Lenox Community Preservation Committee
March 23, 2015
In Attendance: Frederick Keator (Chair), Tony Patella (Community Center), Tom Delasco (PB), Joe Strauch (Cons Comm), Gene Chague (At Large), Catherine May (Housing Authority), Albert Harper (At Large), Olga Weiss (LHC), Ed Lane (BoS),Gwen Miller (Town Planner), Christopher Ketchen (Town Manager), Betsy Strauch, Clarence Fanto (Berkshire Eagle), Jan Chague, Ken Kelly, Dianne Romeo, Deborah Ferro Burke, Marybeth Mitts, George Darey, Sharon Hawkes, Kate McNulty-Vaughan, Thomas Romeo, David Lane, Tad Ames
The Community Preservation Committee held a public hearing on March 16, 2015. This hearing was noticed twice in the Berkshire Eagle in two successive weeks prior to the hearing, as well as in the official posting location in Lenox Town Hall for at least fourteen days, pursuant to M.G.L. Chapter 44B, Section 5(b)(1).
The March 16 meeting minutes were approved with amendments.
The CPC acted upon twelve (14) motions, approved ten (10) and denied four (4).
- To appropriate $134,765 from General Unreserved funds to pay for the library debt
To appropriate $124,200 from Affordable Housing funds to pay for the Sawmill Brook debt
- To appropriate 5% of receipts, or $24,253.20 for Administrative purposes from General Unreserved.
- To appropriate up to $27,750 from Historic Preservation funds to support the construction of a cupola for the Old Courthouse building, with a security interest and guarantee that the town can use images of said cupola for marketing or advertising.
- To appropriate $9,965 from Open Space/Recreation to the Kennedy Park Improvements Project
- To appropriate $23,490 from General Unreserved funds for the Ventfort Hall Master Plan
- To appropriate $25,000 from Historic Preservation and to carry forward previous years balance of $13,000 for the Church on the Hill Cemetery restoration project.
- To appropriate $27,350 from Affordable Housing for the Affordable Housing Trust
- To appropriate $40,000 from Affordable Housing for the Affordable Housing Trust
- To appropriate $28,000 from Affordable Housing for the Affordable Housing Trust
- To not provide any funds to the Affordable Housing Trust in FY16
- To appropriate $20,000 from Historic Preservation to fund the town’s request for the replacement of the Library Steps, with the goal of repurposing the existing marble steps for some other project.
- To appropriate $20,000 from General Unreserved to support Shakespeare and Company’s St. Martin’s Hall restoration.
- To appropriate $250,000 from Open Space to support the BNRC Undermountain Farm Conservation Project
AH recused himself and left the room
- To appropriate $100,000 from FY16 revenue into Open Space
AH recused himself and left the room
- PUBLIC HEARING CONTINUANCE
- Funding for the Affordable Housing Trust’s Matching Grant Program
Deborah Ferro Burke, Chair of the Affordable Housing Trust/Committee, presented the application. Her summary is attached, see Attachment “A”. She thanked the CPC for its support in the past, including it’s funding the bond payments for the Sawmill Brook property. She also indicated that though the Lenox housing market creates a challenging landscape with which to work, there is potential to help put working households into homes in Lenox with continued funds. She described other initiatives the Trust could pursue along with their matching grant program, including the purchase of a property, and assistance to older residents who wish to age in place.
EL asked how much money would go into the fund this year. FK indicated it would be approximately $48,000. FK asked why the Trust requested 10% of the housing sleeve. Ms. Burke indicated that with greater funds, the Trust would have greater flexibility to respond to opportunities. FK referred to a one page summary available on the Trust’s website which indicates that the maximum grant amount is $50,000. He asked if the Trust would change that limit with additional funds. Ms. Burke said yes.
- St. Martin’s Hall Restoration, Phase 1
Ms. DeFarlo and Mr. Ball presented the St. Martin’s Hall project to the committee and guests. They reiterated that the funds would allow them to stabilize the building and to create a dynamic space out of it.
