers and the Committee is cost effective, will be energy efficient and conscious of our environmental concerns and most importantly will allow the Public Works employees to administer their duties and responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner in an environment that meets all current safety and regulatory requirements.  The Committee’s budgetary considerations for this project have operated well within the appropriate margins in designing a modest facility to accommodate only our current operational needs and has demonstrated the necessary sensitivity to any tax increase to property owners.  Our town’s Finance Committee supports these measures.

In closing, the Town of Longmeadow is very fortunate to have a body of dedicated, honorable and deeply concerned residents presiding over this Public Works Facility matter.  I wish to personally thank the committee for its commitment to our town and for the hundreds of hours spent away from family and professional and personal interests.  The Public Works Committee has earned the trust and confidence of our town.  All residents should support the committee’s decision to relocate the Department of Public Works Facility from Pond Side Drive to that of the Grande Meadows site on 170 Dwight Road.

Douglas P. Sarnelli, Longmeadow, Massachusetts

Article #32- Storm Water Enterprise Fund


This "letter to the editor" regarding Article #32 (Storm Water Enterprise Fund) which will be considered at the Annual Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 10 was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Curt M. Freedman, who resides at 24 Ridge Road.

 
At the next Longmeadow Annual Town Meeting on May 9th and 10th, Article #32 calls for the establishment of a separate Stormwater Enterprise Fund as per M.G.L. c.44, § 53F½ that will charge annual service fees to pay for upgrades to stormwater infrastructure and maintenance which are presently paid for by our property taxes.  Under our present law, MGL c. 83: §16, our selectmen, “may from time to time establish just and equitable annual charges for the use of common sewers and main drains and related stormwater facilities, which shall be paid by every person who enters his particular sewer therein. The money so received may be applied to the payment of the cost of maintenance and repairs of such sewers or of any debt contracted for sewer purposes.”  We are also required by law to abide by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision: “Emerson College v. Boston (1984),” that mandates that fees be fairly substantiated; the revenue from one customer cannot unfairly subsidize the costs of utilizing the system for another customer.  The judges ruled that an unfair subsidization effectively becomes a “TAX” and no longer a “FEE” and would be ILLEGAL and CONTRARY to Massachusetts law.

Based on direct past and present experience, our town does not know how to charge for service fees that are “just” and “equitable.”  Can we ever forget the Ascending Sewer Rate policy in 2007 that was advertised to have only a 15% increase, but resulted in many customers having their water and sewer costs more than double.  Two years ago, the Selectmen (Water & Sewer Commissioners) attempted to impose hundreds of dollars of annual fixed fees on our water bills per household that would have caused large increases for thousands of residents and dis-incentivized water conservation.  Since Longmeadow still does not allow irrigation water meters (yet surrounding communities do), homeowners who water their lawns pay ghost sewer bills of approximately $550,000 per year.   

Please excuse me for sounding cynical, but for more than 20 years, our Water & Sewer commissioners (now the Selectmen) have been informed on how to adjust our water & sewer rate policy to be “just” and “equitable” as required by law.  For decades, our elected officials have punished us for watering our lawns, now they want to punish us for raindrops landing on our driveways.

If this article passes, our town will have "good" driveways and "hydraulically evil" driveways that could cost each resident tens of thousands of dollars to make impervious surfaces pervious, a most ridiculous hidden tax camouflaged as a user fee.  Let us not have such saturating rainy day government policies result in:  breeding grounds for mosquitoes, flooded basements, and evaporation of our limited liquid financial assets.  Let us also not have this "Rainy Day Tax" compete with funding for other projects in our community with greater societal needs.

Article #32 is not in our Town's interests; it only deserves to be flushed down the toilet.

 


 


Curt M. Freedman, PE

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Single (vs. Split) Property Tax Rate for Longmeadow

Bill Low, a member of the Longmeadow Select Board shares the reasons for his vote last month to continue a single property tax rate (vs. split tax rate ) for residential and commercial property owners.
---------------------------------------------------

Every year the town Select Board must vote to have a single or split tax rate. The split rate creates a separate rate for residents and commercial/industrial property owners. The intent of a split rate is to shift more of the tax burden onto businesses, presumably because they make a profit, as opposed to home owners who are just supporting town services. When a City, like Springfield, with 20%-25% of the real estate classified as commercial/ industrial/ personal shifts the tax to that category, it can make a big difference to home owner’s tax costs while raising the business owners by a nominal amount. Don’t misunderstand; Springfield’s commercial tax rate is the highest in the state and, in many people’s minds, stifles new business development, but homeowners still benefit with a lower tax rate.

However, as is the case in Longmeadow with less than 5% categorized as commercial/industrial, a split tax rate has the following effect: every 1% shift to the commercial owners, raises their rates by $.25 per $1,000 of value ($525 per year on average) and reduces residential rates by only a penny, or $3.50 a year on average.

Additionally, the commercial property owners, who are landlords, pass those cost to their tenants. In the case of retail properties, leases are “net” or “triple net” (the terms are misused constantly), what’s important is; the total real estate taxes are passed on to the tenant. With office buildings, the increase is also paid by the tenant via “escalators” or “expense stops” regardless if the lease is all inclusive or a “gross lease”, the increase in any operating expense is paid by the tenant.

Regardless of whether the tax rate is split or single, the amount of tax revenue raised by a town in Massachusetts is not effected.

So, what does this shift accomplish? In 30 years in the real estate industry I have dealt with large, national companies, public real estate investment firms (REIT's) and small family owned businesses. Small family owned businesses can be put out of business by this kind of increase, while larger companies will pass this cost to the consumer. In the case of a town like Longmeadow, it’s a lose-lose proposition.

William H. Low
Longmeadow Select Board