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Posted on December 31, 2018 at 12:29 PM by Michael Herbert
One way Ashland has been proactive in planning its future is by acquiring properties in order to: 1) decrease the chance for inappropriate development in areas that could be better served by other uses, and 2) give us the opportunity to develop something unique and creative by preserving and re-purposing cultural and historical assets.
While a net positive, our ambitious agenda in acquiring these assets and initiatives did not accompany with it a corresponding increase in staff to help manage the maintenance and disposition of these properties.
Also, Ashland has no shortage of ideas to best utilize these properties, especially the Valentine Property. But what we do not have is a process to look at these ideas holistically and a process to determine what is realistic and what is not realistic, nor the pros and the cons of each idea. In order for such a process to not become a long drawn out affair, it needs focused leadership and resources to ensure it is happening correctly, expeditiously and fairly.
Therefore at their January 2, 2019 meeting, I am recommending that the Board of Selectmen authorize $112,000 to come from the Warren District account to hire a designated project manager to manage the stabilization, redevelopment, and restoration of the Warren District and the properties contained therein, as well as the Valentine Property. After consultation with staff, work can be broken down to three separate phases:
Funding of salary for the project manager will come directly out of the Warren District account, at $56,000 annually, for a two-year period resulting in a cost of $112,000. Funding in this account comes from an array of non-taxpayer sources. The Town would absorb benefits related to the position.
At the Board of Selectmen's property forum meeting on October 18th, a number of ideas were put forward with regards to the properties at the Warren District. This input, combined with the restrictions already put in place on the properties leads to the following suggested uses that we can get started on implementing right away. These uses are designed with historical, cultural, economic development, and sustainability issues in mind.
22 Eliot Street
Museum/Educational Center - Can be used to house information about Warren Woods and Henry Warren's Life and Inventions. "Home Base" for Educational Programs both locally and with FSU
Uses are already restricted. Currently functioning in this capacity already. Will be looking to expand the scope and mission.
433 Chestnut Street (Hall House)
Private home on National Register - Home privately restored and sold at market. Similar situation to the Clayes House in Framingham
Other proposed uses (Art Center, Museum) have been proposed in better (i.e. more sustainable) locations. This is a cost effective option to get the outcome the town desires, which is a historical home preserved in perpetuity.
Function Hall similar to the Holliston Historical Society
The Warren Barn is part of an iconic vista that already attracts a number of individuals for pictures and other scenic uses. A function center can be used in partnership with FSU's facilities and parking as well as its new hospitality program. This will also allow us to potentially share the cost burden of restoring and maintaining the property with FSU.
Uses for the Valentine property are many but are less obvious. As such the Valentine Property will take a more protracted evaluation process. I do not have a definitive recommendation at this time but here are some questions that should be asked as part of that process:
Posted on November 19, 2018 at 2:02 PM by Michael Herbert
Article 2 – Free Cash
Free cash is the amount of money left over at the end of the
year after the Town balances its books. It can be generated by a number of
sources – we get a one-time influx of revenue over and above what we were
expecting (like through a grant or redeemed tax liens), or perhaps we are
unable to fill a budgeted position and so the money allocated for that position
is not spent that year. Regardless of source, it is one-time revenue and should
be treated as such.
Since 2013, Ashland has utilized a best practice whereby
this one-time revenue is directed towards our long-term liabilities,
stabilization funds, and one-time expenses.
This year, the following amounts are to be transferred from
free cash to those appropriate accounts:
$275,000 – General Stabilization
$434,170 – OPEB Trust
$110,718 – Special Education
$902,346 – Capital and
other One-Time Expenses
Article 4 - Property
Each year, the Town of Ashland has offered a property tax
exemption for qualifying seniors. Currently, Ashland uses what is known as the
41C1/2 Exemption, based on the statute for which it is named.
Each year, the Board of Assessors makes a recommendation on
the amount of the exemption. Since adopting the exemption in 2006, Ashland has
maintained an exemption percentage equal to around $500 per year. In Fiscal
Year 2018, the Town raised that exemption percentage by about 30%, to an amount
that equaled $660.
This year, I am pleased to say that the Assessors are again
recommending the increased amount.
Article 13 – Purchase
of Land, Rear Oregon Road
Most people know that in an effort to better control
development, increase our recreational assets, and in general give us an
opportunity to better plan for things in the future, we have acquired strategic
pieces of property. We have done that because in order to have the ultimate
control over a piece of property, we need to own it.
At this Town Meeting, we are proposing the purchase of a 7
acre piece of property off of Lincoln Street (which is a cul-de-sac off of
Oregon Road) for $195,000. Similar to the Nicolo property that was purchased
last fall, this piece of property is important in maintaining the integrity of
the Town Forest. If it becomes developed, it changes the characteristic of the
whole Town Forest.
Article 18 – Road
& Land Acceptances
As subdivisions go through the
planning process, oftentimes the contractor is required to build roads
according to the standards established by the town, with the understanding that
the town will then “accept” the road and take on the responsibility for
maintaining it. Developers are also sometimes required to donate pieces of land
within a subdivision to the town for open space purposes.
Typically, these actions happen
after the subdivision has been built. Before Town Meeting, a layout hearing
must be held before the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen to ensure
that the construction is up to Town Standards and that the donated parcels meets
all of the specifications required during the permitting process. Only then
will they move forward to Town Meeting.
At this Town Meeting, the Town is
proposing that we accept two roads: Tydeman Road as part of the Tydeman Road
subdivision, as well as Royal Colony
Circle. The Town is also recommending acceptance of the open space parcels
indicated as part of the Hillcrest Estates subdivision.
Posted on November 10, 2018 at 6:50 PM by Michael Herbert