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McKnight Neighborhood Meeting 9/09/14

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Board Meeting September 09, 2014

Approved October 14, 2014

Minutes McKnight Neighborhood Council

Meeting Called to order 6:15 p.m.


Board Members Present (10): Walter Kroll (Pres), Elizabeth O’Gilvie (Vice Pres), Brandi Gamble-Lucas, (Secy/Clerk),   Lloyd Creswell (Asst Sec/Clerk), Colin Kirby (Treas), Tawreak Eddington, Greg Gavin, Bryan McFarland, Elizabeth Stevens, Stephen White, {Elizabeth Lederman, Adm. Staff}.

Board Members Not Present (5): Jennifer Diaz (Asst Tres), Donna Jordan, Damian Phillips, Ben Swan, Jr, Paul    Swenson

Neighborhood Members: Daniel Torres, Carmen Torres, Ed Zuckerman, Victoria Lewis, Bruce Arnold, Stephanie                 Steed, Lisa Gaudreau, Michael Stevens, Ed Kelly, Deb Papagno, Marie Koski, Elaine Awand, Alan Stearley

Guests: Chris Spagnoli and Craig Spagnoli, the Q Restaurant; Jim Schaffler, East Forest Park; Michael Tully, Parks                 Project Manger, City of Springfield; Chris Dunphy, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission; Jack Grieshober and                 Daniel Biggs, Weston & Samson, Environmental and Infrastructure Consulting


Welcome by Walter K, board member introductions; audience introductions.


  • Rail Trail Feasibility Report—Chief Presentation by Daniel Biggs, landscape architect, Weston & Samson, Rensselaer, New York.
  • Elizabeth Stevens, Rail Trail Committee Chair, made introductions and gave background on a decade of planning and pursuit by McKnight residents for the construction of the trail, expressing the widespread support and appreciation of residents as plans have now progressed to a formal feasibility study.


  • Funding for the feasibility study provided through Live Well Springfield from CDC grant funds obtained by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
  • Daniel Biggs has 12 years of experience in landscape architecture, and represents the firm of Weston & Samson which has done extensive work throughout the New England area.
  • Architect Biggs observed that trail building is a growing trend throughout the country—nationwide, cities and towns are investing in walking/biking trails and integrating them into the urban infrastructure because of the recreational and health value such trails bring to the community; making the point that walking remains the number one form of physical activity in the country.
  • Along with this intrinsic value, additionally, the proposed McKnight trail is a vital link to building a city-wide walking and biking trail, providing a corridor through Springfield College to Forest Park uptown, and giving access to the downtown area and the Connecticut riverfront trails.
  • The scope of the McKnight trail feasibility study is to look at what exists now and what it will take to bring the rail trail into reality.   This includes looking at the land the trail will traverse and determining its present physical condition, who owns the land, utilities that are present, potential hazardous materials, the features of abutting properties; how the trail will connect with the infrastructure of the neighborhood at entry and exit points, as well as the greater community.  Once these factors are assessed, potential design elements can be assembled, and project costs and time frames can be determined. Funding sources can then be identified and secured.
  • The proposed trail is approximately 2 miles long, beginning at the Rebecca Johnson School and ending at Armory Street.
  • The railroad bed is part of the abandoned Highland Division Railroad. A small portion of the land is owned by the True Vine Church of God on Andrews Street, which purchased the land from the railroad some years ago, and the rest is still owned by the railroad company.
  • The trail includes one-third mile of wetlands, the remainder is grass.   It runs under two bridges, one at St James and the other at Armory. A petroleum pipeline runs under the entire length of the trail, and part of the trail also has a buried fiber optic line.
  • Overall, the trail would be ten feet wide with a two foot grass buffer on either side. MA DOT recommends an asphalt trail surface.
  • The trail would have four “connections”—i.e. places where you can easily get on of off the path. For purposes of the study the proposed trail is divided into sections based on these connections.


