Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Longmeadow’s Public Shade Tree Renewal

The following article was submitted for publication on the LongmeadowBuzz blog by newly appointed Longmeadow Tree Warden, David Marinelli.

The Department of Public Works, in conjunction with it’s Tree Warden and the Longmeadow Tree Committee is engaging in a program of public shade tree renewal.  There are approximately 14,000 public shade trees lining Longmeadow’s streets, and there are many more trees on publicly owned lands, including parks, schools and conservation land.  These trees require monitoring for pests, disease and decay.  In some cases, ailing trees can be preserved with appropriate pruning.  In other cases, removal and replacement is the better option.  These decisions are guided by the Town’s contracted certified arborist.  Hazardous limbs and trees are removed as soon as possible after identification.  Non-hazardous living trees which cannot be preserved are removed only after the legally required notice and hearing process.

Renewal is being funded by the DPW’s forestry budget, a matching grant from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and a Community Preservation Act grant, the Phase II Bliss Park Open-Space and Recreation Project.

Nearly 60 trees of 21 different species have been purchased and are being installed in various locations, including Bliss Park, the Longmeadow Green, several traffic islands and numerous tree belts where shade trees were previously removed.  Fifteen of the 21 species are native to North America.  Native trees provide great benefits to wildlife by providing forage and nesting sites.  Non-native and hybrid species provide some protection from pests and disease.  Increased diversity is helpful in minimizing the effects of introduced pests and climate change.

Left to Right: Volunteers Paul Latka, Tree Warden David Marinelli, Liz Marinelli
and Dr. William Seefeld surround a native Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
installed on the Longmeadow Green
Left to right: Volunteers Dr. William Seefeld and former Baystate CEO and
current Tree Committee member Mark Tolosky with the native Tulip tree
they installed on Maple Road near the entrance to Greenwood Park.

Betsy Port, a leader of Longmeadow Citizens to Save Our Parks, and CPC grant recipient, gives a Tulip tree its first drink in its new home on the Longmeadow Green

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline is Here

This article about the new gas metering station project in Longmeadow was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Longmeadow resident Betsy Huber Port for consideration and support by town residents.

There were a lot of underground gas pipes being replaced over the summer in our neighborhood. These upgrades were overdue and very much needed. Natural gas leaks are dangerous and old infrastructure along Laurel Street was fixed by adding new long lasting plastic pipes. The metal pipelines removed were at least 100 years old in some areas. Natural gas is odorless and colorless and can cause health problems. I am glad this work was done without any problems, but there were numerous delays. After the disaster in the Merrimack Valley, north of Boston, work came to a halt in Longmeadow after the September 13th explosions.

I am perplexed and confused by what may be “news” to many of us in town. The Longmeadow Country Club has been put in a difficult decision making position. The Tennessee Gas Pipeline, that links up with the local company called Columbia Gas has asked the LCC to allow a metering station on their property. Information has been hard to find about the status of the club’s position on this vital matter. We all know about greenhouse gases and how dangerous they are for our environment and for our health. We all worry about climate change! Do we think a metering station that emits methane gas into the air should be placed in a residential neighborhood near Wolf Swamp, Williams and Glenbrook Schools? How can the 13 board members of the LCC and its 300 members make an educated decision for the rest of the town? What is the gas company promising? Is it safe? Can they guarantee that the disaster in Lawrence and Andover does not happen again in Longmeadow? What are the financial implications? So many questions with no answers. All I know for sure is that the Longmeadow Town Zoning Department cannot stop this building from being constructed.

Our town prides itself on its historic origins. Nestled along the Connecticut River at the edge of the Pioneer Valley, Longmeadow is at a strategic location for the gas company. They need to fix problems and supply gas to Springfield.  They need to get a new “state of the art” metering station, but must it be in our town? The pressure of the gas lines with a PSI of 160 is adjusted down to 40 PSI to allow gas to enter our homes for heating and cooking. If you use electricity, oil or solar energy this may not be important to you on a daily basis. But because we are a small town, with close proximity to our neighbors, the serious situation of gas lines effect each and every one of us. Why does the metering station need to be on the LCC property and why do we want it there? This historic Don Ross course is historic and beautiful. Do the members want to to risk this idyllic spot and deal with the noise and gas pollution? Can the metering station be in the meadows (Fannie Stebbins Conservation Land) or another location that is not full of homes? How can the average person get information about the moral, practical and ethical issues of the gas pipelines in Longmeadow? You may see the yellow markers on Laurel Street or along Wolf Swamp Road, but a metering station that could be built in a thickly settled area near schools is not something I want to see happen to our community! There is already one in East Longmeadow! Stay tuned to this unfolding story.

