Town Center Improvement Design Nears Completion
Sudbury Selectmen wrangle with articles for the May 7 Town Meeting.
Sudbury’s Board of Selectmen reviewed the latest design for the town center improvement initiative at a meeting on Tuesday, which is nearing completion after seven years of effort. Town planners, various boards, and the First Parish church, which owns much of the land in question, have all reached general consensus on the changes to be made.
Director of Planning and Community Development Jody Kablack, Bill Place of the Department of Public Works, and members of the Sudbury Center Improvement Advisory Committee walked the Selectmen through a design that focuses heavily on increased safety, historical preservation, and an improved stoplight design to aid traffic flow.
Selectman Bob Haarde, however, enquired why the plan does not call for the addition of any new traffic lanes, given that congestion at rush hour is also a significant problem in the center.
“We wanted to make it feel like the old center of town that is really a part of Sudbury,” Deborah Kruskal of the improvement committee explained. “We feel that the safety issues are the most important here.”
Selectman John Drobinski summed up the feeling of many involved in the project’s design by saying that Sudbury has a responsibility to preserve its historic character for future generations, a charge that precludes covering the town center with a lot more asphalt.
“I think 100 years hence, people would be really ticked off with us if they realized what was there and we turned it all into pavement,” he said.
A non-binding article describing the design will be placed on the warrant for Town Meeting, although Kablack reported that finding sufficient funds to cover the project’s estimated $1.67 million price tag, which doesn't include another $200,000 needed for historic landscaping restoration, could take a year or more.
While the Selectmen were unanimous in their support of this article for the Town Meeting warrant, decisions about other articles discussed in the course of Tuesday’s meeting proved thornier.
For example, the Board spent significant time painstakingly crafting language for rail trail articles, as well as ballot questions for the March 6 Town Election, to gauge levels of public support in order to appease not only their own members, but also as many stakeholders as possible on all sides of the issue.
But additionally in the last week, a new topic of contention has arisen for the Board – that of adopting an inclusionary zoning bylaw to encourage the construction of sufficient 40B affordable housing. Haarde conveyed his frustration at having recently learned that while the town had originally discussed addressing this in 2011, the topic had been deferred, and it now would not be examined at the 2012 Town Meeting, either.
“This is one of the most critical, if not the most critical, issue facing the town right now … Every town that takes 40B seriously had an inclusionary zoning bylaw,” said Haarde. “I don’t know how we don’t see this as an issue.”
Drobinski and Board Chair Larry O’Brien, however, maintained that the decision of whether and when to address the issue did not fall to the Selectmen, but rather to the town Zoning Board.
“I don’t think it’s up to the Board of Selectmen to criticize another duly elected board … I think that’s totally inappropriate,” said Drobinski.
The issue, which was not on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, was tabled for the remainder of the evening.
The following additional items of note were also addressed on Tuesday:
- O’Brien reported that the town has signed a deal with the Public Employees Committee to adopt state-organized health insurance for town and school employees through the Group Insurance Committee. Open enrollment in the new health plans will commence in April, and the move is expected to result in significant cost savings for the town.
- A public hearing was held regarding proposed improvements to Buddy Dog Humane Society. Changes will involve adding more parking, installing a new septic and runoff water treatment system, and adding a roof to a concrete area used by animals in the back of the shelter. No changes to the busy intersection of Goodman’s Hill Road and Boston Post Road are planned due to prohibitive costs and restrictions imposed by the state. The Selectmen instructed Town Manager Maureen Valente to draft a decision approving the changes, pending the outcome of additional discussion on minor issues such as landscaping. A final vote on the project is slated for the Board’s meeting on March 7.
- The Selectmen approved an incentive program to encourage residents to use the town transfer station for recycling. The program will include month-long passes to use the transfer station for free and will run through the spring. A series of informational sessions will be scheduled to explain services available at the station.