  • Section A—the trail head, begins at the Rebecca Johnson School to the Bay Street/Clifford intersection. Suggested design elements include a water spray play area for the kids, and a kiosk featuring trail information.
  • Section B—Clifford/Bay Street to St James Avenue. Planning includes how the trail can safely integrate with Bay Street cross traffic. A portion of the trail borders Oak Grove Cemetery, the owners of which have offered full support as abutters. Trail runs under the dry bridge on St James Avenue, and would include a connection to give entrance/exit access up to street level
  • Section C—St James to Glen Rd (the Dingle)—this portion includes the wetlands. One design possibility is a boardwalk across the wetlands; another is to terrace the trail into the hillside.
  • Section D—Glen Rd to Armory Street. A larger connection at Armory could include parking for cars, bike racks, water fountain, benches and a kiosk.
  • Projected Construction Cost per Section
  • Section A, $450,000
  • Section B, $500,000
  • Section C, $1,300,000
  • Section D, $350,000
  • For a total cost of $2,600,000
  • The best case scenario would include lighting at an additional cost of $600,000.
  • Global Considerations for the Project


  • Cost of land acquisition and obtaining necessary easements
  • Environmental constraints and concerns and cost and scope of remediation and or accommodation
  • Utilities/avoidance and/or relocation—scope and costs
  • Scheduling and implementation
  • Economic considerations/funding avenues
  • How to Run and Maintain the trail once it is constructed—


  • Develop a “Friends of the Trail” type committee which oversees the trail
  • Establish maintenance policies and procedures which include regularly scheduled clean-ups and specific tasks at agreed upon intervals during the seasons
  • Develop neighborhood watch protocols for safety
  • Establish an invasive species management protocol
  • Once the will to go forward is determined the next steps are:


  • Acquire funding
  • Acquire land and easement rights
  • Prepare field investigations, wetlands survey and geotechnical investigation
  • Prepare preliminary design
  • Public Stakeholder meetings; and final design
  • Construction
  • Questions from Board and Audience:


  • Where did the feasibility study grant funds come from? The Center for Disease Control through Live Well Springfield. Cost? $48,000. Is there any follow-up funding forthcoming for the project from this same source once the feasibility study is completed? No.
  • Has the City secured any funding to move the project forward as of this time? No
  • What funds are available? Certain park grants that could come through the City; Gateway City grants; federal/state/local funding sources.
  • Elizabeth Stevens, Rail Trail Chair, and Michael Tully, Parks Planner, will be moving fund requests forward with Congressman Richard Neal; as well as some potential funding sources that have provided funding for other western Mass trails.
  • How safe will the trail be? One neighborhood resident with property abutting the trail expressed concerns about potential safety issues regarding unknown or unsafe individuals using the trail—point made that people already use this space and that lighting and healthy activity will improve the safety of the area. Another concern expressed about ATV’s and motorcycles using the trail which is already a problem. Assurances that physical design elements and proper policing can actually prevent this particular problem.
  • What input will the neighborhood have in the planning and implementation of the trail? Residents will have ample opportunities for public input throughout the process.
  • How long will it take to bring the trail into being? All things considered, probably within a five-year window at the earliest.


  • Chris & Craig Spagnoli, the Q Restaurant at 890-892 State Street, requesting a letter of support from the Board to expand operating hours to include Sunday, 11 am to 11 pm, based on requests from patrons who want to attend after church services; and those who want to watch Sunday night football at the restaurant. Tentative approval received from City Licensing Board pending approval from the surrounding neighborhoods.
  • MOTION: (BM moved) to submit letter of support as requested (LC seconded); (WK called for discussion); Elizabeth O inquired how many of the restaurant employees were from the immediate neighborhood. Twenty employees total, three-quarters are from the Mason Square area. (WK called the question); Unanimous vote.


  • Bryan McFarland—Beautification Proposals
    • Beautification website now set up for committee.
    • Forum for submitting ideas, sharing project progress, and volunteering for projects.
    • Planning project for dry bridge over St James Avenue—needs to scraped and painted.
    • Assessing wooden light poles which are dilapidated and leaning, some with loose wires hanging.   Investigating what it will take to replace with period historic lighting.
    • Developing plans for re-greening McKnight and replacing some of the lost trees in the future.
    • Project completed—Bryan M contributed his own time and materials and repainted the peeling fireboxes throughout the neighborhood after getting leave from the City to do so.
    • Brought photographs of the sewer/street work currently being done on St James Avenue for review and discussion—contractors have left huge asphalt rough patches, and broken granite edging with damage to the grass on the tree belts. Agreement to check in with the DPW to see if there are plans to repave and what will be done to repair the other damages.
    • Elizabeth O raised the question of whether Bryan can be reimbursed for his expenses in painting the fireboxes.   Funds can be approved by the Board for any reasonable expense upon which the Council approves and has funds to do so.
    • Bryan M declined reimbursement for the project, but he will be planning bigger projects in the future which will require funding such as the dry bridge. Will submit plans beforehand from the board. Walter K also said this type of project is ideal for CDBG grant programs that periodically come up; so working the project costs up and having it shovel-ready will be to our advantage.


