May 21, 2008 Select Board Meeting

Wednesday, May 21, 2008, 6:15 p.m. Music/Language Room at the Middle School

Present:  Select Board members Gerry Weiss, Anne Awad, Alisa Brewer, Diana Stein and Stephanie O’Keeffe; Town Manager Larry Shaffer

Announcements/Agenda Review

Ms. Stein said that after receiving a letter from Cinda Jones of Cowls Lumber and doing some research, she had concerns about LEED standards and wanted the opportunity to change her vote, made at the end of the previous meeting.  She said her concerns included reducing a new building’s total carbon footprint and the ability to measure that reduction over the long-term, and whether adhering to the standards would preclude use of local wood products.  Mr. Weiss said that because the article is only advisory and asks the Planning Board to consider such standards, he thought the language was acceptable.   Ms. Stein said she would prefer that the Planning Board be able to look more broadly at all standards and choose the best among them.  Mr. Weiss suggested that an amendment might address Ms. Stein’s concerns, adding language about considering other standards in addition to LEED standards.  I said that the situation was an example of how persuasive anything can be when only one side of the issue is presented, and the risks of making recommendation based on such, as well as my concern about the process of using petition articles to direct the Planning Board’s work.  I said that I also wanted the topic reconsidered, and suggested doing so at the time on this meeting’s agenda that had originally been scheduled for that topic.  (It had been dealt with hastily at the end of Monday’s meeting instead.) 

Taste of Amherst Parking and Street Closures  (6:21)

Patty Brandts, Executive Director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, and John Thibbitts, Chair of the Chamber’s Taste of Amherst committee, presented a request regarding vendor parking and street closings for the June event.  They requested “No Parking” bags to be placed on parking meters around the perimeter of the Common, including the north and south sides of the Spring Street lot, at the following dates and times:  Thursday, June 19, noon to 9:00 p.m.; Friday June 20, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Saturday, June 21 noon to 10:00 p.m.; and Sunday, June 22, noon to 4:00 p.m. 

They requested the closing of Boltwood Avenue Friday, June 20 and Saturday, June 21 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to accommodate the heaviest foot traffic for the beer and wine tasting on the Lord Jeff property.

They requested that the first 12 parking spaces on the east side of Boltwood Avenue be reserved for Lord Jeff guests. 

Ms. Awad asked if the Town could estimate the parking revenue lost from bagging the parking meters, in order to have that amount be shown as Town support for the event.  Ms. Brewer suggested that a standard form with a picture of the Common and all its parking meters be created, so that people could show precisely which meters they sought to have bagged for such events. 

The Select Board voted unanimously to approve the Chamber’s parking and street closing requests.

Article 33 – LEED Standards  (6:30)

Discussion about a possible amendment to Article 33 continued, with various wording choices proposed. 

Ms. Brewer said she was concerned about the petitioner having brought the article without talking first to the Planning Board or considering the comprehensive plan process, and suggested that referring the article to the Planning Board might be the best option. 

There were issues of the revised article language not matching the language of the motion sheet. 

Mr. Shaffer said that the Select Board might signal its respect for the petitioner and her efforts and to acknowledge that the issue might be far more expansive than the petitioner may have originally recognized, citing possible implications to affordable housing and economic development.  Mr. Weiss said that the article’s language is not meant to confine or restrict.

I said that a problem with making advisory articles to the Planning Board is that it seeks set priorities for that body’s work, and that Town Meeting doesn’t have enough information to do that.  I said that while the concept of the article sounds good, requesting that it be considered via the formality of a Town Meeting article may not be the best approach.  Mr. Weiss said he didn’t view the request as formal, and said that he thought it was an opportunity for Town Meeting to express its will that this is an important issue and that the Planning Board and other relevant committees should look into how to address the short-term and long-term impacts that construction has on the environment.  He said that the article doesn’t say to do it by next spring, but just to get it on the list of things to do.

