October 27, 2008 Select Board Meeting

Select Board Meeting -- October 27, 2008
Town Room, Amherst Town Hall


Meeting called to order by Mr. Weiss at 6:31 p.m.


Present:  Gerry Weiss, Diana Stein, Alisa Brewer, Stephanie O'Keeffe
Absent: (none)
Present: Town Manger Larry Shaffer
Town Staff: Roy Rosenblatt, Dave Ziomek
Members of the public:  Rob Kusner, Larry Ely, John Korpita, Michael Fox, Howard Ewert, Nancy Gregg, Vince O’Connor, Lindsay Intersimone, Julie Johnson, Elisabeth Hamin


There were no opening remarks or announcements.


Rob Kusner spoke about the October 29th public meeting to discuss rehabilitation and redesign of the Norwottuck Rail Trail.  The meeting is being put on by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the engineering firm, Stantec, Inc.  It will be held at Hopkins Academy in Hadley.  Mr. Kusner also praised the DPW for its work downtown.

Larry Ely read information about the Ballot Question 6 – a non-binding initiative seeking reduction of carbon emissions by 80% by 2020 – and asked that the Select Board take a position on the question.  It was decided to take up the issue later in the meeting.

Michael Fox of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at UMass, invited Select Board members to come to dinner some Monday through Thursday evening at the fraternity house on Olympia Drive.  If members would like to attend, they should notify him by e-mail at mgfox@student.umass.edu.


Committee Appointments

VOTED unanimously to approve the Town Manager’s appointment of Briony Angus to the Conservation Commission, for a term to expire June 30, 2009  Ms. Angus will complete the unexpired term of Liv Baker, who recently resigned.

VOTED unanimously to appoint Anne Awad to the Nyeri Sister City Committee, for a term to expire June 30, 2011.  It was noted that Ms. Awad founded the committee, and that committee membership is not limited to Amherst residents.

VOTED unanimously to reappoint Byron Koh to the Kanegasaki Sister City Committee, for a term to expire June 30, 2011.  It was noted that Mr. Koh has served on the committee since 1999.  At the October 14, 2008 Select Board meeting, it was determined that limiting appointees to two terms was not necessary.

VOTED unanimously to appoint Florence Boynton to the Kanegasaki Sister City Committee, for a term to expire June 30, 2011.  It was noted that Ms. Boynton has served previously on the committee, from 2000 to 2006. 

Ballot Question 6 – Reducing Carbon Emissions

Mr. Weiss said there had been some confusion as to whether or not Mr. Ely’s item would be on the agenda, and apologized for that.  Mr. Weiss explained that the Select Board wants to be thoughtful and balanced in taking stands on issues, and tries to become well-informed about the supporting and opposing views.  Without the ability to do that, Mr. Weiss said he didn’t support the Select Board taking a position, and Ms. O’Keeffe and Ms. Brewer concurred.  Ms Stein said that she had done some research and considered the information supplied ahead of time by Mr. Ely to be good and reputable science, and urged the Select Board to support the non-binding initiative in order to express to government officials that more action on climate change is desired.  Mr. Ely spoke to the science and urgency of the issue. 
No Action taken.

Signing the one-article Special TM Warrant for November 17, 2008

There was discussion about the proposed article for a Special Town Meeting, adding language to a restrictive covenant governing allowed uses at 284 North Pleasant Street.  The new language aligns the covenant with State law, which allows educational and religious non-profit uses in any zoning district.  There was discussion about whether it would be more desirable to use this opportunity to broaden the covenant so as to allow a broader range of low-impact uses consistent with the original limitation to chiropractic services.  Property owner Howard Ewert and several Select Board members felt that making the small change consistent with State law allowed the best chance of passage by Town Meeting, despite the possibility that the issue may need to be addressed again if Mr. Ewert’s tenant situation changes.
VOTED unanimously to sign the single-article warrant for a Special Town Meeting to be held Monday, November 17, 2008 at 7:30 p.m. at the Amherst Regional Middle School.

Approval of Minutes

VOTED unanimously to approve the minutes of the October 20, 2008 Select Board meeting as amended.