  • Code of Conduct—Walter Kroll—offered brief comments on the importance of maintaining composure and respecting each other’s options at neighborhood meetings; that everyone’s point of view is important and voices need to heard, and that although some issues may become quite impassioned, it is important to agree to disagree if no other consensus can be reached at a given point. The Board functions under the City’s auspices and each Board member will be forwarded a copy of the City code of conduct for review.
  • Biomass Appeal Resolution—Proposal to submit a letter of support to the Springfield City Council to appeal the recent Massachusetts Land Court decision which overturned the Zoning Board’s ruling that a special permit was needed in order to construct a Biomass Incinerator by Palming Paving. Discussion included the fact that MNC and other neighborhood councils had spearheaded the opposition to the incinerator as a serious threat to air quality and public health and successfully blocked the original proposal.
  • MOTION: (EO moved) that MNC pass a resolution asking the Springfield City Council to appeal the decision; (TE seconded); (WK called the question); Unanimous vote.


  • SECRETARY’S REPORT: (Brandi Gamble-Lucas)MOTION: (LC moved) to accept as presented; (EO seconded); (WK called); Unanimous vote.
  • Minutes from August 06, 2014 submitted for acceptance. Call for corrections or additions.
  • TREASURER’S REPORT: (Colin Kirby) MOTION: (LS moved) to accept as presented; (BG seconded); (WK called); Unanimous vote.
  • Current on hand balance is $11,400. $500 donation from Home City Housing is earmarked for next year’s National Night Out event, and MNC will hold for collaboration with Old Hill and Bay. Expenses from this year’s event have been absorbed by each Council.

NEW BUSINESS—Open to the Board

  • Stephen W reported on the recent purchase of 29 Ingersoll Grove, and the arrival of 15 Chinese students who are enrolled in Cathedral High School. Essentially functioning as a boarding house. Neighbors called to report the activity and the City has been in to inspect for code violations; does not meet basic code requirements, lacks sprinklers, smoke alarms, fire escapes. Cathedral initially unaware of situation has become involved. Mayor’s office and department heads are following situation and in communication with owners. Stephen W and Colin K will continue to follow, and make certain Cathedral officials are ascertaining the welfare of the children.
  • Stephen W reporting resident concerns about the increase of truck traffic on St James and Worthington. Discussion about the increase probably as the result of traffic detours around construction and road work. Inquiry to be made with DPW about the perceived increases
  • Some discussion going on in the neighborhood around blocking off some streets to make cul de sacs and discouraging through traffic. Walter K commenting that the individuals interested in this need to come forth with specific proposals before it can be realistically discussed and presented to the Traffic department.
  • Elizabeth O reporting that the abutter application she and her husband made for the lot on the corner of Bay and Dartmouth, and for which the Council submitted a letter of support, has been approved. Opposition to the City’s approval has been submitted by the McKnight CDC. Approval of the sale is on the agenda for the City Council meeting on Monday, September 15, and she asks that any neighbors who wish to speak in support of her application attend the meeting. The O’Gilivies are planning to use the lot to share with neighbors as a gardening space. The McKnight CDC is contending the lot should be used to reconstruct the home of Primus Mason which was originally located there, though they have no plans or funding to accomplish this project. Discussion concluded that although Primus Mason is an important and respected historical figure in McKnight, the proposal to reconstruct his lost home is unrealistic.


  • Public Safety (Walter Kroll)
  • Still following RMV as an unsafe location traffic wise—developer is still in violation of the original special permit agreements he was supposed to have completed for the building of the gas station on the corner of St James. He will be meeting with the City this week to work these out. Once he is compliant with past requirements, the City will then begin to evaluate his current proposal for placing the RMV at that location. Will follow closely.
  • Housing & Code (Colin Kirby)
  • Colin K net with Elaine Awand about her Able House program on Bowdoin Street and the proposed St James Avenue group home. Reported that the programming seems reasonable and healthy and feels the programs can be positive contributions to the neighborhood. Will continue to work with her and follow progress.
  • Veterans Liaison (Stephen White)
  • Has made contact with City Veteran’s office. City office has no points of contact for with other neighborhood councils, and no interest in developing such. Walter K recommended making contact with other councils through Ed Whitley, Neighborhood Services Director.


8:00 ADJOURNMENT:   MOTION: (EO moved) to adjourn; (LC seconded); (WK called); motion carried.