Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

January 24, 2013

Letter: Public input overdue on Town Yard

Editor, Townsman:

Last Monday, Jan. 14, the Board of Selectmen continued its “workshop” on the Town Yard for the 14th time since May 2012. During all of these “workshops,” no public input was solicited or accepted. In fact, on Monday night, a resident was treated shabbily when she asked to be given the opportunity to comment on the Town Yard.

Finally, eight months after these “workshops” began, the Board of Selectmen is going to “allow” public input at upcoming hearings. Meanwhile, the pre-ordained conclusion has been reached. The chairman, formerly chairman of the Planning Board, has long wanted the Town Yard area developed. The board, with one exception, is buying in. They want the Town Yard moved to an undisclosed location, at an undisclosed time, for an undisclosed price, and they want the land where the current Town Yard sits to be purchased by parties unknown for an undetermined cost.

In order to facilitate this process, they have held two meetings with the Planning Board, whose responsibility it will be to craft a zoning article for Town Meeting in three months. At this point, there is a draft article. It will undoubtedly be revised several times between now and Town Meeting.

This same board recommended pulling an article at last year’s Town Meeting that would have relocated the Town Yard to an area off River Road. They felt, at the time, that the article would not have support. Because of this decision, no presentation was prepared for Town Meeting. Town Meeting members, however, in their wisdom, decided they were prepared to discuss and vote on the article. The article barely failed passage by a two-thirds majority. Most likely, with a proper presentation, the article would have passed.

This Board of Selectmen has demonstrated a repeated inability to lead, and members are doing it again. It’s too early to say whether the article the Planning Board presents will be worthy of support at Town Meeting, but it’s not too early to say that this board has totally mishandled the entire process. Finally, however, the public will have an opportunity to speak, after a year of “workshops.”

Later in the same meeting, the board accepted the Town Manager’s recommendation to remove the two articles for the youth center from the warrant for the upcoming Special Town Meeting. The chairman remarked that the discussion of the past week at various board meetings was good for the process. Perhaps the board could apply this forward thinking to the Town Yard discussions.

Jo-Ann Deso

81 High St.

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