Next Steps in Budget Discussion

Ms. O’Keeffe spoke about the value of the October 25th meeting with Department Heads and asked how the Select Board intends to proceed with the information learned there.  It was agreed to try to schedule the remaining departmental presentation for the November 3rd meeting.  It was also agreed to discuss the plan for the Select Board’s role in the budget process during pre-Town Meeting meetings, with a goal of providing guidance about priorities to the Town Manager as soon as possible. 
Action:  Without a vote, it was agreed to schedule the remaining departmental presentations for November 3rd, and to have budget process discussions beginning November 10th.

Staff Questionnaires

There was a question about what to do if more Staff Questionnaires for the Town Manager’s evaluation are received now that the deadline has passed.  It was agreed that they could be accepted for another day or so, and that Mr. Weiss would take care of their copying and distribution to the Select Board.
Action:  Without a vote, it was agreed to continue to accept Staff Questionnaires for another day or so, and that Mr. Weiss would copy and distribute any that are received. 


November 10, 2008 Special Town Meeting Articles

Article 6 – Establishment of a Municipal Housing Trust                      

Nancy Gregg, Chair of the Housing Partnership/Fair Housing Committee, explained the intent of a Municipal Housing Trust and its proposed organizational structure.  She said that the proposed formation includes all nine of the powers afforded to Municipal Housing Trusts under Massachusetts General Law.  Vince O’Connor raised some questions about potential Town liability, and decisions about distribution of Community Preservation Act funds for affordable housing.  Mr. Shaffer said such a fund would be an important tool for the Town’s pursuit of affordable housing.  
VOTED unanimously to recommend Article 6 – Establishment of a Municipal Housing Trust.  Ms. O’Keeffe will speak to the article.

Article 11 – Larch Hill Article 97, Hitchcock Center

Julie Johnson, Executive Director of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, explained the vision for designing, funding and building a LEED-certified education center, to better fulfill the organization’s mission.  She explained the kinds of environmental features they want to incorporate into a larger Hitchcock Center, for sustainability and for educational purposes, and said that fundraising feasibility is the next key study element if the warrant article passes.  Elisabeth Hamin of the Conservation Commission explained that the article is the first legal step needed to make the Hitchcock Center project possible:  transferring the land from conservation use to conservation and environmental education use, requiring approval by the State legislature; and allowing a long-term ground lease to the Hitchcock Center for this purpose.  Mr. Shaffer said that there will be many legal and technical issues to address as the project moves forward, because of the complications of having a privately-owned building on Town-owned land.  He said that none are insurmountable because the Town and the Hitchcock Center both want to make this happen.  Ms. Johnson said that with successful passage of Article 11, the project has a three-year timeline.
VOTED unanimously to recommend Article 11 – Larch Hill Article 97.  Ms. O’Keeffe will speak to the article.

November 17, 2008 Special Town Meeting Article

Article 1 – Revising Restrictive Covenant for 284 North Pleasant Street

Discussion about the merits of this article were part of the discussion about calling a Special Town Meeting for this purpose. 
VOTED unanimously to recommend Article 1 of the November 17, 2008 Special Town Meeting.  Ms. Stein will speak to the article.


Taxi Driver’s License – Lindsay Intersimone

VOTED unanimously to approve the new Taxi Driver’s License for Lindsay Intersimone, 68 Russell Street, Hadley, MA. 

Special All Alcoholic Liquor License – Amherst College

VOTED unanimously to approve the Special Wine & Malt Liquor License for Amherst College for November 8, 2008 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Coolidge Cage Gym for a reception. 

Special All Alcoholic Liquor License – UMass

VOTED unanimously to approve the Special All Alcoholic Liquor License for the University of Massachusetts for November 1, 2008 from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at Memorial Hall for a reception/dinner.


Liaison to Human Rights Commission

Mr. Weiss said he had been asked to be liaison to the Human Rights Commission, and had agreed, pending Select Board approval.  The Select Board approved. 
Action:  Without a vote, it was agreed that Mr. Weiss would be liaison to the Human Rights Commission.

