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McKnight Neighborhood Meeting 01/12/16

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Board Meeting:  January 12, 2016 

Approved February 09, 2016

Minutes McKnight Neighborhood Council

Meeting called to order by President Lamont C at 6:15 pm.

Board Members Present (6): Lamont E Clemons, (Pres), Lloyd A Creswell, (Asst Sec/Clerk), Bryan McFarland, Elizabeth

O’Gilvie, Elizabeth Stevens, Paul Swenson

Board Members Not Present (9): Jack Dubose, Tawreak Eddington, (Asst Treas), Colin Kirby, (Treas),  Brandi Gamble,

(Sec/Clerk), Art Jones, Walter Kroll, Henry Payne, (Vice Pres), Synthia Scott- Mitchell, Ben Swan, Jr

Administrative Staff:   Elizabeth Lederman

Neighborhood Members:  Damian Phillips, Todd Ostrowski, Rev Michael Devine, Merry Boone, Jim Boone, Stephen Gray,

Anne Richmond, Lucinda Ealy

Guests:  Jay Minkarah, from Develop Springfield; Ronald Wallace, Ramon Elliston, Exavier Lopez,  and Marquis Harris,

from Gardening the Community; Bruce Arnold

Pres Lamont C welcomed those attending the meeting; Board and audience introductions followed.

GUEST PRESENTATIONS

  • GTC, Gardening the Community—GTC is a food justice organization which trains youth in urban agriculture and sustainable living. Based in Mason Square, they operate community gardens developed in vacant and abandoned lots and distribute produce to the local community through food share distributions and through the Mason Square Farmers Market.
  • Youth representatives from GTC and program director Anne Richmond attended the meeting and passed out surveys which will help GTC in its marketing campaign to expand knowledge in the community about the local, affordable and healthy fruits and vegetables now available to them.
  • Jay Minkarah, President of Develop Springfield—Develop Springfield is a non-profit development corporation focused on stimulating revitalization and economic development in the city.
  • So far they have worked primarily in the tornado zone, on State Street, and in the downtown. Their primary focus is brick and mortar properties which are distressed, abandoned, and in disrepair, but which have been identified as worthy of being saved.  These are properties which a normal for-profit developer would not undertake, due to the many challenges involved.  Develop Springfield is able to marshal resources such as grants, and partners from the community to bring these properties back to functionality and to the tax rolls.  Examples included:  83 Maple and 77 Maple, the Gunn Block on State Street, two properties on Bridge Street, and a church in the North End.
  • Develop Springfield’s funding comes from private donations and grant funding from state and federal programs, and private foundations. The average scope of the projects they take on ranges from 2 to 4 million dollars.  Historic tax credits also play a crucial role in their ability to rehabilitate properties.
  • The River Inn property on State and Thompson Street was the first property acquired by Develop Springfield in 2013. The condemned building was razed, and the property was combined with two vacant lots on Thompson which were acquired from the City.  The property was then offered for sale to commercial developers.  After being on the market for a year, the McDonald’s on State Street expressed interest in relocating there, but their offer was eventually rejected because the neighborhood was not in favor of it.
  • Since then, inquiries have been received from another fast food business and a gas station, however Develop Springfield’s surveys have indicated that the neighborhood does not support a high-traffic, auto based business; and Develop Springfield is committed to supporting what the community supports. Mr Minkarah welcomed continued input from the Board and the neighborhood about their ideas for the development of the property.
  • The other significant project undertaken by Develop Springfield in the Mason Square area is the development of a full service grocery store. Property between State, Union, Oak and Walnut has been acquired but so far an operator who is willing to come in has not been found.  They continue to work on this project.  Lengthy discussion on the challenges which need to be overcome in moving the project forward.

OFFICER REPORTS

  • SECRETARY’S REPORT: (Brandi Gamble)
  • Asst Sec Lloyd C submitted minutes of Board meeting Dec 8, and Exec Board meeting Dec 29, for review and acceptance.

MOTION: (EO moved) to accept as presented; (BM seconded); (LEC call for discussion); (LEC called the question):  Motion carried unanimously.

  • TREASURER’S REPORT: (Colin Kirby) Treas Colin K absent.

