Selectmen Amend, Support Neighborhood Conservation Districts Article
The Board of Selectmen discussed a handful of amendments proposed to warrant article 5, which would create neighborhood conservation districts as a planning tool.
One of the articles heading to Special Town Meeting on Nov. 15 is article 5, which would create neighborhood conservation districts (NCDs). It's connected to article 6, which would establish the first NCD around Hancock Village in Sotuh Brookline. For discussion at last night's Board of Selectmen meeting, a selection of proposed amendments to the article.
With the exception of the technical correction to the article, all of these amendements failed at the advisory committee. Their sub-committee did not recommend any of them for approval either. Despite those recommendations, the Selectmen passed an amended version of the article with three amendments.
Town Counsel/Stanley Spiegel Amendment
Town counsel, Jennifer Dopazo Gilbert, recommended an amendment that would exempt school projects from the NCD review process. Stanley Spiegel, an advisory committee member, expanded that exemption to all town projects. The Spiegel version was ultimately voted favorably the by Selectmen, four to one, with Selectman Dick Benka voting no.
Along with a neighborhood conservation district, the article creates a neighborhood commission responsible for maintaining the "character of the neighborhood." Any project proposed requires a certificate of appropriateness from that commission before construction or demolition begins.
Town counsel's argument is that this extra "hoop" could delay funding from the Mass. School Building Association or Department of Education on school projects. If the certificate of appropriateness is given to a design that MSBA or DOE doesn't think is sufficient, this could jeopardize funding for the school project.
Selectwoman Nancy Daly supported the amendment, "We are under a state law mandate to educate our children, and we are anticipating a number of other projects to expand some of our other schools coming up. These are not always popular, unfortunately, and I would be supportive of that [amendment]."
Selectman Ken Goldstein agreed, "My rationale is that, we have a great deal of process when it comes to town process. They can be controversial, but no one can say there is not a lot of process in them."
Saying he was "ambivalent" to the article, Selectman Benka explained his thinking behind the "no" vote.
"We know that we need the schools and know that municipal projects are necessary, and they already go through an extensive public process, which is not true of other projects." Said Benka, "On the other hand, if you have an NCD that applies to school projects or to town projects, it doesn't stop those projects--it just requires that project be done in conformity with the neighborhood."
Scott Gladstone Amendment
The amendment adds a requirement that, within a year of the neighborhood commission's formation, that commission must issue a written report to Town Meeting describing their work over the past year. This report will examine to the NCD's design guidelines, and make suggestions for changes to it. This amendment was voted favorably by the Selectmen, unanimously.
Said Selectmen Dick Benka, "I support the Scott Gladstone amendment, even though I think--as Town Counsel said--a review of how the process works could be done without the amendment. Frankly, it's something that should be done with any bylaw on an ongoing basis. We should--and we do--determine how the bylaw is working and, if appropriate, we amend it."
He cited the discussion of a noise bylaw amendment to help limit the noise of leafblowers.
The selectmen also unanimously approved a technical correction surrounding the headings "Neighborhood Conservation Districts" and "Title and purpose."
Also on the Selectmen's calendar last night was warrant article 2, collective bargaining agreements. No agreements have been put forward for the town meeting, so the Board moved "no action" on this article.