Meeting with the Governor

Mr. Weiss reported that he, Mr. Shaffer and John Musante had attended a meeting with the Governor on Thursday, October 23rd in Belchertown to discuss how the State can assist communities.  Also present were municipal officials from Belchertown, Granby, Palmer and Ludlow.  Mr. Weiss and Mr. Shaffer spoke of conveying Amherst’s desires for the State to create incentives for regionalization of services, and to allow local-option taxes.  There was some discussion about what kind of a position the Town should take on the issue of creating a pool for sharing meals tax revenue with towns that lack restaurants, an idea that might make allowing the tax more attractive to those communities.  No decision was made on the issue.  Mr. Shaffer said he had expressed appreciation to the Governor for coming out here to meet with the smaller towns.  Ms. Brewer requested that the Select Board be notified about such meetings in the future, and be provided with a brief a memo afterwards of issues addressed.  Mr. Weiss and Mr. Shaffer agreed, and noted the short-notice leading to this particular meeting.  Mr. Shaffer said he would send the Select Board the agenda he had created for the Governor’s meeting.
Action:  Without a vote, it was agreed that the Town Manager and the Chair would notify the full Select Board about such meetings in the future, and provide brief written summaries afterward.

Assisting a Business

Mr. Weiss said that he had been asked by a representative of a non -profit organization to sit in on a meeting with Mr. Shaffer and Jonathan Tucker regarding the organization’s interest in relocating to Amherst.
No action taken.

Assisting a Former School Employee

Mr. Weiss said that he had met with a former School employee who Mr. Weiss said believed himself or herself (the person’s gender was not specified) to be the victim of bullying and unfair treatment by the school administration.  He said that there was no additional request for assistance on his part, and that no further action would be taken.
No action taken.


Election Update

Mr. Shaffer talked about the preparations for the November 4th election, and the expectations for record voter turnout.  He said 10 additional election workers had been hired.  He said that there would be two workers assisting with check-in and check-out at each precinct, and said that Line Facilitators would inform people about wait times and would answer questions.  He said a key unresolved issue is parking at the Bangs Center, and that free dedicated election parking in the lower level of the garage was being considered.  Ms. Brewer recommended that Mr. Shaffer contact UMass regarding parking for buses bringing students to the polls.  Ms. Stein said she had learned that Select Board members could be election workers for local elections, but not State elections.  Earlier in the meeting, Ms. Brewer had announced that the Town Clerk was urging anyone for whom standing in long lines at the polls would be a hardship to vote via absentee ballot.  The absentee deadline is Monday, November 3.
No action taken.

Impact of Newton Decision on Plum Brook

Mr. Shaffer said that the local impacts are not yet known of the recent ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on the Newton case regarding use of Community Preservation Act funds for improving recreation land.  He said he has been in touch with Town Counsel, who is formulating an opinion on the matter, and it is expected soon.  Mr. Shaffer said that Town Counsel had noted that the facts of the Newton case are different than Amherst’s situation with the Plum Brook athletic fields. 
No action taken.

Nuisance House Bylaw Implementation

Ms. Stein cited a recent assault situation that she had been informed about, and asked if the Nuisance House bylaw would be applied.  Mr. Shaffer said that the bylaw is recently approved, and suggested asking Amherst Police Department Captain Mike Kent to update the Select Board on its implementation status at a future meeting.
No action taken.


VOTED unanimously to adjourn the open meeting at 9:15.



  Fraternity dinner invitation:  There is definitely a concerted effort going on by the UMass Greeks to improve their public outreach and image, and I think that’s brilliant.  The same day Michael Fox came to our meeting and invited us to dinner, we received an e-mail invitation to a meeting on November 5th with the four Greek councils, to enable people from the community to learn more about Greek life and about all the community service work that the fraternity and sorority members do.  I’ve been involved with Shelter Sunday for several years, and about 200 of the 300 volunteers who go door-to-door on that day are Greeks (most of the rest are from the UMass Community Service Learning program, the Boltwood Project.)  So I already have a real appreciation for what these kids do.  The more they can spread the word, the better, and I commend them for doing just that.  (If you might be interested in attending the 11/5 meeting – 7:30 p.m.  in the Campus Centerlet me know, so you can RSVP to one of the organizers.  I’ll refrain from publishing her contact info here, but she hopes for a good turnout from the community.)