JS asked if no funds from CPC would delay the project. Mr. Ball said yes. AH said he was still confused about the money would fund. Steve said the money would address drainage issues, boarding up windows and doors, and other efforts toward building stabilization so that they can preserve the building and reuse it rather than letting it deteriorate. FK asked where St. Martin’s Hall falls in terms of priority. Mr. Ball stated that it is still a priority, and that in general, even with the turn over at the organization, the priorities will remain the same. TD asked if the organization had sought landmark status for the building. Ms. DeFarlo indicated that they had sought larger grants, and while they received a majority of the funds, they did not receive all of them, so could really
benefit from CPC funds. She also said that the Alumni Association of the Lenox School for Boys were committed to supporting the organization and the restoration of St. Martin’s Hall in a number of ways. Mr. Fanto asked what the total cost projection for the St. Martin’s Hall project is. Mr. Ball said it would depend on the use, as different uses require different building code and access considerations, such as ADA compliance.
- Kennedy Park Improvements
GM presented the Kennedy Park application. She noted that she had brought forward a grant opportunity in December, and that it required a match. She said the project would restore a handicap accessible trail at Kennedy Park, create a handicap accessible picnic area, complete other trail work, and remove hardy kiwi from the park. She noted that while she had yet to hear from the first grant opportunity, NHESP had committed $15,000 to map and remove hardy kiwi in anticipation of the town’s match. She also explained that she hadn’t sought competitive bids for the CPC funds because Greenagers is an organization with a specific mission of youth development and could benefit Lenox teenagers and young adults. She also noted that even without the state funding, much of the project could
be completed with the requested $9,995. FK asked how Lenox teenagers or young adults would be involved. GM said that Greenagers would recruit from the high school, so interested students could participate. CM asked when the Town expects to hear back from the state regarding the DCR grant opportunity, and GM said mid to late summer, and that the grant is a reimbursement grant so the town could start the work and finish by the fall, and get repaid by submitting invoices. AH stated he thought the project was well thought out and would help make Kennedy Park more safe for the many users, and that the removal of hardy kiwi is very important.
- Church on the Hill Cemetery
OW described the progress made over the years in the restoration of the Church on the Hill Cemetery. She said the work has included stonework and tree work. She said the funds requested and carried over from last year will help complete the project. She also noted that they will have to take the project out to bid. EL asked if the historical commission was happy with their last contractor. She said they had noted very specific, necessary improvements that the Town had not identified, but the big test of the work to date will be after this winter. TP asked if the LHC would continue to invest money and time into the cemetery after the 250th anniversary year. OW said yes, and described the non-profit account set up through the library to help fund raise for the cemetery. AH
noted that some of the cosmetic work could be completed by volunteers. Ms. Hawkes clarified that the account is a sub-account under the library’s 501 ( c ) 3 account, with its own budget line. She now sits on the LHC to help guide the work done with those funds. CM asked what the LHC envisions the cemetery activity in two years from now. OW said they will be done with the restoration, and that they have already developed a tour, presentation and social media to help garner attention and appreciation of the cemetery’s history. TP asked if the lines of communication are open between the Town and the LHC to ensure that maintenance is a cost shouldered by the Town and not just left become increasingly expensive. OW and CK indicated yes.
The public hearing closed at 8:10 PM.
- COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS to BOARD of SELECTMEN
At 8:10 PM, the committee transitioned into the voting section of the meeting.
This section contains discussions related to projects; for motions and vote results, see page 1.
FK indicated that two items have to be funded: debt service, and the administrative “housekeeping” item.
- Library: $134,765 payment; $100,000,000 balance, maturity of July 15, 2023.
- Sawmill Brook: $124,200 payment; $240,000 balance; maturity of September 10, 2016.
AH moved to pay annual payment for library of $134,765 and annual payment for Sawmill Brook of $124,200 from the undesignated and housing buckets, respectively. JS seconded. Motion was approved unanimously.
- FK stated they had an opportunity to reserve 5% of receipts into the Administrative sleeve for “housekeeping” purposes. He stated this would be $24,253.20, and if taken from the undesignated sleeve, would leave $40,000 in the undesignated bucket. JS moved to allocate 5% of receipts for administration. AH seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.
