Friday, June 24, 2005

Milton Centre Public Hearing

My comments delivered at the Public Hearing

I’m here tonight to urge the Selectmen to develop and issue an RFP for the commercial development of the DPW yard.

Since the proposal for the Shops at Milton Centre was announced, there has been a barrage of accusations leveled against it. A development that includes a supermarket and a few small buildings with 2nd floor office space and ground floor retail shops has been described as a massive mall. It is said that this development would be so large that it would ruin the town but,oddly, not produce any substantial revenue. We’re told we wouldn’t have power to prevent a fast food restaurant or a Best Buy locating there. That is not the case. The Selectmen and the Town Meeting can place restrictions on the development and can even consider a reverter clause that would provide for the land to revert back to the town if certain restrictions were violated.

All of these issues, and more, can be discussed during the lengthy process that lies ahead. This includes consideration by the Planning Board and Town Meeting, where a 2/3 vote would be necessary for anything to happen.

None of these issues, whatever their merit, should stand in the way of proceeding with an RFP. The purpose of the RFP is to see what others might propose for the DPW site. Then we can look at what’s possible.

A year ago this very month the town finished a Community Development Plan that recognized the need for commercial tax revenue. One of three recommendations made for fostering economic development was to “establish new commercial zoning districts to expand non-residential tax base”. One of the specific areas recommended was the area around the Randolph Ave/Reedsdale Road intersection. The plan said: “Rezone this intersection, including the Tedeschi store and adjoining lots, the Rectory and the Town DPW yard for commercial uses.”

A year later, one of our own, a Milton resident, has approached the town with a development proposal specifically addressing a recommendation we created in our plan. We now face a choice of rejecting this offer, or giving it its due consideration by issuing an RFP. Issuing an RFP does not obligate us in any way to accept any proposal, including the proposal for the Shops at Milton Centre. Not issuing an RFP is a direct repudiation of our own plan. How could we justify not issuing it? What would we say to the citizens of this town who know only too well that we need more revenue from commercial development? What would we say to those residents who want to preserve or improve services, but just can’t dig any deeper into their own pockets? And what would we say to the Town employees and citizens who participated in creating the community development plan? Perhaps most important of all, what message would we be sending to other potential developers, including those who might be interested in helping us do something with our growing list of vacant businesses? If we fail to take a no-obligation next step on a proposal that responds to our own plan, who will take us seriously? We might as well place signs on all the roadways entering the town which say: Milton. Commercial Developers Need Not Apply.

I urge the Board of Selectmen to take the only reasonable course of action for the benefit of all the residents of Milton and issue an RFP for the development of the DPW Yard.


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