NEW BUSINESS—Open to the Floor

  • Neighborhood member Stephen G expressed concerns that abutters to City owned properties in the neighborhood were not being notified when these properties go up for sale.
  • Rep Elizabeth O said that her understanding from the Office of Housing was that the City was not required to serve notice since it is common knowledge that abutters have first rights to purchase vacant lots next to their own properties and that there is a program in place to apply for these lots. Additionally, when an abutter does apply to purchase one of these lots, it is placed on the City Council agenda for approval, which provides additional public notice.
  • Stephen requested that the Board write a letter to the City asking them to begin notifying abutters in the future about any impending sales of properties next to theirs.

MOTION:  (BM moved) that MNC write letter as requested; (LAC seconded); (LEC call for discussion); (LEC called the question):  Yea—4; Nay—1; Abstentions—1 :  Motion carried.

  • Rep Lloyd C brought up the fact that there are no flashing school zone lights on Catharine Street in front of Rebecca Johnson School and that it is a serious safety hazard. He has made inquiries with the City about this, and was told the Board needs to send a letter to the City Council so they can recommend this to the City for action.  Rep Elizabeth O thought Traffic needed to be contacted.  Agreement to refer to Public Safety Committee to move forward.

MOTION: (LAC moved) that MNC embark on obtaining traffic safety lights on Catharine Street for the Rebecca Johnson School; (EO seconded); (LEC call for discussion); (LEC called the question):  Motion carried unanimously.

  • Neighborhood member Damian P requested that the Board invite to the next three meetings on Feb 9, March 8, and April 12—the three ambulance companies, the police commissioner, and the fire chief, respectively.

MOTION:  (BM moved) that the agenda requests be referred to the Executive Board meeting where the agenda is created; (EO seconded); (LEC call for discussion); (LEC called the question):  Motion carried unanimously.

  • Rep Bryan M suggested that it would be helpful if Damian would email the Council any information he would like to be considered prior to the executive Board meeting.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

  • Good Neighbor—Chair, Elizabeth O’Gilvie
  • No new activity on behalf of the committee, however Rep Elizabeth O observed that she felt there was a need for some conversation about how we sound when we talk about our neighborhood, and the need to respect each other as we try to resolve the problems. She expressed concern about feedback she had received from some individuals in the City who had been contacted by neighborhood residents expressing anger and discontent in what were perceived as non-constructive ways.  She felt that in order to be effective when working together, we needed to respect each other as we communicate within our own neighborhood, and as we move our issues out into the larger community.
  • Food Access—Chair, Elizabeth O’Gilvie
  • Chair Elizabeth O reporting that she has been serving as a project advisor to the Massachusetts State Food System Plan, which is now complete. The plan will be implemented in communities across the state.  The organization’s director will be attending the Springfield Food Policy meeting later in the month to discuss details.
  • Beautification—Chair, Bryan McFarland
  • Thompson Triangle was decorated for the holiday season. Chair Bryan M thanked Damian P for obtaining the additional evergreen trees for the park from the City, and Rep Walter K for getting the extra outlets installed by the City.  Will store salvageable decorations to be used for next year.  Was given an allotment of $200 for project, used $158.  Will discuss use of remaining funds at next Board meeting (since meeting was absent a quorum when report was given).
  • Report on the “sleigh ride” taken by him and wife Patricia through the neighborhood, taking a hundred photographs of McKnight homes decorated for the holiday. The photos were posted on Facebook in three separate posts, one of which received nearly 2,000 views.
  • Tourism—Chair, Bryan McFarland
  • Has been updating Facebook with frequent posts of relevant historical pictures and info related to McKnight—i.e. a picture of an antique Indian motorcycle. Page views have increased by 100 this past month, and Chair Bryan M explained that we go forward this engages not only our own neighborhood’s attention but engages and informs the greater community about McKnight.  This improves our image and expands McKnight’s online presence, which is where many people get their information these days.  He pointed out that these are some of the tools that can lead to increased interest in the neighborhood, an increase in property values, and attract interest from potential new residents and businesses.

FINAL BUSINESS/WRAP UP—Open to Floor

  • Lengthy final discussion among neighborhood members attending the meeting about the problems in the neighborhood, attitudes with which neighbors approach each other, what it takes to actually solve problems, what the neighborhood should ideally be about, and how to better work together on everyone’s best behalf.

8:00 pm:  Meeting adjourned.   MOTION:   (BM moved) to adjourn; (PS seconded); (LEC called); Motion unanimous.

 

Submitted for approval by Elizabeth Lederman, Administrative Staff, 02/09/16.

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