Discussion: FK noted that Mr. Oakes had submitted a revised budget of $36,725. A committee member stated that they found the reduced request to be a good change and step in the right direction. AH stated that vetting is required for allocating CPC funds to a private property; the test has to be if the public benefit outweighs the advantage of the property owner. He said he is unsure if the project is justifiable even at $36,725. A member asked if he could consider a match to Mr. Oakes $27,730. CM stated her support for $37,725. She found the access to town at the intersection is not particularly attractive, and there is nothing to really entice people to that street. She found the former court house to be a very important building and that they should support the efforts of the
owner. JS stated he found it inappropriate to provide funds to a private entity. He saw no urgency in the project, and noted the owner could pay for the project on his own in the long run. He described it as “want versus need”, and noted it wouldn’t hurt the town in the long run to not fund it. GC said he found the project to be beneficial, and that it will cause people to linger in that area. TD said he could go either way, noting that it is an iconic building, even though the interior has changed greatly with the renovation. OW said that many historic buildings have undergone great alteration but are still historic. TD said that the owner was in business to make money, in a for-profit enterprise. Eventually the budget will allow him to complete the project. TD asked if they could use images of the cupola for marketing, and if they could require repayment. FK noted that the value depreciates over time, and it would be good if they could use it for marketing, they could
require some return on investing, and wondered what kind of restrictions could be instituted. EL stated he was in favor of the project—many people didn’t realize the significance of the building until the project came about; he favored funding $27,730. FK praised Mr. Oakes effort, but wondered if this would create a precedent for funding other historic building, of which Lenox has many, and he also questioned using public funds for a private enterprise. AH made a motion to support the Former Court House to a match of $27,750 with a security provision, and that if the cost changes, the town will provide up to half of the total, not to exceed $27,750. GC asked if they could insert language to freely use the image of the cupola. JS said anybody can use the image. The motion carried 6-3, with FK, TD and JS objecting.
- Kennedy Park Improvements
OW said it was a great project; TD moved to approve the Kennedy Park application for the sum of $9,965 from open space/recreation. The motion carried unanimously.
- Ventfort Hall Master Plan
EL stated that Ventfort Hall has been around a long time, and come for help and that it was good to have them developing a concrete plan. CM echoed EL’s opinion, and thought it worth giving them support as they forward rationally and reasonably. AH felt a plan is not reasonable, and would prefer a tangible project, though glad they received the $35,000 grant from the state and supported the project in the hope they will return with a feasible project. GC expressed support of the project. JS said they were rescuing a disaster and we should support them. TD said he also would prefer a tangible asset, but thinks the effort is a good one. TP stated that Ventfort has come a long way with improved direction; he supported the project. FK thought that Ventort Hall has struggled a long
time, and are finally putting the horse before the cart. He said that they’ve gotten funds for a larger portion--$23,490 versus $30,000, and that the CPC award should be lower. OW said she liked the project, and was impressed on how they had collected themselves. TD made a motion to approve the project and fund it to the amount of $23,490 from undesignated. AH seconded. The motion carried 9-0.
- Church on the Hill Cemetery
The committee discussed the progress that has been made in the cemetery over recent years. AH moved to approve the amount of $25,000 and carry forward the unspent balance of previous years of $13,000 from Historic Preservation. CM seconded. The motion carried 9-0.
- Funding for the Affordable Housing Trust’s Matching Grant Program
EL said it was unclear to him for what amount the housing trust asked. FK said they asked for $48,000—10% of the housing sleeve. EL said that made sense; OW said that the housing trust and committee is a vehicle for action and able to get something done and the funds would enhance their flexibility and ability to act. CM said she had no comment. AH said that to him, it was a question of the ability to veto projects—by putting 10% into the trust fund, the CPC would relinquish their important fiduciary role. The affordable trust and committee already has $120,000, and would only allocate $27,000 for the mortgage program. GC said he would at least match $27,000. JS noted they would still have funds for 12 matching grants, and still wants to keep the flexibility with the CPC. FK
stated that all funds have been unrestricted. OW reiterated how important the flexibility is to the trust and committee—she said they would not do something foolish, and operate under trust regulations. TD said he had no hang ups with funding the 10% sleeve. The vetting has been done and the group is a responsible one. TP said that the funds would provide greater opportunities, not set in a dollar amount, and this could help support attorneys as they arise. FK said that a mandate by the CPA is to put money into affordable housing, which the CPC already has done. He would like to retain control at the CPC level. GC made a motion to allocate $27,350 from affordable housing. 4 voted no; 4 voted in support. OW made a motion to fund $40,000; GC seconded. 8 voted no; 1 voted yes. GC made a motion to fund $28,000; 4 voted in favor; 5 voted against. A motion was made to not fund the trust this year; 7 voted in favor and 2 voted against.
