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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

Selectboard Meeting Notes - Skatepark Design and Town Plan Approved


Citizens were in attendance at this week’s Selectboard meeting to request once again that the town consider the concerns of the neighbors and do a proper site selection process for the new park. Dick DeGray said that the skatepark selection process consisted of himself and Jesse Corum proposing Crowell Lot as a good location, and that he was proud of their decison.

The Selectboard also approved Brattleboro’s Town Plan, continued thinking about expanding the Downtown Improvement District, began a discussion on implementing a local gasoline tax, and was accused of collecting parking income on national holidays.

All this and more, below...

Preliminaries

It took a while for things to get settled at Tuesday night’s Selectboard meeting. David Gartenstein was absent, and Town Manager Barb Sondag arrived late.

Chair Dick DeGray began by teling everyone that elections were coming up on March 5th, and that absentee ballots were available. He hoped for a large voter turnout.

He also said he was reminded why Brattleboro is a great place to live, with the ski jump, winter carnival, and musical production at the high school this last weekend. He thanked all the volunteers who made it happen.

Town Manager Barb Sondag was not present for remarks, but Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland filled in with a single announcement. The Town will be replacing sidewalks on the east side Main Street this year, and there will be a public information session about the project on Feb 27 at 6:15 p.m. in the Selectboard room.

For Selectboard Committee Reports, Dora Bouboulis mentioned that SEVEDS will be holding meetings for public input on regional economic development in late March. She said that the Core Arts project got off to a good start on Saturday, and that Conway School students would be reporting back with a presentation of their findings.

Ken Schneck’s committee report was a plug for an event he’s holding at New England Youth Theater, a fundraiser for organizations helping with AIDS in Uganda.

 

Public Participation

Jeff Drescher (sp?) told the Selectboard that he noticed that they collect parking fees on national holidays.

It started when he went to check if parking was free on President’s Day. He couldn’t find any signs saying that it was free, and noticed people paying for parking slips and meters. This led him on a journey to the Parking Enforcement office, which was closed. He reasoned that this meant parking was indeed free that day.

He began to watch more closely and saw that many people were paying for parking on the national holiday. By his estimate, as much as $3,000 was collected that day. He wondered how long the town had been collecting on days it wasn’t supposed to collect.

He asked the board about six national holidays (of eleven) of which he remained uncertain if the Town offered free parking or not - Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day - and asked that the Town do a better job of publicizing the information.

Dick DeGray said they put a press release out for each holiday. Jeff said that wasn’t enough.

DeGray said he’d pass his concerns along to the Town Manager and Assistant Town Manager (both seated near him). He said the money goes into the parking system as revenue.

“They are quick to give out tickets, but not quick to stop people paying. How long has this been going on?” asked Jeff.

Patrick Moreland said he thought there were signs on the meters already.

“People put money in the meters when they don’t need to, “ said Barb Sondag, seated in Gartenstein’s chair. “Some days we’re more lax in enforcement. People don’t notice when we do something good.”

Patrick left, and Barb took over.

John Wilmerding reminded the public that there are vacancies for Town Meeting Representatives, and that one can be elected or appointed by caucus. He enouraged people to contact the Town Clerk for more information.

Tom Grasso rose to commend the Selectboard for their role in the skatepark, but DeGray cut him off, saying that those comments would be accepted later when the skatepark agenda item is taken up.

“Then you are doing a great job on the topic I can’t talk about,” said Grasso.

James ? said that he was saddened to hear some board members were leaving. “Thank you for your genius.”

Water & Sewer Commissioners

According to the latest monthly report from Hoyle Tanner regarding progress on the new Waste Water Treatment Plant, 99% of the construction contract value has been completed.

Work does remain, and changes to the project continue. The board approved eight changes totaling just under $21,000 Tuesday night, including a change to the Turbo Blower controls, changes to existing motion control overload blocks, dewatering building water heater relocation, boiler gas pressure controls, repairing MBBR wall crack injection, sampler control wiring, non-sparking conduit at the headworks building, and an additional gate at the plunge pool.

The work also adds two contract days to the schedule.

Public Works Director Steve Barrett said that they had just learned of an Efficiency Vermont efficiency incentive grant award to the Town for $90,000.

Barb Sondag said that they had looked at the project and done projections of energy savings, and it showed that Brattleboro would be saving $108,000 in the first year, with an estimated payback of 7.1 years and an average life of 16 years. “Our return on investment is about 12%” she said.

Sondag said that Efficiency Vermont would install meters and montior their projections, and will be working with the Town on the Police-Fire project. “It’s $90,000 of real money,” said Sondag. “Higher than we expected.”

Barrett said the savings comes from using less water, fuel, and electricity.

Rick Ethier told the board that they were finishing up work and bringing more parts of the system online. He said they were watching drainage and erosion control at the site.

The proposed changes were approved 4-0.

Bigger news, however, was that the study is complete and a gravity-based system has been deemed “feasible” for the Black Mountain pump station.

The report said that a gravity fed system is slightly more costly to construct, but significantly less costly to maintain.

Sondag said the difference in building costs was about $66,000. She thought that with the savings in electricity, payback would be quick. Total cost of the gravity fed system would be around $977,000.

The Brattleboro Selectboard voted in favor of authorizing a final design of the Black Mountain gravity sewer line.

