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Longmeadow Shops expansion shot down

Date: 11/20/2014

LONGMEADOW – The only failed article at the Special Town Meeting on the night of Nov. 18 was for a zone change from residential to business near the Longmeadow Shops that would have allowed for an expansion project to take place.

Article 13, which called for the rezoning, required a two-thirds vote and initially failed by 280 to 142 hand counted votes. Immediately following the failed vote, a motion to revote was placed before town meeting and failed a two-thirds vote by 240 to 144 as well.

The proposed expansion would have included the addition of a drive-thru CVS with a prescription window, a redesign of parking areas, and a new tenant to the property.

“This is a warrant article that if it’s passed and permitting this addition to be built; will generate $70,000 to $80,000 a year in tax revenue, which I suggest, Longmeadow needs,” Steve Walker, manager of Grove Property Fund, which owns the Longmeadow Shops, said.

Planning Board Chair Bruce Colton said the zone change was unanimously recommended by the board following a public hearing at its Oct. 19 meeting.

“I’m not going to say anything bad about [the Longmeadow Shops],” Select Board member Alex Grant said. “I used to represent big companies and that’s what they do; they pursue the interests of share holders. They’re not pursing the interests of town residents.”

Thomas Snelham, a resident of 63 Porter Lake Drive, said he is concerned about the current traffic and speeding issues near the Longmeadow Shops.

“If we bring in more traffic it’s only going to get worse,” he added. “The signage is terrible.”

Planning Board member Walter Gunn said he considers the Longmeadow Shops as a local area business that has the interest of its customers in mind.

“Some of the shops if not half of them; maybe they’re franchises, but they’re owned by local people,” he added. “Even [Max Burger] is out of Hartford, [Conn.] Yes, they want to make money but they also need you as customers and they want to do their best to assure a safe and enjoyable destination to go to.”

Voters approved Article 5, which called for a transfer $250,000 transfer of available funds in the treasury to conduct a site evaluation and analysis, programming study, schematic design, and design development of up to two sites for a potential new Department of Public Works (DPW) facility

Select Board Chair Richard Foster said the evaluation will also include an evaluation of the existing DPW operations to check for current day standards, and operational strengths and deficiencies.

“The end result is that we will have schematics and renderings that we will be able to put up on a bulletin board to show each resident of Longmeadow the exact location and what the facility will actually look like,” he added.

Foster said that within a year and a half an article pertaining to final design funds would likely come before town meeting.

“I’m going to be voting against this article and it’s not because there’s not problems with the DPW facility,” Grant said. “I toured [the DPW facility] along with the rest of the Select Board and members of the public. The reason why I’m not voting for it is that I don’t believe that we should moving forward with a project this big unless it’s part of long range capital plan.”

A new senior center and a possible new middle school are potential construction projects for the future, he added.

“How are we going to pay for all of this?” Grant stated. “What is the priority of all these projects? What if there’s not enough money to do all these projects? Which comes first and which gets left behind? And how much tax revenue do we want to raise? How much tax revenue can we raise? These are all questions that we have to confront; they’re very uncomfortable questions but we have to deal with them.”

Grant said a new DPW facility could cost between $15 to 20 million.

The existing DPW complex is more than 80 years old, is on a 100- year flood plain, has poor soil due to being constructed on an old dump and has examples of deterioration such as extensive cracks throughout the facility, added Foster.

Article 8, which called for the transfer of $200,000 from the Community Preservation Undesignated Fund Balance to pay for the Blinn Tennis Courts and Lighting project, was also approved by a majority vote.

The project was initially funded with $375,000 in Community Preservation Act funds approved at the 2014 Annual Town Meeting and $180,000 from the general fund.

Town Manager Stephen Crane said the lowest bid for the project came in at $891,000.

Now that additional funds have been approved, the project will go out to bid again and would be due back by early January, he added.

Residents also voted to approve the purchase a Quint fire truck, an aerial firefighting apparatus with ladder capabilities, for a total cost of $752,000. 

Funding for the Quint fire truck comes from $325,000 from a fire truck savings account, $425,000 from available treasury fund, and $90,000 donated by Bay Path University, Jewish Geriatric Services, and Glenmeadow Retirement Community.

“Our [fire] engine three is nearly 26 years old and needs to be replaced,” Fire Chief Eric Madison said. “It’s dependability and reliability has waned and it has served our community well but it is now time to replace it.”

Madison said a Quint fire truck costs about $250,000 more than a standard engine but serves a dual role as a ladder truck with a water pump capabilities. The town has been without a ladder truck since the 1990s.

Article 12, consisting of a change in the terms and numbers of members of the Building Demolition Committee; Article 14, calling for a provision of the zoning bylaw related to parking of vehicles, and Article 15, regarding of a definition of family in the zoning bylaw, were all tabled.