Find out more: Thanks in advance for your attendance!

Come to this meeting – Mark your calendars!
Wednesday night, November 28th from 7 - 9 PM
Longmeadow Adult Center
at Greenwood Park, 231 Maple Road, Longmeadow, MA

Sponsored by the Longmeadow Pipeline Awareness Group

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Daniel Murphy- Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee

The following information was submitted by Dan Murphy- Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee.

My name is Dan Murphy and I am looking forward to serving our community on the School Committee. My wife Anna Whitton and I are proud parents of our 6 year old son Daniel who attends Blueberry Hill Elementary School. I have been a Longmeadow resident for 28 years and we love raising our son in such a well rounded, friendly community.

I am running for Longmeadow School Committee to give back to the community.  I will do everything I can to support the wonderful teachers and staff and help the great students of our town with all their needs.

Dan Murphy

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Bronwyn Monahan- Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee

The following information was submitted by Bronwyn Monahan, Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee.

Seeking election to the Longmeadow School Committee seems like a very natural step for me. I am a lifelong resident of Longmeadow, and I have over 20 years of experience in education. The importance of education is something that was instilled in me by my parents at a very young age. The focus on the value of education is something that my husband Dave Prickett and I also highly value, as we continue to carry on the tradition of instilling the importance of education in our two sons. David is a seventh grade student at Glenbrook Middle School, and Joseph is a third grade student at Blueberry Hill School.

Living in Longmeadow for over 40 years, I am very passionate about the community. We have many positive things going on, but we can be even better! I am very committed to making our schools be the best they can be, always, and in all ways. I will use my experience as a resident, an educator, and a parent to do everything I can to help the Longmeadow Public School District continue to strive for greatness. As Christine Gregoire so perfectly, yet simply said, “Education is the foundation upon which we build our future.”

Goals as a Member of Longmeadow School Committee•    Ensure each student is well-prepared for opportunities beyond high school
•    Focus on personalized learning so that every student is challenged and supported
•    Assist in fostering a safe learning environment for all students and educators
•    Support educators by providing resources necessary to deliver best possible instruction
•    Work collaboratively with administrators to set and achieve district goals

Experience as an Educator
During my 22 years in education, I had the opportunity to serve in various roles, including:
•    High School English Teacher
•    K-12 Literacy Instructional Coach
•    Grades 7-12 ELA Curriculum Specialist
•    Co-Director of a high school Writing Center
•    National Writing Project Teacher Consultant
•    National Writing Project College/Career Readiness Program Participant
•    NEASC (Assessment) Committee Co-Chair
•    Varsity basketball and track and field coach

•    College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts
      Bachelor of Arts in English
      Division I Women’s Basketball Team all four years
•    American International College
     Master of Education

Friday, June 1, 2018

Ryan Kelly- Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee

The following information was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz blog by Ryan Kelly- Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee....

  • Parent of three Longmeadow Public Schools students with wife Heidi Kelly; daughter Devon in grade 10, son Jack in grade 9, and son Keegan in grade 6 (Williams Middle School).
Educator & Administrator
  • Currently principal of the Conservatory of the Arts, a public school in Springfield
  • Former principal of Kennedy Middle School in Springfield
  • Former assistant principal of East Longmeadow High School in East Longmeadow
  • Former assistant principal at Commerce High School in Springfield
  • Former teacher at the High School of Science and Technology, Holyoke Catholic, and St. Mathew’s School
  • College level: I was assistant coach of University of Maine men’s soccer (1994), Western New England College (1995-1998), Catholic University of America (1999-2001), and the head coach of Elms College women’s soccer (2004-2008).
  • High School level: I assisted my father as the assistant coach of Cathedral girls’ soccer (2002-2003).  I have coached club soccer for Western United Pioneers from 1995-1998 and from 2002-present.
  • Youth level: I have coached Pioneer Valley travel soccer for many years including our own Longmeadow Soccer Association.
  • UMass Amherst, Master of Education Policy, Research, and Administration
  • Bates College, Bachelor of Arts in ....; NCAA student-athlete
  • Cathedral High School
Goals for the Longmeadow Public School System
  • Maintain a safe environment for our students
  • Provide the staff the resources and tools they need to provide our students with a first-rate education
  • Take a fiscally responsible view of budgeting
Ryan Kelly