John O’Connor reviewed the project’s financial status with the board, noting the Efficiency Vermont $90,000 grant income. He said they’d try to fund the gravity fed system with money from the Clean Water Fund.

“Will we dip into our reserve?” asked Chris Chapman.

“If we get the funding, no.” said O’Connor.

“We will have spent the contingency,” said Sondag.

....

The first FY14 Utility Budget worksession was scheduled for March 7th at 7:30 am.

Barb Sondag told the board that they should plan on a couple of sessions, and plan to be looking at rates and the future.

Sondag wanted this board and their familiarity with past years to take the lead. Newly elected Selectboard members and the public are also invited to attend.
...

The board also took up the issue of the home of an evicted Tri Park resident. A balance of $858 remained due for water and sewer bills left unpaid at 30 Brookwood.

“It was flooded, then taken over by Tri Park, then they had an eviction,” Sondag told the board.

Tri-Park made the Town an offer. If Brattleboro would forgive the amount due, the home would be removed, taking another property out of a floodway.

The Selectboard voted 4-0 to abate the balance on the condition that the mobile home be removed and no other be situated at that site.

Unfinished Business - Downtown Improvement District Boundaries

The Brattleboro Selectboard is interested, perhaps, in expanding the boundaries of the Downtown Improvement District.

At their last meeting, a proposal supported by the Planning Department to include properties near the Brattleboro Common led to discussions of expanding along Canal Street.

To focus their continuing discussion, Planning Director Rod Francis offered up some guidance in the form of state guidelines for downtown programs, and how boundaries are encouraged to be set.

Francis told the board that the downtown designation boundary is meant to be identical to the Downtown Improvement District boundary, and that they should conform with one another.

He gave the Selectboard criteria used to determine what constituted a downtown, and said that the northern part of downtown could be argued to end at the Brattleboro Common.

Dora Bouboulis said she had concerns about expanding the downtown district. She thought that the timing was bad, with BaBB reinventing itself and many struggling businesses that need BaBB’s help. The organization needs to “refocus where it needs to go,” she said, adding that tax incentives were drying up.

“Rod,” asked Ken Schneck, “..the drawbacks of doing this?”

Francis said he had no view and “no response to Dora’s points.”

“Do I think it conforms to the criteria? Yes, I do,“ he continued. He said the board could make the case to change the boundary, as it forms a clear gateway for the northern part of the downtown.

“Why do this?” asked Schneck.

Town Manager Sondag said that she had promised Representative Town Meeting members that it would be considered when renewing the district, and that it was a policy decision. She said the Common was a park “we try to get people to utilize rather than use Main Street for festivals.”

“The reapplication is a prompt,” clarified Francis. He said that it if the Town collects the same amount for the district, more members would mean lower taxes for each.

Chris Chapman was concerned that property owners be notified, so that “there would be no surprises when a tax bill shows up.” He felt they needed to do more than simply warn a meeting about this.

“I may have a conflict of interest and should abstain,” he added. “I own one of the buildings.”

“We’re just voting to move forward with the process,” said DeGray.

“Its a motion to expand the district,” reminded Bouboulis.

DeGray said there were additional steps it had to go through.

Bouboulis agreed with Chapman that there needs to be direct outreach to property owners.

DeGray said he expected them at hearings.

Bouboulis alluded to an upcoming agenda item. “This is illustrative of points about the skatepark process,” she said. “You have to get people involved. If you make it adversarial from the beginning, it’s them against us.”

“I’ll respond,” said Schneck. “When you put it out there, you need to find a balance between moving forward and getting input.” He said there has to be a balance between allowing the public to participate and moving things forward.

Bouboulis said that it was handful of property owners.

DeGray felt they would be involved and if they didn’t like the plan it wouldn’t happen.

Chapman and Schneck both asked that the motion be reworded to be clear that they were simply continuing a process, and not approving anything.

Sondag summed it up: “To proceed with the process for changing the boundaries as presented.”

3-1, with Bouboulis against.

Skatepark Design Discussion

The the principal consultant from ASD/Stantec, Mike McIntyre came before the Brattleboro Selectboard Tuesday night to review the skatepark planning and design meetings, and discuss final designs.

The final designs have been approved by the Skatepark Committee and the Recreation & Parks board.

McIntyre said the design was based on community input, and that the original layout and concept had changed.

He said that they had presented a few intial designs to gather feedback, then refined those using online questionnaires and meetings. They also looked at the park as a whole.

McIntyre said they used the arborist’s report to push the park back from trees, looked at impervious surfaces and drainage in the area, considered different skating design elements, and identified bioretention areas.

He said the highest elevation would be about 3 and a half feet. “The design was really dictated by the shapes, offsets, community input, and trees,” he said. “That’s where we are today.”

Carol Lolatte said “Mike did a great job, with the process and involvement from community.”

Barb Sondag asked if the next step was to contract to construct the park. McIntyre said yes. He estimated that 80% of the work could be done locally, and that woud keep costs down.

DeGray made a motion to accept the design.

Ken Schneck went through criteria used to award the contract. He asked about trees, cement, noise, sight lines, ongoing town costs, signage, and the location of the playground.

McIntyre said they redesigned things to save trees, making space for root zones and plans for water harvesting. He said about 10,800 square feet of cement would be used.

