LIVEBLOGGING: Greenfield City Council March meeting

The Greenfield City Council is having its regular March meeting this evening. I’ll be live-blogging it here (assuming, as usual, that wifi holds up).

There’s a slight delay in getting started while the sort out the people who can’t find seats. People are currently being turned away at the door.

Alright, here we go…

Public Comment

  • The first commenter is from the Nolumbeka Project, asking that the Council support the library, and that space be made in the library honoring Greenfield’s historical heritage.
  • There is a running theme through a number of the comments so far characterizing the FKH/zoning compromise as a means of healing wounds and moving forward.
  • The Council has just been handed a list of the 200+ Massachusetts towns that have already received state money to refurbish and rebuild their libraries.
  • 18 comments in and we’ve got the first person opposed to the zoning compromise (although he is in support of the new library).
  • Commenter makes the point that even if the zoning portion of the compromise tonight fails, the Council, the Mayor, the Planning Board, and the ZBA can still work together to make changes to promote growth; urges that the Council support the library anyway.
  • Commenter #25: Follow the money—who stands to gain if we develop the French King Highway?
  • Ed Berlin publicly thanks Councilor Sund and acknowledges the difficulties he has gone through.

That’s the end of the public comment. 26 commenters by my count, largely in favor of the library and the zoning compromise, a smattering of objections to the zoning changes.

Public Hearing(s) and Second Reading(s)

  • Councilor Wheeler is reading:

The following sums be appropriated from the Contractual Stabilization Fund to fund retroactive provisions of contract agreement:
Local 274 –Cafeteria/Food Service Workers 2017-2018 School Year $5,092.77
2018-2019 School Year $8,685.28
Total $13,778.05
Contractual Stabilization Balance: $91,687.09

Communications from the Mayor

  • Mayor Martin has no prepared communications, thanks the Council and the community for engaging in this discussion.
  • Embargoed information will be announced later this week “that should impact economic development.” This seems to be some inside joke.
  • The Mayor has asked the Planning Department to review by-laws and ordinances that are in conflict with Master Plan (e.g., requirements to pave acres of parking v. the desire to have permeable surfaces).
  • Some questions regarding the plans and progress on the move of the fire department to Riddell St. In response to Councilor Pyfrom, Mayor Martin states that his office has received no complaints from Riddell St. residents about the fire station, although they have received a few concerns about the skate park.

The Mayor is done. No communications from GCET or School Committee.

Motions, Orders, and Resolutions

Take from the Table FY 19-062 – Payment of FY18 bills $1,546.82

  • Motion is seconded and take from the table
  • Unanimous recommendation from subcommittee
  • Motion carries, Councilor Mass votes no, all others yes

Take from the Table FY 19-067 – Approve payment of prior year invoice NextRequest Co., $ 4,750, paid from the FY19 Greenfield Technology Budget

  • Motion is seconded and taken from table
  • Motion carries, Councilor Mass abstains, all others yes

The following sums be appropriated from the Contractual Stabilization Fund to fund retroactive provisions of contract agreement: Local 274 –Cafeteria/Food Service Workers 2017-2018 School Year $5,092.77; 2018-2019 School Year $8,685.28

Total $13,778.05; Contractual Stabilization Balance: $91,687.09
* Motion is seconded and taken from table
* Unanimous recommendation from subcommittee
* Motion carries unanimously

Zoning Amendment 200-4.16: Corridor Overlay District Section A: District Boundaries

  • This is the French King Highway Overlay District changes
  • Report from committee is in support with one abstention (Councilor Stempl)
  • This motion will require 10 votes due to the filing of a petition from the owners of the abutting property owners.
  • Councilor Wheeler will support this motion because he does not think it will adversely effect development in town
  • Councilor Berson: It is time for us to vote unanimously in support of this.
  • Councilor Mayo is in favor of the Overlay changes and the new library
  • Councilor Stempl talking about her vision for Greenfield—it’s not about empty storefronts or retail, it’s about community and gathering together. She will support this motion and the library, has concerns about the MDR.
  • Councilor Allis says he is more interested in the MDR changes—will vote for that, won’t vote for FKH Overlay changes.
  • Council VP Ricketts supports this motion and the new library, specifically calls out her respect for Al Norman.
  • Council President Renaud states that the last year and half have been some of her most rewarding time on the Council due to the even ideological split and the robust debate it has fostered. “Let’s do something big let’s do something bold. We’re never going to get this change again.”
  • Berson yes, Allis no, Pyfrom no, Dolan yes, Gilmour yes, Wheeler yes, Leonivich no, Mass yes, Ricketts yes, Stempl yes, Sund yes, Renaud yes.
  • Motion carries – This is step 1 of 3 to get to the new library.