Ms. Stein asked how to proceed with amended language such that LEED would not be the only standard considered.  Mr. Weiss said he didn’t think it would be the only thing considered and didn’t want to spend too much time on this issue.  I reiterated my earlier point about only our only having one perspective on the issue, and said that if we were to hear another perspective, our recommendation on whether or how to pursue this might be different.  Ms. Awad said that if the Planning Board were to find that the issue is too complicated or time-consuming to deal with, or that it would have big implications for affordable housing, or some such finding, then that could be written up as a brief report for next year’s Town Meeting.  She said that she doesn’t know enough about LEED or other standards to know what should be pursued, and that the Planning Board is the appropriate body to look into that. 

Ms. Brewer sought language clarification on the amendment, and suggested removing some development specifics.  I said that I could support it if those specifics were removed, and Ms. Stein’s language was added to make the article more inclusive of other standards. 

Walter Wolnik said that he had been at a meeting of the Planning Board’s Zoning Subcommittee, and that some there had expressed displeasure that the petition had not been brought to them for consideration, and had also noted that LEED standards are not the only standards on environmental building. 

Ms. Brewer moved to reconsider the vote from Monday, May 19th, to allow a new vote on the amended motion. The vote to reconsider was 4 in favor, 1 opposed, with Ms. Awad voting to oppose. 

There was more language discussion.  Ms. Awad and Mr. Weiss expressed a preference for keeping the specific development references. Ms. Brewer noted more differences between the language of the two motions in front of us.   Ultimately, Ms. Stein’s language was included and the specific development references remained, and the vote to recommend the article was 4 in favor, 1 opposed, with me voting to oppose.

Article 37 – Free Cash  (6:45)

Finance Director John Musante explained that Article 37 was to appropriate money from free cash to be used to balance the budget.  He said that the original budget recommendation required $400,000 from free cash, and that the amount would need to be $425,000 if Article 35, seeking $25,000 for the 250th Anniversary celebration, is passed by Town Meeting. 

It was decided that the Select Board would vote on the $425,000 amount, even though Article 35 hasn’t been approved by Town Meeting yet, and to make changes to our vote later if necessary.  The vote to recommend appropriating $425,000 from free cash to balance the budget was unanimous, and as Ms. Awad noted, “with a heavy heart.”

Article 38 – Stabilization Fund

Mr. Musante said that Article 38 is similar to 37, and seeks an appropriation from the stabilization fund to balance the budget, but said that no such appropriation is sought this year.  He recommended dismissal of the article, and noted that the Finance Committee had not yet taken its votes on articles 37 or 38, awaiting outcome of the Elementary and Regional school budget votes by Town Meeting.

The Select Board voted unanimously to support dismissal.

Human Rights Commission letter  (6:50)

Mr. Weiss talked about a letter from the Human Rights Commission recommending restoring money to the Community Services budget for LSSE fee subsidies.  He asked whether the Select Board wanted to take a position on the matter per chance reconsideration of that budget were proposed. 

Ms. Brewer suggested that a proposal from Vince O’Connor about other proposed budget changes be considered as well.  She noted that the Finance Committee had voted to not recommend reconsideration of any budgets already adopted. 

Ms. Awad noted that the amounts for the fee subsidies were not included in the Human Rights Commission letter, and Mr. Weiss said his recollection was that the amount totaled about $29,000 ($3,000 for adult subsidies, and $26,000 for children’s subsidies) and said that Mr. O’Connor has suggested that there could be an alternative compromise amount at a different subsidy percentage.  Ms. Awad said that those numbers would be needed in order to figure out where the restored money might come from.  Mr. Weiss said the fee subsidy money would come from an override or reserves, and that if all Mr. O’Connor’s suggested reconsiderations were approved, money from his proposed personnel changes would cover his suggestions. 

I said that having come to my Select Board position so late in the budget process, after many people had worked hard over a long period of time to come to agreement on the whole package, I had opted to respect that work rather than seek changes I might prefer.  I said that I felt the same about amendments at Town Meeting – that it was too late to make such changes – and that I would not support either the Human Rights Commission’s suggestion or those of Mr. O’Connor, if any motions for reconsideration are made. 