McIntyre said noise wouldn’t be a problem on the ultra smooth surfaces, and subterranean bowl. Plantings would aid in keeping sounds to a minimum. He offered to share sound studies from other projects that compared skateboarding to other sports like basketball.

He promised good sight lines and viewing by those driving by, and signs with suggested rules and regulations.

Carol Lolatte said annual upkeep would be less than $1,000, and those expenses woudn’t start for another 8 years or so. She said trash pickup would occur, but they currently mow areas that they would now blow. “Mowing or blowing. We already maintain that space.”

McIntyre said most repairs would be made using epoxy resin. He said their mix doesn’t flake out cold weather. He also felt therewouldn’t be many issues with graffiti with a well designed park in plain sight.

LoLatte said that she was working with Green Street School on the playground location.

Chris Chapman asked about a “smooth trowel flash finish” being proposed.

McIntyre said it was like the smooth floors at Home Depot. Less bumps, he said, meant less noise. “Whisper quiet while rolling. The joints have epoxy resin to keep it from freezing. It will seem jointless.” He said boards hitting skate elements would make noise, but that basketball was usually louder.

The meeting was then opened up to the public for comment.

James said that he thought it was a great design, but wondered if there should be a first aid station with red cross volunteers, for the safety of the children and public.

“This is a concept drawing, not to-be-built” said Bill McCarty, telling the Selectboard they couldn’t rule on the design without it going back to the Development Review Board. “It’s not like what the DRB saw and it is premature to approve a concept.” He said it had to go back to the DRB.

“It doesn’t,” countered Sondag. “It was reviewed by the zoning administrator who found that it continues to conform to the conditions of the DRB approval.”

“I beg to differ,” said McCarty. “If the DRB gives up the right to review, there will be litigation.”

Sondag repeated herself. “The DRB authorized the Town Zoning Administrator to make a decision and he says it conforms.”

“They cannot delegate that authority,” answered McCarty.

John Wilmerding said that the original DRB meeting minutes failed to reflect that the zoning administraor thought a skatepark was a minor change to an existing facility. He asked the Selectboard if this had been a fair process, and hoped for a special hearing and due process for the park.

DeGray said the Selectboard had no power over the DRB. “Take it up with them.”

A letter from Andy Davis was read, asking for them to not approve the design. He questioned how this could be the best location when no site selection process occurred. ”We’ve gone to meetings and are well informed, but our concerns go unanswered. The design doesn't not take into concerns of the walk around last fall,” he was quoted as saying, and that the Selectboard should “call for a time out and hold public hearings on the placement of this facility.”

Jeff Clark, a member of the skatepark committee said the committee was made up of wide variety of people. “An effort was made to be an open committee.” he said they met the goal of presenting the design to the Selectboard and hoped they’d approve it.

Spencer Crispe said there had been a “monumental amount of process and thinking.” He praised hard working volunteers, and the park designer. “He’s a world class designer and that’s a world class park.”

Crispe felt the park would be an asset to Brattleboro. “It’s an amazing thing for the community and I just want to skate it.”

Fric Spruyt said that those that wanted a site selction process also wanted a skatepark. he said he didn’t think this site had a fair hearing, said he held the Selectboard responsible.

Dan ? said he couldn’t speak to the process, but felt a well designed skatepark in an existing site can enhance the playground and the neighborhood. “ I support it strongly.”

William J. Bushey III said that many places had been considered in the last decade, including Living Memorial Park. “This is a great spot for it to go, and many places have been discussed. I thank Mike for the great design. There have been many ideas in the last 10 years. It’s about time we have a skatepark in town open to the public.”

Judith mentioned safety concerns of Union Hill, and kids crossing the street in that area. She said that her kids skateboarded ”and sound is different on sidewalks, but it is not silent, no matter what.”

Brant Kurowski asked about how the design conformed with the mediated settlement. “Can you show where the 1,000 sq feet have been removed?”

McIntyre got out his overlays and tuned his projector back on. He showed maps with a bigger setback from the sidewak and the length and width of the park trimmed.

“The terms also called for a planted berm and solid wood wall on the Union Hill side. Is that in the plan?,” asked Brant.

Sondag said landscaping would take care of those parts of the settlement.

Peggy A. said that she walks and drives near there and they are dangerous intersections. “I question the wisdom of adding this much activity to the area,” adding “its a horrendous mess.”

Sam Rowley, a member of the advisory board to Rec and Parks, said that he sees this design as an enhancement of our great parks in town. “I live close to Living Memorial Park and hear noises and ball games during the summer. It’s because I live near a park. It’s used for recreation. It’ll be an enhancement.”

Les Montgomery asked about the split rail fence to surround the design, and if trees would be removed.

McIntyre showed the fencing and said evergreens would be a part of the berms to block sound. He also found his slides with more maps to answer Brant’s earlier questions about reductions in size.

“The zoning administrator mentions the mediation terms, and finds that this conforms with that,” said Sondag.

Andrew Clark said that the flash finish is smooth and below grade. “You’ll be surprised at how quiet the skatepark will be.” He added that there aren’t that many injuries and he saw no need for a special first aid area.

“I was drawn in by how important it is for young kids to be outside, challenged, free, and active in a centrally located safe place,” said Adam Hubbard “We’ve lost sight of what we want to accomplish,” he said. “To give the kids a thrill.”

Steve R. said that he saw no need to resite the park, and that it would bring money to town and people buying thing. “Not much can go wrong because it is residential area.”