  Ballot Q 6:  This was kind of unfortunate.  I thought that Mr. Ely would be contacted about not being on the agenda, but somehow that didn’t happen, alas.  Mr. Ely went out of his way to provide the Select Board with a lot of interesting information on the issue of urging reduction of carbon emissions in Massachusetts by 80% by 2020.  I was Vice Chair in October, and at our agenda planning meeting, we talked about this issue.  There were just too many reasons to not include it on the agenda, among them:  we have to be judicious in what ballot Qs we take positions on; when we take positions, we need to be informed about all sides of an issue; and we have so many pressing local needs to focus on right now that we can’t get distracted by the many worthy and important issues that are outside of our purview.  I give Gerry a lot of credit:  it went against his instincts to not support taking a position on this, but he heard my concerns in the agenda meeting, and I appreciated that. 

  The Special Special:  So now we have a one-article Special Town Meeting within the Fall Special Town Meeting.  I had been urging broader wording to the revision of the restrictive covenant, but others were concerned that something broader wouldn’t pass Town Meeting.  I disagree.  The change only needs a majority vote, and to allow dentists and lawyers and psychologists – services with nearly identical impact to chiropractic offices, which is the current limitation – seems obvious to me.  The best option was one that hadn’t come up until the meeting:  we should have created a two-article warrant – one allowing technical and professional office uses as well as making the education and non-profit correction; and the second with just the correction.  If the first didn’t pass, the second would have been a back-up.  Oh well.

  CPA Stuff: It will be interesting to see how this Plum Brook thing pans out.  And it will be interesting to see how or if it (some PDFs and other details here on the recent the Supreme Judicial Court decision) along with the failure of the Main Street Hills Lots acquisition might affect Question 4 on Tuesday.  Time will tell. 

  Catching Up:  If I could just finish the October 6 minutes, I’d be all caught up.  Well, all caught up on the ones I must do.  Anything I haven’t written from the era before I was responsible for the SB minutes will probably never get written.  But you never know. 


Eva Schiffer said:

During the discussion of Art. 6 (Municipal Housing Trust), was it made clear that any money appropriated to the Trust, from whatever source, could henceforth be expended by the Trust WITHOUT FURTHER APPROPRIATION -- meaning that Town Meeting would have NO further role in reviewing and voting on projects that the Trustees had in mind? I've been concerned about this all along and think it is imperative that Town Meeting members understand this clearly as they consider their vote on the article. I'd be interested to hear what, if anything, was said about that, and what your own thoughts are about it. I myself think that this section of the law should have been included in the article, along other sections that were.

I believe that was made clear -- Alisa brought it up, and specifically cited that most but not all of the language of the MGL was included in the article. I don't know the reason it wasn't included, particularly because it was stressed that all the powers allowed under the law are being sought in this proposal. Town Counsel had been expected to be at the SB meeting to answer such questions, but will be at Town Meeting.

I think having the trustees control the appropriations is fine. What would Town Meeting need to weigh in on? Any CPA money that might go into the trust would only do so by TM approval anyway -- if TM thinks that's too open-ended, it would not support the CPA request. Other monies wouldn't be taxation, so there's no reason for TM to weigh in there. It seems to me that this would work fine, and allow for more flexibility and responsiveness than might otherwise be possible.

What do you think? Are you concerned about TM not having a larger role? Or concerned that that might be problematic to others?

Eva Schiffer said:

Thanks, Stephanie. My previous comment was written when I had only seen part of the discussion at your Select Board meeting. Tonight, I caught the replay on ACTV of the presentation and discussion of a Municipal Housing Trust at the warrant review meeting, heard Alisa's and Vince's questions, and was reasonably reassured by the answers.

I still think that omitting that crucial section of the law from the article is peculiar. But I hope the point will be adequately stressed at Town Meeting, and I'll trust Town Meeting to raise any appropriate concerns.



Recent Comments