Zoning Amendment 200-7.12: Major Development Review Sections B, C, E and F

  • These are the Major Development Review (MDR) changes – the new zoning process.
  • Recommendation from the subcommittee is majority positive, with two abstentions.
  • Councilor Stempl asks what is the effect of this change, Councilor Mass steps through the changes in some detail. Councilor Stempl seems to be trying to get at the high-level view of what the impact is, while Councilor Mass is staying in the weeds.
  • Council President Renaud steps in, states that the numbers agreed upon here are a compromise, as Councilor Mass wanted the MDR completely gone.
  • Councilor Berson: This will make us more approachable and to reduce the cost of presenting your project to the Planning Board and/or Zoning Board.
  • Councilor Stempl asks Councilor Allis what development he thinks we need. Allis describes his visit to the VSS plant and says he liked the suggestion of industrial zoning, but likes mixed-use zoning better. “We as a city put significant delays in the way of a business that has been here 30-40 years that has been growing since the beginning.”
  • Sund yes, Berson yes, Allis yes, Pyfrom yes, Dolan yes, Gilmour yes, Wheeler yes, Mayo yes, Councilor Lenovich yes, Mass yes, Ricketts yes, Stempl (long delay) no, Renaud yes
  • Motion carries This is step 2 of 3 to get to the new library

Amend the Zoning Map, incorporated into the Greenfield Zoning Ordinance by Sec. 200-3.2, changing the underlying District of the Corridor Overlay District defined in Sec. 200-4.16(A) of this ordinance from General Commercial to General Industry

  • This is Councilor Stempl’s idea of changing the zoning of the FKH Overlay.
  • Majority no recommendation from the committee with Councilor Stempl as the only yes.
  • Councilor Dolan says he has spent a lot of time on the French King Highway as a result of this discussion and urges his fellow Councilors to continue to look at the zoning and use this as an opportunity to develop in accordance with the values of this community.
  • Councilor Mass thanks Councilor Stempl for this suggestion but will vote against it, says he believes in the market.
  • Councilor Leonovich wants to piggy-back on what Dolan and Mass just said; we are an appealing place to be and we need to take down the barriers that keep them from coming here.
  • Councilor Sund says he would like to see Greenfield like was in the 70s, no, 60s, no, well 50s to 70s… where you can get everything in Greenfield. And jobs.
  • Council President Renaud says she thinks we should create incentives for businesses that will be cooperatively owned.
  • All vote no except for a yes from Councilor Stempl.
  • Motion fails

Take from the Table FY 19-050 – Upon recommendation of the Mayor, that the sum of $19,541,296 be appropriated for the construction of a new Public Library, and to meet said appropriation, the Treasurer with the approval of the Mayor, is hereby authorized to borrow said sum of $19,541,296, pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 44, section 7 (3) or any other enabling statute, and the Mayor is hereby authorized to apply for, contract for, accept and expend any Federal and/or State Grants available for this project to be used to reduce the within appropriation, and further, the Mayor is authorized to take any action necessary to carry out the intent and purpose of these projects

  • This is the borrowing authority that will allow the city to accept the grant for the library.
  • Everyone but Councilor Pyfrom votes to take the motion from the table; Pyfrom votes no to taking it from the table.
  • Councilor Dolan thanks everyone for coming out tonight, notes that he has never been to Council meeting where there was no room to sit, or where so many people stayed to the bitter end.
  • Councilor Mass speaking to his fellow conservative Councilors as well as conservative members of the public watching from home, cites Ronald Reagan speaking in support of compromise. He’s making a strong case here in support of the library from a conservative point of view. He will vote for the library and encourages his fellow councilor to do the same.
  • Councilor Sund describes the challenge he put to library supporters to fundraise in support of the library in order to ease the burden on taxpayers. “It’s up to you people throughout this town to stand up and let it be known that you who want this library will support it from your wallet to the library’s wallet.” He does not clearly state which way he will vote.
  • Councilor Gilmour states that we can’t cut our way to prosperity, describes the library as an investment. She asks Councilor Sund to consider the question from that point of view.
  • Councilor Berson says people complain about taxes when they don’t get any value, but that the library is a tremendous value.
  • Councilor Pyfrom thinks a library would be a nice thing, but she’s not 100% sure now is the right time. She says she’s heard we have a grant. “Some people don’t like to hear no, but sometimes no is no.” She is not ready to vote for the library.
  • Council VP Ricketts: “I am already anticipating what our downtown will look like with the new library.” She is describing the bustling downtown scene on Saturdays and how the library contributes to that. “And also, I’m not giving back nine million dollars.”
  • Councilor Allis says this vote is the most difficult vote that has come before the Council since he’s been on it, citing what he characterizes as the ever-changing information he has received. Now he wants to share information he has found, which kind of seems to be a lot of napkin-math. He predicts that everyone’s taxes will got up $100/year every year as a result of this project and then we will hit Prop. 2.5.
  • Council President Renaud says President Reagan was right: compromise is the way to get to yes. She thanks Councilor Sund for his support of the nurses in the past, says union workers understand the importance of the library and the BFMC nurses have pledged $10k to the library and will be urging other unions to do the same.
  • Councilor Mayo describes his experience growing up at the library.
  • Councilor Stempl echoes Council President Renaud’s comments, cites the library as a spark for economic development.
  • Councilor Berson talks about how this region needs more people, young families, cites more trains coming to the area.
  • Sund no, Berson yes, Allis abstain, Pyfrom no, Dolan yes, Gilmour yes, Wheeler yes, Mayo yes, Leonovich no, Mass yes, Ricketts yes, Stempl yes, Renaud yes
  • Motion carries THE LIBRARY IS HAPPENING.

Presentation of Petitions and Similar Papers

  • Councilor Allis – Fundraiser at the Peoples Pint on April 10 and 7p in support of the Franklin County Fair.

Meeting is adjourned. That’s a wrap, folks.

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