Wendy Creager said she appreciated the skatepark committee and looked forward to a park in town, but again asked about the site selection process. “I’m asking again that it would be wonderful if you don’t approve this and let District 3 residents discuss this project in their neighborhood.”

Dora Bouboulis said she first heard of the project when Dick DeGray and Jesse Corum decided that Crowell Park would be a good location.

“I appreciate the work done here and love the care in the design process, but the issue is the site selection,” she said. “The way this was done was really bad. It started out bad and got worse. A train wreck.

She said the question remains “where’s the best place for the skatepark?” and said she didn’t think the board was ready to be voting on a design.

Schneck said that the location had been decided before he and Chapman had been elected to the board, but that he objected to Dora’s notion that there wasn’t any public participation. “I can’t reconcile someone coming up to a mic saying there isn’t participation. That’s what these meetings are. I don’t understand it,” he said.

“I can’t speak to how we arrived at this location,” said Schneck, “but can see the list of meetings since.” He said the Selectboard “gave them criteria and they considered it. We were specific. I’m basing my vote on the criteria being met.”

DeGray said his memory was sketchy, but he ended the speculation of who handled the site selection saying that “Jesse or myself thought it did belong at the Crowell lot, and I’m proud to say that it should go there.”

He said people could disgaree, or better yet, run for school board. “This process has been arduous, but we’ve been cordial this evening. You’ve been respectful. That’s all I can ask for. We may not agree with how this comes out. Mr. McCarty brought up possible legal challenges. That is your prerogative. I know this group of people have been looking for a site, and for me or Jesse to say “this is a good place” that’s OK, it’s a park in my eyes. I’m okay if you disagree.”

“I believe this is where the skatepark should go. Don’t make it personal. I can’t do anything if you do. People don’t want to run for boards because people make it personal,” he said.

The design was approved 3-1, with Bouboulis against.

Monthly Finance Report with John O’Connor

For the period through January 31, 2013, Brattleboro finances and funds are looking good, said Finance Director John O’Connor. Everything is tracking at or below scheduled budget numbers.

Chris Chapman asked about the snow plowing budget. O’Connor said it was set at $70,000, and that they had spent $18,000.” This didn’t incude the last storm, however.

“It was huge, too,” cautioned Barb Sondag. “Snow removal is one variable in the budget that moves.”

Otherwise, loans were in generally good shape, and grants remain a “very active program.”

Elm Street Parking Ordinance - Second Reading and Public Hearing

Readers may recall the Selectboard agreeing to a trade of parking spaces between the Town and the Coop. This second reading seals the deal, and finalizes the agreement.

The Selectboard chuckled that the public hearing has no comments.

Chris Chapman had clarified that the spaces being discussed were the Elm Street lot metered spaces, and that the meters taken out would be used as replacements for others around town.

The vote was 4-0.

Town Plan Public Hearing

The Selectboard asked for and received changes to Brattleboro’s Town Plan.

Tuesday night’s Public Hearing was the final step before approving and sending the new Town Plan to the Windham Regional Commission for their approval.

With Town Planners and advocates on hand to answer remaining questions, the Selectboard had nothing but praise.

“I think it is aspirational,” said Ken Schneck. “It is inspiring and provides a real direction the town.” He looked forward to implementing it.

Dora Bouboulis said she thought it had been a collaborative process. She said she felt good about it.

Dick DeGray thanked them for four years of work, including outreach. “Close to four years of work, and we decimate it, but that’s the process. I appreciate your effort.” He thanked staff and members of the Planning Commission.

Brattleboro’s new Town Plan was approved and sent along to Windham Regional Commission by a vote of 4-0.

Dissolving the Transportation Committee

The Selectboard voted 4-0 to dissolve the Transportation Committee. It had originally been set up to examine the need and oversee the development of the parking garage.

The Traffic Safety Committee will handle transportation issues. Bouboulis hoped that more citizens would find ways to participate on the committee.

Lease Agreement - Dottie’s Food

Dottie’s Discount Store leases space from the Town of Brattleboro in the parking garage lower level. That lease recently expired and is currently on a month to month basis.

The Selectboard voted 4-0 to authorize the Town Manager to create a new 10 year lease that will extend the the agreement with Dotties/The Coop beyond the final payments of the bond to construct the garage.

Local-Option Sales or Per-Gallon Tax on Gasoline

At their last regular meeting, the Selectboard voted on whether to discuss taxing gasoline. They voted in favor of the discussion, and at Tuesday evening’s meeting they began that discussion.

It had been a request by Chris Chapman, so he led the discussion.

Chapman said that there were expectations that highway and transportation funds could become limited in coming years, and that could lead to us not having enough money to “do what we want to do.”

He urged future Selectboards to meet regularly with state legislatures to work together to solve problems.

He reiterated his view that local property tax payers were “subsidizing” those who visit or work here.

“We need to come up with new ideas for revenue,” he said. “How are we gong to fund the things that need to be done?”

He mentioned that kings would always put in roads to bring goods in and out. ”That hasn’t changed. Society is complex, and this is so basic.”

Chapman said that attempting a local option tax is difficult, and may not be practical at this time. But, he said, “the Selectboard cannot be reactive. We have to solve the problem of uncompensated use of our municipal services. If not, we’ll face larger fires down the road.”

