Beaver Country PILOT Held, Private School's Use of Town Fields Questioned
Selectmen held the vote on a PILOT agreement with Beaver Country Day School per a request from Selectwoman Nancy Daly, who felt the agreement is inappropriate.
A PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement with Beaver Country Day School, has been put on hold because of an attached revocable license agreement that would formally give the school the right to use town parks during certain hours. The majority of the board supported the plan, excepting Selectwoman Nancy Daly, who said she "cannot support it."
Part of the agreement includes permission for the school to use Soule Recreation Center town fields from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on week days, in exchange for weekend use of Beaver Country's fields on weekends, an arrangement that officials say has been in place for over 15 years previously.
Recreation Director Lisa Paradis described the relationship as "very symbiotic," noting “this has worked so well because they use fields when youth programs aren’t using them, and we use their fields when they’re not using them.”
However, some High School teams could be using those fields, Daly pointed out, rather than--as her daughter did--struggle to get to Larz Anderson Park in time for lacrosse practice.
“I cannot vote for this, I don’t think it’s appropriate." Daly explained, "At a minimum, before we essentially take town fields and give them to a private entity, there should be a wider public process.”
Said Selectman Dick Benka, “I think that this is a win-win agreement. The parties have found accomodations that make the fields available at a time that’s useful to the other party.”
“We have 15 years of track record and two years to opt-out. I think this is a continuation of standard operating procedure,” Selectwoman Jesse Mermell pointed out.
There is currently a clause in the agreement which allows the town to discuss and find alternate placement for the private school's programs in the event of significant weather events, significant construction, or other needs--such as the predicted school growth.
The PILOT agreement will net the town a total of over $1.57 million over the course of 18 years. The 2013 payment is just under $5,000, and ranges to over $129,000 by the eighteenth year.
The Board would have voted on this issue, on the condition of town counsel-approved fine-tuning to the language. Benka pointed out that there was no specific clause saying the town and school could opt-out of the fields agreement--and therefore the PILOT agreement--at any time.
As Daly asked the board to hold their vote. Selectman Chair Betsy DeWitt explained that the board typically defers to such requests from board members.
If the agreement is signed, it marks the first PILOT agreement the town has with a private school.