November 17, 2008 Select Board Meeting

Select Board Meeting - November 17, 2008
Music Room, Amherst Regional Middle School


Meeting called to order by Mr. Weiss at 6:32 p.m.


Present:  Gerry Weiss, Diana Stein, Alisa Brewer, Aaron Hayden, Stephanie O'Keeffe
Absent: (none)
Present: Town Manger Larry Shaffer
Town Staff:  David Ziomek, Jonathan Tucker; Town Counsel Shirin Everett
Members of the public:  Walter Wolnik, Julie Johnson, Jonathan O'Keeffe, Rob Kusner, Hilda Greenbaum


There were no opening remarks or announcements.


Walter Wolnik said that ACTV will soon have on-demand video, including Select Board meetings.  He recommended that agendas or minutes be annotated in a way to indicate the start times of different topics, to assist those watching the online video.  He also suggested that links to recent Select Board budget meeting videos be included on the Budget Process page on the Town web site.


Update on Article 11 - Larch Hill

Mr. Hayden disclosed that he is on the Hitchcock Center Board and Ms. Stein said she had been active in the Center's founding; both said these did not represent financial conflicts or affect their objectivity.  Mr. Shaffer said that compensation will be expected by the State as part of the land transfer and lease action sought under Article 11.  The Hitchcock Center intends to cover the costs for such compensation, and Town Counsel advises that the details of that agreement appropriately will occur with the lease agreement, and not with this article. That lease will be crafted by Mr. Shaffer and the Conservation Commission, and will come to Town Meeting for approval.  It was confirmed by Town Counsel and the Town Manager that new information does not change any of the previous assumptions under which the Select Board's vote in support of the article was taken.  It was further emphasized that passage of the article doesn't tie the Town's hands if a mutually-satisfactory lease agreement can't be achieved; this is an initial step in support of the project, and the Town's interests are protected now and will continue to be protected with each subsequent step.  Mr. Ziomek said that creation of the ground lease would occur simultaneously with the petitioning of the State Legislature to approve the Article 97 transfer. 
Action: No vote was taken.  The October 27th vote in support of the article stands.

Update on Town Manager Evaluation

Mr. Weiss suggested releasing each Select Board member's Town Manager evaluation form to the public in its entirety.  He said that seemed preferable to him cutting and pasting all the elements of each one into a single composite document.  He said that the forms could be released with or without Select Board members' names.  It was suggested that he try to summarize any broad themes in a cover document, to try to unify and add value to the separate documents.  Members were willing to have the full documents released, and to have their names on them.  Concern was expressed about whether former-Select Board member Anne Awad would be willing to have her name on hers, and if not, how that might compel the rest of the Select Board.  Mr. Weiss said he would check with her.  There was discussion about the logistics of releasing the documents, the nature of the agenda item to be planned for that topic, and how consideration of next year's goals and expectations might occur.  Those issues were not resolved.
Action:  It was agreed that full evaluation documents would be released; members' names would be included if Ms. Awad concurred; and that Mr. Weiss would consider creating a composite summary of common themes from the individual evaluations.

Update on Article 9, Part C - Recreation Space Requirement

Jonathan O'Keeffe said that the Planning Board would ask to have Part C of Article 9 (a proposal to require recreation space for some types of multi-unit residential development) referred back to itself, following last week's referral back of parts A, B and D.  The primary reason was that Part C was not intended to stand alone, and had some dependence on language in other parts of the article.  He could not predict when a revised article on the issue might come back to Town Meeting, and said it would be considered among other Planning Board priorities. 
VOTED unanimously to support referring Part C of Article 9 back to the Planning Board.

Update on Article 10 - Professional Office Uses in LI District

Mr. Weiss said that Town Meeting members had approached him with possible amendments to the article, seeking to have it apply only to the Light Industrial parcel off North Whitney Street and not apply in North Amherst.  He explained that he had been attempting to find a way to make such an amendment legal to avoid confusion at Town Meeting.  Ms. O'Keeffe objected to how this had been handled, citing:  inappropriate process for consideration of citizen amendments, inappropriate use of Town Counsel, and the inappropriate nature and appearance of this occurring through the Select Board Chair.  She expressed concern about having significant elements of zoning amendment creation occurring outside of the Planning Board's open and deliberative process and the public's view.  Mr. Weiss said he probably could have handled the issue better.  Mr. Hayden suggested that the Planning Department staff or the Planning Board would have been better-suited to consider the citizen amendments.  There was some discussion of the particulars of an intended amendment.  Ms. O'Keeffe objected to the discussion, saying it should occur at a Planning Board meeting or at Town Meeting, but not at the Select Board meeting.
Action:  No action taken.

