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Woodworkers override: VOTE NO – Part 2

May 22, 2011

There is still time to participate in the 180 survey about town issues here.

If you are a candidate for any town office, including Town Meeting Representative, please get in touch with me, if you have not already, at the email address on the right.

Part 2 of 3

On June 4, Walpole voters will be asked to decide whether they want a tax override to purchase a portion of the Walpole Woodworkers property on East Street.

I will leave this ballot question blank. Because I am not a property taxpayer, I do not feel comfortable voting to affect everybody else’s property taxes for a project I won’t have to pay for myself.

However, I urge voters to vote NO on this override.

I will note that I think the Board of Selectmen deserves credit for engaging residents for an open and honest discussion about this ballot question throughout the last few months. The Board has held numerous public meetings to answer questions from town residents, and this clearly took a lot of work and effort on the Board’s part. The Town Administrator and Selectmen answered residents’ questions concisely and directly, without lecturing them.

I changed my mind frequently on this issue during the past several months. The Board made a good case for why we should buy the land. While there are certainly benefits to the acquisition of this property, I ultimately decided I was opposed. I may change my mind again, in fact.

If the voters do end up approving the purchase of the property and it turns out not to be contaminated as some in town fear, I will be just as happy as anyone else at Town Hall that the purchase went through.

Last week, I gave my first reason to oppose the project.

Here is a second reason:

The Property

One thing to keep in mind is that the land that the town wants to purchase from Walpole Woodworkers is a total of 14 acres, but almost half of it, 6 acres total, is completely unbuildable because of wetlands.

So at a cost of about $321,000 per acre, we are buying almost $2 million worth of useless wetlands, while the rest of the property is essentially a dump. I urge all residents to take a look if you can at the property the town wants to buy, and get a good look from both the rear on Kendall Street and the front on East Street. There is no question the town is buying an eyesore. Do not let the nice-looking Woodworkers showroom seen from the street fool you into thinking the entire property is pleasant to look at.

The land is definitely a fixer-upper, and the town has already talked about having to move new soil into certain portions, which should raise your eyebrows. The extent to which the property needs to be cleaned up is far more than I think we are currently aware.

I will not get into the contamination issue on 180 because I do not know enough about that. I will just point out that the property certainly looks contaminated, but I am not a townie who insists it is contaminated.

Walpole Woodworkers will maintain their showroom frontage on East Street, and the town property will be accessible from two different access points on either side of the showroom. This means that whatever the town decides to build on the property will be hidden behind a flashy showroom with large sheds and playground sets. I do not like the idea that we will be hiding our police station or senior center behind a retail establishment. Try to envision what that would look like next time you drive by on East Street.

Also, I wanted to note that Selectmen keep saying this land is “downtown”. It is not. If you think that Woodworkers is downtown, then that would mean Turner’s Pond and the High School are also each downtown, because both are about the same distance from the Police Station (landmark of downtown) as Woodworkers is. I do not consider Turner’s Pond to be downtown, nor do I consider the high school to be downtown.

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