Farewell Chief Skerry
Starting with a good-bye, the Selectmen unanimously approved a resolution to honor for his years of service to the town. Skerry is retiring after nearly 30 years working in the town of Brookline in numerous capacities within the .
“I've said it before, and want to say again about this resolution, that it’s fully justified. He has done, I think, a superb job. He’s been a pleasure to work with for those of us on the board.” Selectman Nancy Daly commented, “I am deeply sorry he’s chosen to retire, and it’s not too late for him to rethink that.”
The rest of the Selectmen had similarly positive comments, but Skerry didn't hear them as he was on official business in North Carolina at the time. At 10 a.m. on Friday, there will be a farewell coffee for Fire Chief Skerry in the Community Room at the . Those who want to wish the retiring chief well can stop by and say hello.
Until his replacement is found, Town Administrator Melvin Kleckner recommended that former fire chief John Green be appointed as Interim Fire Chief. Kleckner added that the selection process for the full-time position has changed, and will allow for more competition and transparency.
For the , the food and beverage provider proposals have been considered heavily by the Parks and Recreation Commission. The contract was going to one of two groups, and the commission finally landed on VineRipe Grill as the vendor of choice.
Said Parks and Recreation commissioner Jim Carroll, “This has been a great learning experience for everybody on the board, transitioning from decisions about what sort of field surface to put on and whether dogs are allowed in the parks. It has transitioned something of a very serious nature: we're dealing with peoples' livelihoods, businesses and contracts.”
Robert Daut, attorney for the group whose contract was not chosen, JJAKS, LLC, was present. According to him, the VineRipe proposal did not meet the Request for Proposal, and they should have been automatically disualified. He also asserted that VineRipe violated a Non-Collusion Agreement.
Daut added, "There will be a bid protest filed, and may be further litigation.”
Despite Daut's comments, the Board unanimously approved the contract for VineRipe Grill on the Green. Selectman Daly referenced a past negative history which may have influenced the decision.
“The contract comes to this board for a vote. We did not vote for your client,” she said. “I am personally comfortable with reccomendation from Parks and Recreation”
A handful of warrant articles were presented, covering topics like fencing requirements, new zoning tools, and possibly removing Brookline from the Norfolk County government.
There are two fencing requirements being discussed. One puts a maximum height on fences, and the other sets requirements on side-yard fences and hedges where cars may need to drive around a corner.
One complaint from these Articles came down to a single word. Town Meeting Member Linda Olson Pehlke suggested that instead of the word "objectionable," the article use the word "detrimental" for fences which neighbors feel violated this Warrant Article. She feels the word "objectionable" is too broad and open to interpretation.
Davis Path Sky Plane
Davis Path is a special district located on Route 9, with MBTA tracks behind it. Currently, development on the site has been held back with a temporary down-zoning, which lasts until Aug 1. One of the for the site would have covered the neighborhood on White Place, located across the tracks, in shadow.
In an effort to fix that, the Davis Path Special District Zoning Committee is using an innovative concept called a "Sky Plane." If the building is built inside a zoning envelope or a "box," the sky plane effectively puts a lid on the size and shape of the building. This lid is set at an angle which allows sunlight to touch the buildings behind the development.
Within these boundaries, architects can design any building that fits. Practially, the Route 9 front of the building would be taller than the rear of the building. Sky planes are a concept used in New York City and Nashville, Tenessee, and in a few instances in Cambridge, Mass.
This is a plan developed by town officials and backed by the neighbors at White Place. The land belongs to a few different groups: a small parcel to the Town, two plots to the Chung family, and the remaining land to Red Cab and American Transportation Enterprises (ATE).
Joe Geller, representing ATE, commented, "First of all, I'd like to say the owner very much appreciates the process we went through here, and that we were incorporated into the discussion process. We very much appreciate that, and it doesn't always happen that way."
Geller commented that ATE is not supportive of the Article as it is worded, but they are interested in some of the incentives being offered. They are also open to an evolving concept but are concerned that the complex wording could allow for misinterpretations.
The article before the Board tonight included a number of sections marked in red for deletion and rephrasing.
"With the changes being proposed, it's a better article," Geller concluded.
Norfolk County: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Brookline's part in the Norfolk County government could come to an end with a warrant article brought forward.
“When I first read it, I thought it was insane, but now that I’ve read into it, it makes a lot of sense,” said Fred Lebow, petitioner for Article 21 to remove Brookline from Norfolk County.
Participation in the Norfolk County government also gives Brookline access to High Schools in other parts of the county, and the golf course, There is also a county in town.
“We don't get much out of it, except a bill every year–that goes up every year," added Lebow.
There are a number of benefits listed in a memo presented by Dan Matthews, Director of the Norfolk County Board of Commissioners. Such as access to the State's Court Rental system, allowing the court. County Engineering provides backup to the town's Department of Public Works, and access to the Presidents Golf Course and Agricultural High Schools.
Matthews explained, “Allowance [of the article] would shift costs to other communities which can’t afford them."
Brookline is among the highest-paying members of the county under the current structure, however this means that other towns in the county are not facing the same costs on similar issues. A memo from Matthews references possible shift in that structure.
Matthews isn't alone. In a memo, Police Chief Daniel O'Leary acknowledged that the resolution leaves the penal and court systems out, but still voiced concerns about the impact of withdrawing from the County.
At the meeting, Chief O'Leary added, "If the Town votes to withdraw, and does, it leaves a big question on how we’ll conduct our business. If we lose the ability to have a court, it sets us back.”
The Board did not take action on this Article tonight.
The Selectmen ended the evening by voting on previously presented warrant articles. The articles will be voted on during the May 3 town hall meeting. The Board moved "favorable action," unanimously, on the following:
- Article 13 – Clarifying the difference between a "hotel" and a "limited service hotel" in the zoning bylaws.
- Article 15 – Defining the rear yard setbacks of business and industrial districts.
- Article 17 – "Brunch Laws" allowing sale of alcoholic beverages before 10 a.m. at certain restaurants.
They also voted favorable acton on the contentious Article 12, re-zoning the Cleveland Circle Hotel Overlay District.
Just after the vote, John Kibrick of 381 Clinton Road presented a letter with 15 signatures of concerned neighbors. He represents a freshly-formed group called the Clinton Road Task Force.
"The goal is to slow this process down to a speed that we can all get everybody involved, and understand this a little bit better," Kibrick explained.
DeWitt reminded him that this is merely step one of a process which could still take years before construction went through. The Board's goal is to move quickly so that they are not left out of development plans, and possible revenues in future.
Selectman Mermell explained that speed was needed not only for revenue but to guarantee Brookline's input in the process, "It's entirely possible that the developer could choose to do this 100% in Boston, or even more in Boston than it already is. Then we really wouldn't have any leverage to say 'this really doesn't work for our town' or 'this is going to be a problem for our neighbors.'"
A vote on the Lawrence Historical District was held until moreinformation about the properties which have not yet voted can be presented.
The Selectmen unanimously voted "no action," on a proposal to have all sidewalks in Brookline cleared during winter storms.
"I would love to, but contrary to Mr. Ziskend's assertion, we could not without making cuts elsewhere," Selectman Daly explained.
The Board also named a new permanent designee to the Mass. Water Resources Authority: Environmental Engineer James Hersey, better known as Jay.
“I highly recommend that the Board names him permanent designee," added Commissioner of Public Works Andy Pappisturgion.
The Selectmen also assigned temporary Alcoholic Beverage licenses to for a wedding reception April 16, a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) event on May 14, and to two Boston University banquets on May 21.