He said the Town needs to think “way outside the box of the four corners of our town” and “be really cosmopolitan” by reaching out to cooperate and work with legislators.

Ken Schneck said they could continue to push forward on Chapman’s ideas. “We need more sources of revenue. There is more advocating we can do.”

“I’m not a fan of taxes on sales,” said Dora Bouboulis. “They are regressive.” She suggested any plans for new taxes incorporate some math about shopping. “Do we gain anything?” she asked.

She continued. “I think we lose as much as we gain with sales taxes. People go across the border.” Bouboulis suggested dialogue before acting, and said that the state wasn’t going to cosider gas taxes this year.

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Skatepark

This is such great news for the community, and I am proud to live here. Thank you BASIC for all the hard work you are doing!

 
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Skatepark siting process

If select board member Ken Schneck is correctly quoted above then he is deeply confused about the difference between participation and process. Holding meetings and inviting people to participate is totally different from a process that is an open exchange of alternatives, a free weighing of information and opinion, and a decision that includes everyone who will be affected.

I am equally amazed by the quote offered above from Sam Rowley, a member of the advisory board to Recreation and Parks:

“I live close to Living Memorial Park and hear noises and ball games during the summer. It’s because I live near a park. It’s used for recreation. It’ll be an enhancement.”

Why is there no public record of the decision to not consider Memorial Park for this great "recreation enhancement"? There was no level playing field of a process and now the project moves forward with opponents - who could have been supporters.

 
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Skateboard design approval

To me last nights meeting almost verged on a seemingly prescripted promotional when selectboard members Ken Schneck and Chris Chapman tag teamed and let the clock run long when stating their own personal take on what best constitutes and are acceptable levels for sound abatement. A general condensed check list of criteria according to Ken was selective and not objective by his favoring complete support of this project at the Crowell Park location at the expense of scutinizing little and providing little in the way of attention toward meaningful engagement or even acknowledging the potential adverse affects and impacts brought forth by opponents. In the process, bad choice of word I know, somehow they both overlooked obvious truths by giving credence to the distorted impression and inaccurate, misplaced virtues of a near soundproof skatepark to be marveled at which is said to feature the latest cutting edge reduction of generated contact noise technology worked into design.

This is unrealistic when the fact that large portions of the park level with area residences have a plaza type feature where boarders can perform a series of practiced airborn attempts starting from a stationary position until perfection is achieved which inevitably lands with force contacting pavement that isn't muted and plainly becomes a very audible noise when combining many skaters practicing at once with many failed attempts rattling boards, not abated .

This could be described somewhere in the range of a tennis player practicing a rapid succession of rebound returns rallying against a garage door backboard at conceivably all odd hours echoing off nearby surrounding residences and may come to mind for comparison. All of us can deal with this on occasion because it may be our very own kids hopefully supervised to respect others and stop at some point. It's not the individual noise itself, it's the amount of ceaseless combined noise on a daily basis with out breaks that is the issue here especially in a residential area in close confines they can do little about except move. The Union Hill border is a narrow, sparsely foliated strip on a descending bank and is an inadequete buffer even by skateboard park reccomendations and standards.

Ken's selected list of skatepark criteria was again promotional picking out the best of what paints the skatepark picture as having few negative impacts to those affected the most when in actuality it is the the safety of skaters and limitations imposed on other park uses displaced or severly altered at stake he neglected to mention. Valued scenic green areas will be edged out in the wake of a wave of permanent concrete up to the foot of surrounding trees. These former playground expanses will receed and be compacted to the sidelines to less desirable or unsuitable locations without adequete consideration and planning. What wasn't recognized of BASIC's own criteria list for a successful skatepark were the issues of Bathrooms, respectable buffers, Traffic, Honest Noise Levels, Parking, Actual Safety, Tree removal on the Union Hill border, threat to existing trees.There will be no embracing the public participation of citizens request for a site selection process and there will a stagnation of the healing process for this continued type of systematic exclusion.

 
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No Surprise Here

Quite Honestly, Do you think Dick Degrey, Ken Schneck, and Chris Chapman would have voted against the rationale of a skatepark design at Crowell Lot even if an impact study proved it generated excessive noise pollution for other park users or local residences?

or had inherent problems concerning traffic saftey, threatens existing trees, lacks necessary restrooms for a "major" change in increased use and foot traffic as an attraction, alters and imposes limitations on the existing grounds and greenary for year round use and other park uses, is surrounded by hills leading to town with several busy intersction with logging truck exceeding 40 miles perhour that will be skated, already serves a residential area and visitors beyond as a playground and scenic open byway, has no more room for skate park expansion, goes forward without the cost estimate and details of additional landscaping to meet conditions laid out, agreed upon and documented at mediation of the Appeal against the DRB decison granting a conceptual skatepark design a building permit, does not respect neighborhood buffers or concerns, could be located in a more appropriate and accommodating setting without dying trees overhanging for this kind of sport, no I don't think this would change there minds already made up long ago and they have been so wrong about revealing the lack of public process inclusive of all interested parties evaluating this location that never happened, took place and was clearly a dismissed right people deserve without question as it concerns Crowell Park. Les Montgomery

 
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Polite meeting #987 aka "Dick's preferences"

“Citizens were in attendance at this week’s Selectboard meeting to request once again that the town consider the concerns of the neighbors and do a proper site selection process for the new park. Dick DeGray said that the skatepark selection process consisted of himself and Jesse Corum proposing Crowell Lot as a good location, and that he was proud of their decison.

