Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Shops at Milton Centre and Milton’s Community Development Plan

Opponents of the Milton Centre development claim the proposal “violates”, or somehow is a departure from the Community Development Plan completed just about 1 year ago.

Here’s what they say on their website about the Community Development Plan:

“The three town priorites are:

1. Redevelopment of "under utilized" sites (i.e., sites already commercially zoned)

2. Re-zone existing non-conforming uses to enable expansion (i.e., increase already zoned commercial land)

3. Establish new zoning districts.

The RFP is working backward. It proposes the rezoning of the DPW from residential to commercial. Quincy and Co. has purchased, or is attempting to purchase land around the DPW and on the East side of Route 28. They would then be in a position to use the second town priority to grow their enterprise well beyond the DPW yard.”

Does the development plan frown on re-zoning?

Let’s look at the plan and see. Each of the priorities listed above (which are described in the Plan as recommendations) is accompanied by bullet points which provide specific recommendations. Here’s recommendation 3, in its full form, with the accompanying bullet points. Added emphasis is mine.

“Establish new commercial zoning districts to expand non-residential tax base

•Granite Avenue Corridor – Re-zone for office/hotel/retail. The area to be rezoned should include existing state DPW yard and the VFW property.

•Reedsdale/Randolph Ave area – Rezone this intersection, including the Tedeschi store and adjoining lots, the Rectory and the Town DPW yard for commercial uses.

•Pepsi Plant area –Re-zoned from residential to a new limited industrial district. This district should allow, by right, for low- intensity uses such as wholesale business, warehousing, etc. By Special Permit, this area could be approved by the Planning Board for retail or for mixed use retail/residential development.”

So we see that recommendation 3 dealt with establishing new “commercial” zoning and in every case the method involved a re-zoning of the locations involved. And the second bullet specifically recommends the re-zoning of the DPW yard for commercial development. So it is simply untrue that an RFP would be “working backward.”

At a Selectmen’s meeting it was suggested that the DPW area did not receive priority support at a public workshop. Of course the public workshops were one source of input for the plan, a plan which specifically recommends what the Milton Centre Development is requesting. The forum referred to occurred on March 18, 2004. In an exercise which involved attendees voting on potential locations for development, about 40 residents participated. The final list of 20 locations puts the DPW yard just about at the bottom of the list. But the list also contains this notation next to the DPW yard: “concern expressed about where the DPW would relocate”.

Now as you might expect, such a large concern would affect the priority one might assign to this location. Where would you relocate it, and how would you pay for constructing it? What do you think the response would have been if the participants had been told that land in a more appropriate location would be provided to the town? And how much more support would have been garnered if the participants had been told that someone was willing to build a new DPW facility on that property? I really don’t think the outcome of this workshop exercise withstands scrutiny as an example of “departing” from the community development plan.

The final argument used by opponents focuses on the size of the project, which they say violates the plan. They’ve taken to calling it a “Mall” and describe it as a monstrosity that is out of scale and which is specifically designed to be a “destination” center.

The anchor of the shops is a grocery store. Now while for Milton residents' grocery shopping may indeed be a destination trip to another community, that is not the case for most communities. Add in a bank and a few small scale, mixed use office/retail buildings and I don’t think you have anything like the descriptions offered to describe it.

But of course of all this can continue to be discussed as we prepare and issue an RFP to explore the possibilities for the DPW yard. The next step in this process is the public hearing on Thursday evening June 23 at 7:00 at the Pierce Middle School Auditorium on Brook Rd. We’ve been hearing a lot from the opponents. Will others step up?

A closing comment on another claim made on the opponent’s website. It concerns Jonathan Witten, a consultant the Selectmen brought in to assist in the process, and someone whose services they may retain. Here’s the claim:

“Here's the town's lawyer point regarding the RFP: Click to view the outline of his comments
He isn't in favor of the proposal.”

Now when I read that, I was virtually positive that it was not true. I had carefully listened to his comments at the Selectmen’s meeting and he said nothing of the sort. But perhaps he said it at some other time. I contacted Mr. Witten last Thursday and read to him the words which I have quoted above. He was dumbstruck. He was quite clear that not only is he not opposed to the proposal, it would be a violation of his role to have any position on the issue.

I hope whoever is responsible for the website will remove this comment. I’m sure they do not want to mislead the people of Milton by listing under their “facts” section something which is not.


Blogger Lantigua said...

Mr. Mathews,

Great stuff you’re publishing. Your diligence and thoroughness are excellent. Now that you’ve picked apart your neighbor’s efforts to protect the value of their homes, can you please do the same for the developers? Keep in mind our abutting neighbor’s homes are their nest egg, retirement and/or inheritance for their children. What’s in it for the developers?

If you don’t take this course you could easily be portrayed as a shill for the developer. I’m sure you wouldn’t want your Milton voice seen as bias. Have you made up your mind? I haven’t seen anything negative about the developer’s plans. If you’re going to use your time to search for the truth, do your due diligence. Or, you are providing a disservice to the town and everyone who reads your blogs.

Douglas Lantigua

7:40 PM  

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