It was a big win for historical preservation last night at Town Meeting. All the preservation CPC articles were funded, including those of the Society; the Adaptive Reuse Bylaw was passed with close to 90% agreement (a remarkable feat for a zoning regulation) and the Main Street Registrar District was funded. The only cloud on the horizon was the authorization to sell the historic Fayville Village Hall. The Selectmen, though pledging to work for preservation of the exterior, refused to commit to that in writing, and a last minute amendment to place a permanent preservation restriction on the building before sale (full disclosure – proposed by me, but advocated this past August by the Historical Commission) failed after the selectmen again argued it wasn’t necessary. (A preservation restriction would have preserved the restored facade and open space on the property in perpetuity. At present, the building has no such protection, and once sold, will be out of all Town control.) Admittedly the selectmen pledged transparency and full cooperation with the citizens in determining the fate of the parcels, but we currently have only their word – which has gotten me to thinking. How binding is the word of a board whose members may or may not be in place when final decisions are made on multi-year projects like this? Mr. Cimino is retiring, Mr. Rooney has already resigned, Mr. Kolenda is in a highly contested race for re-election, and Mrs Phaneuf is up next year, most likely before the disposition of Fayville Hall. So if there is no written guarantee, what do we have? There is also the issue of “executive session,” which has been used extensively by the Selectmen for recent real estate transactions, and excludes the public from deliberation. It’s pretty hard to be “transparent” behind closed doors.
It would seem to me then that now is the ideal time to ask the candidates running for Selectmen this May their views on historic preservation, which includes to my mind, preservation of historic landscapes and open space, preservation of historic buildings and townscapes, funding of future preservation projects, and the candidates’ opinions on how best to preserve the historic nature of Southborough. In that spirit I have framed seven questions for our candidates, and I have already extended an email invitation to each to share their views via the comment section.
TO THE CANDIDATES FOR SELECTMEN:
- Given the argument above on the fluidity of Town board makeup, would you commit now to placing a preservation restriction to protect the exterior of Fayville Town Hall before it is sold? If not, why not?
- Study after study has shown that taxes on single family homes don’t cover their cost to the Town, and each new build actually contributes to higher rates for everyone. (Sometimes, astronomically so, as we learned at town meeting: sending a single student to Norfolk Regional Agricultural costs 46K/year!) Given that, what would you propose to limit further development and increase the quality of life for current residents?
- If the majority of home-owners in a particular area of Town favored the creation of an historic district, would this have your support?
- Would you support the Town acquiring any open parcels that come out of agricultural use to prevent their development?
- What other ideas do you have to promote and protect the historic nature of Southborough?
- What plans might you suggest to revitalize the Main Street area economically and aesthetically once the road improvements are done?
- And finally, if plans were developed for a cultural corridor linking the Library, the Old Burial Ground, the Museum, the Town House, St Marks church and the cemetery, would you be generally supportive of such an idea?