Straight Talk

HONEST talk about local issues!

Truth, Part XIII–Planning and Zoning takes a vote

humpty_dumptyAll the King’s horses and all the King’s men … October 4 had arrived.  The SAHC had rendered it’s poorly studied, yet craftily manipulated conclusion about the Workforce Housing proposal so that Mr. Rand and Mr. Dresser could use that as part of their marketing plan to obtain the approval of the sale by P&Z.

The duo appeared before P&Z that evening to spew forth more of their twisted version of reality.

Mr. Rand, along with his comrade Mr. Dresser, came forth and seated themselves at the P&Z table.  Mr. Rand proceeded to market the sale proposal which he and others (along with a bit of assistance from the Town’s bank account) had crafted.  While his testimony was somewhat inaccurate, it was the version of reality they had come to believe, at least each time they said it.

This was followed by some clarification from Chairman Klemens:

Chairman, M. Klemens clarified that the task before the Commission is to ascertain whether or not the proposed purchase and use is compatible with Salisbury’s Plan of Conservation and Development, rather than to comment on the financial aspects of the offer.

Mr. Rand then made the ‘pity plea’ …

C. Rand noted that the property has been an open listing for a year. Other proposals have been discussed, but this offer is the first that has had sufficient merit to be put before a Town Meeting.

Although I was present in the room, it was Mr. Rand who presented information about the proposal I had created and presented numerous times.  I guess that was the best approach since I would probably have told the truth, which unfortunately did not synchronize with the story they had been creating.

Additional information about this option was provided by C. Rand. The Salisbury Housing Trust was approached but concluded that the firehouse project was not consistent with the mission and model of the Housing Trust. The Salisbury Housing Committee also considered the proposal but determined that it was not a feasible project for them at this time because they are already committed to building an additional six units of housing at Sarum Village. The Affordable Housing Committee investigated M. Flint’s proposal but concluded that the costs outweighed the benefits at this time.

Here again, Mr. Rand does not quite get it right, or at least not in the real world sense.  Email to both housing organizations would reveal that Mr. Rand cleverly presented the conversion idea in such a way as to get them to say NO, the result that he and his comrades desired.

Mr. Rand went on to spout about potential environmental costs which might be incurred if the Workforce Housing idea was pursued.  Later I would learn that he distorted that information too.

Finally the commissioners voiced their thoughts:

There was an extensive discussion. Points made included the following.
C. Rich ‐ It is not really in synch with the POCD plan to revitalize the village centers. I would rather see a more public use of the space.
J. Higgins – Choices concerning the firehouse were extensively investigated by the Advisory Committee at the time the building was transferred to the Town. The recommendation at that time was to sell the property to a private entity to help offset the costs of building the new firehouse. The Galloglys’ offer to purchase is certainly in accord with that recommendation. It is a reasonable offer, not in conflict with Salisbury’s POCD.
J. Swanson – The building is beautiful and simple and is on the national registry of historic properties. The Galloglys’ offer includes restoring the building adhering to historic registry guidelines.
D. Dwyer – This is a major structure of historic significance for the Town. Clearly there should be a public discussion about what to do with the building. Why hasn’t the Affordable Housing Coordinator been utilized to research the affordable housing option?

While some of the Commissioners spoke with knowledge, others had obviously bought into the company line.  Most notable was the complete lack of knowledge by alternate Commissioner Swanson.  She openly admitted that she had not seen the conversion plan and was not even vaguely familiar with it.  It is very comforting to know that this alternate Commissioner is periodically seated in a voting capacity to decide the fate of your property.

Vote without knowledge … maybe these words should grace the front of our Town Hall while the current administration remains in office.

And what is it we pay that Affordable Housing Coordinator to do?  If you find out, send me an email.

The Commission finally voted:

It was then moved by J. Higgins and seconded by C. Rich to approve the sale of the old firehouse as proposed by the Board of Selectmen as it is not in conflict with Salisbury’s Plan of Conservation and Development.
Roll Call Votes were as follows:

For – J. Higgins and M. Whalen

Against: D. Dwyer, C. Rich and M. Klemens

The motion failed.

(Read the full P&Z minutes from October 4, 2011)

With that, some folks hastily exited the room looking rather unhappy.  Soon after we would learn that the sale offer had been withdrawn.

The conversion proposal would fade into the darkness, hopefully never to be spoken of again.

Tomorrow, I will make some final observations and even revelations, before I put this story to bed.

To be continued …

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