OW said she supported the project. It was noted that it was a historic building and that the current steps provided a safety issue. A motion was made to fund $20,000 requested by the Town of Lenox consistent with the goal of repurposing steps from Historic Preservation. The motion passed 9-0.
- St. Martin’s Hall Restoration, Phase 1
TD said he was in support of the project, and thought it had the correct balance: a lot funded, a small amount needed for stabilization. JS said that if they give Shakespeare and Company money or not, the project will not be impacted. AH supported the project but said more specific would be preferred. He would support funding of 10% of the project. CM supported the project, though she wasn’t sure how concrete the project was. She asked how they would know when they’re at a point of completion or success. She said there seemed to not be solid results from the expenditure. OW said she supported the project. EL said this could be a boost in the arm for the organization—whatever the CPC can do to demonstrate report for them is valuable. FK said that Shakespeare and Company is a
great neighbor and community member, and that they should be supported. AH moved to support the St. Martin’s restoration to the tune of $15,000. OW amended the motion to $20,000 from undesignated. CM seconded. The motion carried 7-2.
- Undermountain Farm Conservation Project
AH recused himself from the discussion as his property abuts Undermountain Farm.
JS stated that the protection of open space was the central reason for the adoption of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in Lenox. He never thought that the town would reach a stage where they could support a project such as the one presented by BNRC. He called the project fantastic for protecting so much land for $250,000. GC agreed. He stated it was like getting 180 acres with the additional 30 to be donated by a neighbor. He called 180 acres of protected in the center of Lenox unbelievable. CM described the thought and time she put into considering the project, including many trips along Undermountain Road. She said she ultimately supported the project. OW stated she supported the project; she herself donated land in the 1970s, and thinks that anything the town can do to
preserve land is a win-win situation. She described the project as a big piece of land for a little bit of money. EL stated that he too loves open space but had a difficult time with the amount requested and didn’t think it would fly at town meeting. He emphasized that he was not against the project but opposed to the dollar amount. TP said he struggled with project, recognizing that $350,000 had been put aside in the past for such a project, and wasn’t sure what the “right dollar amount” for the Town of Lenox is. TD expressed similar sentiment as EL: he was concerned with the dollar amount, and thinks there are other avenues to achieve he project. He noted it would take 17 years to recoup $250,000 in taxes. OW reminded the group of what Mr. Romeo has said at a previous meeting—that the town can’t negotiate something like this. TP said he would like to see opportunity for folks to be at the table to plan this. FK noted the town could have participated in the plan, but
they were invited to participate late. He likened it to being invited to a party, showing up late and being handed the bar bill. He suggested that CPC keep saving money for open space acquisition. GC asked what other suggestions FK had. FK said there could be other land owners wishing to donate land. He wants to see the project done the right way. OW asked what the right way is. JS said that the idea there could be a better deal was naïve—he said the town should decide. JS moved to fund $250,000. 4 voted in favor, 4 voted against.
OW said you had an opportunity to get a CR. EL said there was a commitment from the BOS to keep working on this. TP said the questions were unsettled—that perhaps a project could keep evolving to work toward a resolution with full support. JS asked TP to define a better plan. GC said he thought people would vote to remove CPA is open space is not acquired soon. FK suggested they save $100,000. JS moved to move $100,000 into Open Space. GC seconded. The motion carried 8-0.
The meeting adjourned at 9:50 PM.