Approval of Minutes

VOTED 4 in favor, 1 abstention (Hayden,) with a single vote to approve the minutes of the October 27, 2008 and November 3, 2008 Select Board meetings, as amended.  Mr. Hayden abstained because he was not yet on the Select Board as of those meetings.

VOTED unanimously to approve the minutes of the November 10, 2008 Select Board meeting.

Farmers Market Extension

Mr. Shaffer had distributed a memo earlier in the day regarding the request by the Farmers Market to extend to next weekend.  The memo indicated support from the Police Chief, the DPW Superintendent and the Chamber of Commerce.  Appreciation was expressed for Mr. Shaffer's efforts in collecting and presenting these details, and doing so on short notice.
VOTED unanimously to approve the following motion:  Consistent with the Town Act, Chapter 216 of the Acts of 2001, in particular, Section 3.2244 Regulation of public ways - The Select Board shall control and regulate the public ways, the Select Board hereby authorizes the use of the Spring Street parking lot and public way, from Boltwood Avenue to South Pleasant Street, on Saturday, November 22, 2008 from sunrise to 2:00 p.m. for use by the Amherst Farmers Market.

Approval of Select Board's Annual Report

Appreciation was expressed to the Select Board members for their assistance and to the Chair for putting the report together. 
VOTED 4 in favor, 1 abstention (Hayden,) to accept the FY 2008 Select Board Annual Report.


Mr. Shaffer said that a photographer would be at the November 24th meeting to take individual and group photos of the Select Board for Town Hall.  He said it is important for history, and recommended that such photos happen after each election.  All were advised to come prepared to be photographed.
No action taken.


VOTED unanimously to adjourn the open meeting at 7:26 p.m.



  Best news I've heard lately:  on-demand meeting video is coming soon!  I think that will be incredibly useful and popular, and Walter's suggestion about noting the start times of the discussion on an annotated agenda is excellent.  That will work very well on this site; I'm not sure how it will work on the Town site, but we'll figure it out.

  I think the Hitchcock Center people must think I oppose their project, because I'm always asking the same noodgy question about the Town's vulnerability and commitment, should things fall apart.  That's just because I'm trying to head off the paranoia and suspicions that I anticipate for stuff like this at Town Meeting.  But I completely miscalculated.  The Hitchcock Center article sailed through, and the Municipal Housing Trust article ended up being the one people that made people wary.  I thought that one would be a breeze, so my radar must be down.  It's hard to know how much to try and troubleshoot, and how much the SB should actively advocate for versus simply recommend.  Always learning how this stuff works.      

  I'm very happy that each SBer's complete Town Manager Evaluation form will be released (and I've since learned from Gerry that Anne is fine with having her name on it, so that part is settled too.)  I think people should know our thoughts on his performance.  The sticky question is how to interpret one "Select Board Evaluation" from among the five "Select Board Member Evaluations."  Imagine five people having entirely different and sometimes contradictory ratings and comments.  (Who knows - you might not have to imagine for long - that may be exactly what we have.  Only Gerry has seen them all, and I don't know when they will be made public.)  What is the Town Manager supposed to do with that?  This whole evaluation process has been a massive puzzle.  Still plenty of room for improvement, but it felt like we made some progress. 

  Article 10 takes the weirdness award for this Town Meeting.  First, there's all this behind-the-scenes stuff going on with unidentified Town Meeting members seeking SB Chair assistance to make their un-submitted "potential" amendment to the article pass muster with Town Counsel - excuse me?!?  Then there was Denise Barberet's presentation of the article on behalf of the Planning Board -  it's a PB article: you know, one that body brought forth and supports - which veered off into sabotage, and was the second most outrageous thing I have witnessed at Town Meeting.  (Yes Rob, T-Shirtgate still holds the prize.)  Some wacky machinations around that article.  Which passed, unadulterated, BTW.

  Picture Day!  The SB is having official pictures taken before Monday's meeting.  I think the following week we get our visages carved into Mount Norwottuck.          



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