… ‘This process has been arduous, but we’ve been cordial this evening. You’ve been respectful. That’s all I can ask for.’ ”

This issue reminds me of that telling poem, which I believe is called “The Good Samaritan” or possibly, and more accurately, “The Good Citizen”? It begins with the line:

“I was hungry and you formed a humanities club to discuss my hunger” and ends with “But I am still hungry.”

 
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A poem

I too have a poem for you:

Roses are red, Violets are blue, This skatepark is going to be a great addition to the general health of our community so please stop with rhetoric and disgusting banter. Trying to obstruct this project only hurts yourselves.

Thank you,

Josh Steele

 
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Prevailing Over Opposition

Couple things -- first, that when democratically elected officials make unilateral decisions without consulting the people they represent, there are sometimes ramifications. In this case, there were two such unilateral decisions. Dick and Jesse decided on their own that Brattleboro needed to have a skatepark and that the skatepark should be located at Crowell Park. The thing about this unilateral decision is that it made some people really happy but others not so much. It's easy to overlook the unilateral part when the decision goes your way.

The other thing worth mentioning is the concept of a Pyrrhic victory. That's when the victors win despite strong opposition but in the end, the victory is so damaging that it almost wasn't worth it.

I do think this skatepark is going to be built where the Town wants it to be, despite neighborhood opposition. And I hope for everyone's sake, including those strongly in favor of a skatepark no matter what, that the project is an unqualified success that makes life better not just for the kids in the park but the town as a whole and the neighborhood as well. Otherwise, we're never going to hear the end of it.

 
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thank you Lise

You said that so eloquently.

 
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Round and Round

For the sake of newcomers and those seeking a longer term perspective, I'd like to clarify some of the misconceptions that are circulating around the choice of the Crowell Lot as the location for the skatepark.
Some seem to be fastening onto the idea that select Selectboard members acted unilaterally in choosing the Crowell Lot as THE spot. This is only an incremental aspect of the overall story, to fixate on this is to blow a circumstantial detail out of proportion.

I began the lobbying effort a decade ago, several locations were scouted by myself and other skate enthusiasts. Crowell, Living Memorial, and Elm Street were the primary candidates at the start. Living Memorial was pursed, for a range of reasons, and as directed, our group developed a proposal for the Rec. Board- for a 10,000 sq. ft. concrete park. The clash with Brookside residents sufficiently stymied the Rec. Board at the time, and that location was dropped.

The process next unfolded to include having a skate park within development plans for the new town Recreational acquisition. I sat on that committee, and as properties were vetted, the viability for each location as a potential site for skating was weighed. Eventually, the West River site prevailed as the ideal site, and the skatepark was part of the proposal that was sent to vote at that year's town meeting. It was only after the skatepark was stripped from that plan, for zoning reasons, that the Crowell Lot was again brought into the discussion.

At this time there was no entity known as BASIC. It was only after the lot was considered as a potential location, and the initial hearings happened, that the group pursing a skate venue was organized into a town committee. BASIC was charged with one function only, to develop a park for the Crowell Lot.

Opponents continually claim illegitimacy of the process, and a lack of due diligence. I find this a disingenuous charge. The search was an organic one, and involved skaters and town leaders throughout. The idea that each time the search was thwarted, the process had to undergo a de-neuralizing (like the brain wiping device in Men in Black) and we need to proceed as if no knowledge was gained by the quest thus far is absurd.

Please bear in mind, I have no problem with any degree of scrutiny and questioning, but let evidence and facts speak- not just fear. Some due diligence on the part of the opponents is needed. Have opponents gone to Northampton and listened for themselves to the noise they claim will be so disruptive? Have they investigated the array of parks in the mode of the ASD Design, to see that in fact much attention is given to safety, aesthetics, overall integration, and that these parks are built for success.

The same people who decry a shortage of parking have not issued complaint when the line of cars sets up every single school day of the year, and has for decades. I only mention these counters because it seems we do go round and round and never turn the corner. Yet in order to straighten things out, and raise the money needed for our youth to have a facility, we do need some form of cohesion and reconciliation.

The best way to arrive at this is through knowledge- to investigate personally, then accept the abundant data, realizing there has been process, rationale, and care to get to this point. Though the opponents may never embrace the concept as their own, at least they can honor a legitimate journey that has been undertaken with as much integrity as we flawed being are capable of.

 
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then that's rounding off a decade

I totally respect your comments here Spinoza and initiating the undocumented search (open to public scrutiny and input?) for a skate park back in the day & up to now and as I have heard many times from Herb Eisenberg attending these WR committee meetings, West River did not entirely reject an alternative location within the park there from original locale, and did not completely rule it out, but it was never revisited, yet it is in fact most likely too late at this point to be a viable location now the park is completed I believe, but that is another topic that should be determined on a site selection committee for the skatepark yet to be formed in the present day.