Ms. Brewer moved that the Select Board not recommend any motions to reconsider budgets already adopted, just as the Finance Committee had done.  Ms. Awad said that the motion was too broad, and didn’t address the specifics of the suggestions before us. Ms. Awad said she thought the Select Board should take no position, and said that most people ultimately honor the budget process and vote down amendments, but that such reconsiderations allow the important message to be heard about the heavy burden falling on poor children. 

Mr. Weiss said that he continues to be upset about supporting $25,000 from reserves for a celebration, while denying activities to children. 

Ms. Brewer said the Human Rights Commission letter doesn’t note that this is not the first year of the subsidy cuts, and that if a real impact has been seen since those cuts were made, the point should be emphasized.  She also said that she is concerned that without a Select Board position on reconsideration of approved budgets, individual members will speak to their discomfort about specific previous votes, which she said she was trying to avoid with her motion.

Ms. Stein said that she agrees with Mr. Weiss about the spending $25,000 on a celebration while children are suffering and being deprived of activities for the summer.  She said she would support not taking a position on reconsiderations. 

The vote on the motion to not recommend any motions to reconsider budgets already adopted failed on a vote of 2 in favor, 3 opposed, with Ms. Brewer and me voting in favor. 

Article 46 – Right to Farm Bylaw 

Bob Saul, Chair of the Agricultural Commission, spoke about addressing two clarifications sought by the Select Board in its initial discussion of this article, regarding farming definitions and resolution of disputes.  There was considerable discussion about whether the Select Board ought to have any involvement in dispute resolution, and whether it might be better for the Town Manager to be the conduit for referring complaints to appropriate bodies. 

It was determined that the Town Manger would be the preferable option, and that that change should be run by Town Counsel before the Select Board recommends it.  Town Counsel’s opinion would be sought about the propriety of the Town Manager handling such referrals and whether Town Manager or Select Board involvement would yield more strength in a court case. 

Because there was an intention by some to not have a Select Board meeting before the May 28th Town Meeting, it was determined that the Select Board would meet just briefly at 7:20 in the auditorium, for the purpose of voting on the Right to Farm article. 

Select Board Meeting Dates  (7:22)

The Select Board set its meeting dates for the summer:  June 2, 9, 16 and 23; July 7, 21, 28; August 11, 18 and 25; and September 8. 

Amherst in Bloom  (7:25)

Dolly Jolly, a member of the 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee spoke about monthly celebration themes for 2009, and said that May’s focus would be on neighborhoods.  She said that there is a plan to plant 10,000 daffodil bulbs in October to bloom in May, and she asked the Select Board’s permission for the plantings to occur in public parks and commons, citing:  Sweetser Park, Kendrick Park, the Town Common, East Street Common, by the Katsura tree near the East Common, South Amherst Common and Cushman Common.  She said local landscapers are donating time and sponsorship to this effort.  She noted that the bulbs will be clustered for maximum visual impact, and said that they will spread over time. 

Mr. Shaffer moved that the Select Board grant permission, given its authority over Town commons, and the Select Board voted unanimously to approve the request.

Special Liquor Licenses

The Select Board voted unanimously to approve a special wine and malt license for the Chamber for the Taste of Amherst event, June 19 – 22.

The Select Board voted unanimously to approve a special all-alcohol license for an Amherst College class reunion, May 30 and 31.

Committee Appointments

Ms. Awad recommended the reappointment of Frank Wells to the Public Transportation and Bicycle Committee.  The Select Board voted unanimously to approve the recommendation.

Ms. Awad recommended the reappointment of Hilda Greenbaum as an Associate member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for one year, in order to continue service on open panels.   The Select Board voted unanimously to approve the recommendation.

Ms. Awad recommended the reappointment of Leslie Arriola to the Town Commercial Relations Committee.  The Select Board voted unanimously to approve the recommendation.

Town Manager’s Report

There was no Town Manager’s report, but Ms. Brewer requested that for the next one, that Mr. Shaffer provide an update on the Single Room Occupancy feasibility study.

The meeting adjourned at 7:35 p.m.  The next Select Board meeting is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. May 28th, in the Middle School auditorium, immediately preceding Town Meeting, for the purpose of voting on the revised Right to Farm bylaw proposal. 



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