Monday, May 28, 2018

Janet Robinson- Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee

My family and I moved to Longmeadow 10 years ago, and when looking for a place to live, we chose Longmeadow for a variety of reasons, one of them being the excellent schools. My four children (Gabrielle, 21, Ben, 20, Nick, 16 & Tim, 16) have all reaped the benefits that Longmeadow Public Schools offer. My mother was an elementary school teacher, so I understand the amount of hard work and dedication that goes into teaching our children. I also understand the support that our teachers need from parents, whether that be as a classroom volunteer, a PTO/PTA officer, or a School Committee member. Over the years, I have served as all of these. I have seen first hand the commitment of our teachers and staff.

As a School Committee member, I served a 3 year term from 2013-2016. During that period, not only did I serve as a member, but I also served as the Chair of the committee for 2 years. These 3 years were not easy ones, as there were many challenging issues that had to be faced. From full day Kindergarten to Redistricting to a Superintendent search – each of these was a highly charged issue that required an open mind and resolve to remain true to the roles and responsibilities of a School Committee member. Keeping in mind that decisions made must be in the best interest of ALL students was what drove my decision making. This is not to say that standing up and speaking out in what I believed in was easy. This is not to say that how every situation was handled was perfect and it is not to say that there was not dissent. However, when approached with a calm manner and willingness to work with others, successful outcomes can and did occur.

My experience with the time that I have served can provide a unique perspective. A perspective of what was tried in the past, and either worked or didn’t. A perspective of collaboration such as the relationships that I had formed with Select Board members that remain today. A perspective of experience with ongoing work such as with the Middle School SOI, contract negotiations, and budget.

There are also new opportunities that will need to be addressed. Continued work on our Middle Schools’ physical conditions is a necessity. These need to be considered whether or not we are awarded monies from the state. Continued work with the Town regarding the tax cap that we are facing and how that will impact our budget, which in turn affects the services we provide. Continued work with our Superintendent to move forward and continue to improve the educational experience that we provide for our students.

This elected position is not an easy one. The time and energy that one must give as a volunteer far exceeds that of any other volunteer position I have held.  However, I feel that this is one of the most important positions that I can serve in – one that will make a difference in the lives of our children.

Janet Robinson/ Candidate for Longmeadow School Committee

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Memorial Day

On May 18 the Longmeadow Veterans hosted Gerry Izzo, CWO4, U.S. army retired and Peter R. Squeglia Jr, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot and Army Ranger from the Battle of Mogadishu. Both participated in the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993.  They spoke of their experiences during the battle of Mogadishu. The battle was memorialized by the movie, Black Hawk Down. They shared with us through a back and forth narrative the many actions in the air and on the ground.

That night I learned another meaning of Memorial Day. In the past, on Memorial Day I would pause and remember the day, as a volunteer for the USO, that I helped care for the young family of a fallen soldier. They were waiting for the remains of their loved one to arrive at Barnes Airport. Memorial Day was the look in the little girl’s eyes when she finally realized what they were doing there.

Memorial Day has another meaning to me now. I will now also remember that one day a helicopter pilot, after flying 18 straight hours trying to save Rangers trapped in the city of Mogadishu, came back to his quarters to two empty beds and two empty chairs. He knew at that moment his fellow pilots and friends were not coming back. After resting, he got back in the helicopter and flew again.

Memorial Day is about our fallen heroes, and their families, their friends, and their comrades. Memorial Day is about the scars on their hearts that will never fully heal. On Friday, sitting in the Longmeadow High School auditorium, I was in the company of two great men. It was an honor I will never forget. On Memorial Day, I will pause and remember.

Marie Angelides.
Longmeadow, MA 01106

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