If your not receptive to or intimidated by concerned citizens objections on how the Crowell lot falls short on many crucial points of what constitutes and meets a successful and safe skatepark criteria plan, particular, compatible and integrated to our community needs surrounding Crowell park, why should you be intimidated by a condominium complex next to one lower portion of an underutilized 58 acre public recreational park at Living Memorial Park with ample room lending multiple options, significant bufferzones, treeless expanses and access, bathrooms,bathrooms, concession stands, pool, outdoor theater, several parking lots, ice rink(rollerblading) set back from a dangerous intersections, has public transportion stops, is near High School and ambulance service, onsite employees and volunteers, can be easily patrolled, will not significantly displace other activities, has room for expansion ect ect.

But here we are in 2013 and there is time for a legitimate reevaluation inclusive of public participation to do this the right way for our town as a whole and if you want some history, we have been requesting this going on two years now, especially for those trying to work through our political systems with unacknowledged ongoing concerns before town officials that have not been adequately addressed or respected, rather continually rejected or dismissed. The skate park project still has an incredible amount of funding to raise before they can break ground and to isolate so many local potential donors is bad practice in itself, when this can be a community event and effort by examining all the possibilities in a democratic process!

 
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"Maximum Control"?

I said very early on, there is a pretty reasonable argument that BASIC was set up to fail. It has been suggested that, like the erroneous belief at one time that the Town parking garage would pay for itself, so as to appear as wanting to support the youth in town, charged them with a most formidable responsibility and obligation - to “make it happen” in Crowell Park - including raising $350,000, based on a sniggering belief that BASIC could never do it in the time allocated before construction.

It is possible that those now in power, and who are responsible, are so embarrassed by the unexpected realization of what actually went down, that they are diggin in their heels while assuming an age old public power posture - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_EUz0XQbz4

 
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Maximum Control...

... it's an intellectually dry idea.

 
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Great Job

Keep laying on the insults and barbs! You and Les are doing a great job plastering those damn losers. The Town Leaders and BASIC are starting to wither under your stream of criticism.

Just think where we'd be without you guys?!?

 
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ditto

Please, do not put words in my mouth... just tryin to lighten the load a bit, while not letting go of my hope of the possibility of a much larger truth being realized.

 
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Location, Location, Location

I disagree that downtown sites for a skate park should be automatically ruled out as a loss in revenue for the town (2 dozen parking meters or 10,000sq ft) when people say we must invest in our youth by providing stimulating activities that keep them positively occupied in a beneficial way by exercising skills.

I just don't buy a less traveled side street parking lot downtown can't be sacrificed as so many other towns have successfully accomplished with community wide support integrating fresh landscaped greenery into the plan , not threatening established trees such as at Crowell, for a skateboard park project near Youth Theater, Girls and Boy's club, COOP hang out, away from residences, noise not as much of an issue in a commercial zone, convenient to transportation center bathrooms, stores in close proximity instead of right next to residences (which may in fact boost economy more frequently visited by skateboarders from across the region), more conducive to events or combined with Gallery Walk where kids can release some energy outside a neighborhood setting amongst the backdrop of downtown and feel they aren't distubing the peace, near schools, has great visability in an urban setting where concrete is common place, existing and expected. Is it because we are afraid of a drug culture influence that can just as easily set up shop at Crowell Lot in time?

This possibility also needs to be revisited and actually evaluated before the public by new members of the selectboard with open minds. By the way, RESITE members have attended meetings, various committees discussing the skatepark issue including BASIC's, researched skateparks, provided documention, petitions, and presented professional reports before the board on many occasions whenever the skatepark issue has been before the board even after being flatly denied consideration.

 
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recesses of the park

I think it may be time we as a community get more of a handle and grip on the outside drug trafficking situation also committing more serious crimes here in Brattleboro becoming more and more pronounced these days and think hard about how this effects our neighborhood safety with mixed use neighborhood parks or our youth hanging out downtown. This is another topic I would like to see come to the forefront of the new selectboard, not to say it hasn't been discussed previously with an increase in foot patrol officers downtown and developing neighborhood organizations confronting this issue.

Crowell Lot is by no means exempt or protected from the possibility of this kind of activity occuring in the recesses of the park with multiple wooded escape routes and limited visablilty unless you eradicate the wonderful from evergreen buffer that lines the front of the park as it faces the road where the relocated playground is to be moved. At least downtown there is more exposure and with police foot patrol. This should be on the top of the list of criteria for a skatepark in my opinion.

 
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Compensation

The idea that people visiting or driving through Brattleboro are obligated to pay us for the privilege, and help contribute to our town budget, is an interesting one.

It makes me imagine Brattleboro with toll booths at each entry way. Then I imagine every other town doing the same.

Or we could sell tickets to town. And others could do the same. (Save on a multi-day pass!)

I'd prefer we be thankful that people come to Brattleboro, and work to make it easier for them to do so. The idea that people owe us something for coming here seems a bit absurd.

...

Also, regarding parking and holidays, as far as I know, Brattleboro does not recognize MLK Day. Years ago we were told that it was a matter of updating union contracts.

 
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Skatepark Process Objections

Chris. thank you for your detailed notes on the Selectboard meeting and the Skatepark design approval. They are always a great service to the community, at considerable effort on your part -- duly noted.

I'd like to elaborate on what I said about the Development & Review Board (DRB) role in approving the site, which took place in June and July 2011.

The DRB tried to be fair -- they even convened at the site before the July meeting -- but they forgot a few things that were crucially important to the process.

They warned that the Skatepark site would come up at their June meeting. They did not, however, warn that the question of whether the plan constituted a major or minor change to an existing facility would also come up.

This is important because without proper warning, the results of a meeting can be held to be invalid and non-binding. Any of these points could be raised:

1. This is not an existing site or facility for the Town government, but a new site and new facility -- newly leased from the School District;

2. At their June 2011 meeting, Zoning Administrator (Brian Bannon) presented a finding to the DRB that the Skatepark plan would be a "minor" change to an existing facility. Don't you think that if that finding had been made public prior to the DRB's meeting, there would have been a hue and cry that it was not correct?

3. Moving the playground is part of the plan -- don't you think that should have been warned separately? The residents who use the playground are a different group than those who will use the skatepark, or who use other aspects of Crowell Park.

I personally think the improper conduct revolves around the finding that the skatepark would constitute a minor change to an existing facility. That finding and decision was not publicly warned beforehand. The question of siting per se was warned, but only to direct abutters of the Park (including myself).

But even more egregious was the fact that the decision that it would be a "minor" change was not even recorded in the DRB minutes of the June meeting ... even though the members of the Board took a vote on it! This rendered that crucial finding and decision practically invisible to the Town's residents at large ... there is no record of it except what those of us who were there can remember!

It remains to be seen whether or not the Town can go forward with this project as it stands now. Some will say that the process was flawed, but that is 'water under the bridge' and there is too much momentum toward building it as planned. Those strongly in favor of the current plan can justly say that things have seemed to fall into place to make it happen. Those opposed can wring their hands or throw them up in the air in despair, or they can perhaps file a grievance with Windham Superior Court or some other legal authority and ask for some kind of a writ or order -- a legal finding that the steps toward building the park must cease until the Town shows that all proper procedures and hearings were held, that each hearing dotted its i's and crossed its t's, and that everything necessary was warned and minuted correctly -- something I don't think they would be able to do.

I hasten to add that I remain neutral on the park's siting -- being both an abutter and an elected representative I think I should be neutral. But I am, in effect, surrounded by people who are against it -- pretty much every single one of my neighbors is against it -- even members of my own family. What can I say -- I really want to see all proper due process done here. If it is truly a community decision, I am with it, whichever way it goes.

And I was a skateboarder in the 50's and 60's, back when it began. I can remember my dad in the mid 1950's taking apart a few metal roller skates (the kind you tied over your shoes) and hammering them onto 2x4's so we could coast down our street on them. So I know how much fun it is.

 
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'Minor'

John -- most of your argument above hinges on what constitutes a Minor vs. a Major change to an existing facility. Can you, or someone, give common definitions of Minor & Major changes within a Vermont zoning context?

 
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Re 'Minor'

I'm sorry ... if there are statutory requirements for minor vs major, I am not aware of what they are. I think, though, that there must be some sort of common-sense requirements. It might be difficult to stipulate guidelines for such a wide variety of possibilities.

Perhaps the proper person to ask is Brattleboro's Zoning Administrator Brian Bannon ... it is he who provided this finding (that the Skatepark would be a "minor change to an existing facility") to the Development Review Board. If pressed, he might be able to justify his finding with some sort of law or dictum ... or not.

 
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Skate Park Plan

I had asked a question at SB meeting 2/19 to ASD/Santec designer Mike McIntyre in referencing the final skatepark design presented and displayed that evening, about where specifically the existing split rail fence was located in relation to the skatepark concrete perimeter which was pointed out to be closely parallel to (abutting) and right along side for most of the skatepark's entire length on the Union Hill side of Crowell Park. Any area that exceeds beyond the existing split rail fence is the beginning of a narrow wooded strip of land serving as a minor buffer for abutting residences lining Union Hill and is my understanding which any type of artificial/landscaped replacement barrier would edge into.

Few specific details could be answered about about the berm and fence to be completed and I presume will addressed at a later date, but answers did not really satisfy two people including myself who asked the designer and subsequently the selectboard how this area will be treated such as; is there a fence and a berm combined or what the configuration will exactly consist of, one or both. From Barb Sontag's reply, I'm guessing this border's makeup has to amount to a total six feet in height or whatever it ends up being exactly and was said that should suffice for now speaking to the detail. There was nothing stated about the additional costs to create the barrier or how they would be paid for or when a constructed/ landscaped plan would go into effect in realtion to the skatepark's construction.

These questions could not be answered, because a specific buffer/ noise abatement berm plan is not an immediate part of the skatepark plan that was approved at the selectboard meeting, even though it directly affects and abuts this area it was only to said it will conform to the provisions laid out in mediation of the Appeal and will be landscaped later. I would gather that because this condition laid out in the Appeal mediation addressing sound abatement and represents a direct consequence of the park's concrete development, therefore would have to be defined in detail having already been agreed to and contingent upon the skatepark's creation.

I trying to understand at what point this noise abatement zone will be included in the over all plan, how many existing trees young and old will have to be cut down and removed to open up this area and provide adequate room to accommodate this earthen berm of sorts and imagine what this already sparsely foliated bank serving as a buffer will end up looking like with such alterations, so it is of the utmost importance to those involved.

I wonder how well an evergreen hedge will fare in this shady side of the park. Who is the arborist, who will be involved in this decision or for that matter, who is ASD arborist and what determinations has He/She presented for trees surrounding the park likelihood of survival, are they certified and have they taken into consideration existing ISA arborist reports already conducted at Crowell Park??

 

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