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McKnight Neighborhood Meeting 09/13/16

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Board Meeting: September 13, 2016                                                                                                     Approved November 9, 2016

Minutes McKnight Neighborhood Council

Meeting called to order by President Walter K at 6:10 pm.

Board Members Present (10): Lamont E Clemons; Tawreak Eddington, Asst Treas; Lorenzo Gaines; Walter Kroll, President;

Art Jones; Nick Panteleakis; Damian Phillips, Asst Secy/Clerk; Elizabeth Stevens, Treasurer; Ben Swan, Jr; Giselle Vizcarrondo

Board Members Not Present (5): Lloyd A Creswell; Bryan McFarland, Vice President; Elizabeth O’Gilvie; Synthia Scott-

Mitchell, Secy/Clerk; Paul Swenson

Administrative Staff:   Elizabeth Lederman

Neighborhood Members & Guests: Ed Zuckerman, Roberta Kilkenny, Stephen Howard, Dana Hines, Donna Jordan, David

Gaby, Todd Ostrowski, Demetrios Dawkins, Martin Shell, Brandi Gamble, Deb Papagno, Peter Partyka, Arlene

Smith, Elaine Awand, Alan Stearley

Guest Presentations: Robert McCarroll, Corinne Bongiovanni

Pres Walter K welcomed those attending the meeting; Board and audience introductions followed.

  • Robert McCarroll, speaking on behalf of a citizen’s committee called the Springfield Community Preservation Act Advocate, which is working to ensure the passage of November ballot question #5 which will authorize the City to adopt and participate in the Community Preservation Act.
  • The Community Preservation Act is a state-wide program, initiated 15 years ago. Joining the program requires that voters authorize its adoption. Half of all Massachusetts towns and cities have adopted the CPA, which includes 161 communities. Most of the towns that surround Springfield and towns up and down the Pioneer Valley are already participating.
  • The CPA puts a small surcharge (1.5%) on each property owner’s annual tax bill. The first $100,000 of a property tax assessment is exempted, and the tax is applied to the remainder of the assessment. An assessment of $134,000 would result in a CPA tax of $10, and a $250,000 assessment would be charged a tax of $44 per year.
  • The CPA tax revenue is put into a pot of money to be used in the City, and that pot is augmented by money that comes to each participating town from the State. The State CPA fund gets its money from municipal deed and filing fees that come in from every town and city in the state. It distributes this money annually back to all participating CPA communities. So for the past 15 years, Springfield deed and lien fees have been leaving the City but because Springfield does not participate in the CPA, none of that money comes back to Springfield.
  • If Springfield votes to adopt the CPA, it would result in an annual fund of approximately one million dollars, and it would receive an annual disbursement from the State which varies but can be in range of two to three hundred thousand dollars.
  • The local CPA funds can only be used for three specific uses: open and recreational space, such as improving playgrounds, building bike trails, acquiring space for community gardens; historical preservation projects which could include projects such as restoring a historic municipal building, or a Develop Springfield project such as restoring the Gunn building block, or to historic home preservation; and for certain types of housing projects like offering incentives for first time home buyers within certain income guidelines.
  • If passed on November 8, the CPA tax would begin to be levied in July 2017. The City Council will create an ordinance that controls the CPA process, and creates a Community Preservation Committee (CPC). The CPC must have a minimum of five members—one each from the Parks, Historical, and Conservation commissions, one from the Housing Department and one from Planning. The City Council has the option of creating four additional slots, and they get to determine who is represented by these four slots; and whether they will be appointed by the Mayor or by the City Council itself.
  • The CPC will accept and review proposals from the City, non-profits, and neighborhood groups, and select which projects they will recommend to the City Council for approval. The final determination will be made by the City Council as to which projects go forward.
  • State law requires that each year at least 10% of CPA funds be allocated to each of the three categories. The fund does not have to be spent all in one year, and could be saved and brought forward for a big, planned project.
  • Mr McCarroll requested an endorsement on behalf of the Springfield Community Preservation Act Advocate citizen’s committee from the Council. The Board will vote on this at the next monthly meeting.

  • Corinne Bongiovanni, requesting a recommendation from the Council in support of an abutter’s application. 
  • Ms Bongiovanni lives at 113 Harvard Street and has applied to purchase the vacant lot now owned by the City which is adjacent to her property and was formerly 107 Harvard Street (now Parcel 39 North Harvard). Ms Bongiovanni stated that she has been attending to the upkeep of the vacant lot since the demolition of the burned house that used to sit on the lot. She showed photos of the renovation of her home at 113 Harvard which she purchased in 2010, and a rendering of her proposal for the abutting lot, which includes a historically appropriate driveway, a carriage house, and landscaping elements.
  • Ms Bongiovanni also expressed her concern that Amber Gould at Housing who handles the abutter applications is leaving for a new job, and that she was told this may delay the City approval and the purchase of the lot. She asked if the Council could expedite any letter of recommendation, since she was anxious to be able to do the landscaping of the lot before winter set in, and she is not allowed to do any planting until the purchase is final.
  • Ms Bongiovanni reported that the City had sent letters to all the other abutters to the lot and was told that none had come forward. Pres Walter K also reported that the Council had sent notices to the abutters to inform them of Ms Bongiovanni’s application and request to the Council at the meeting. None came forward to offer any objections.
  • David G raised an objection in that he believes the abutter program is being misused, and vacant lots were only supposed to be sold as abutter lots if they were too small to rebuild a house on.
MOTION: (AJ moved) that the Council offer its recommendation of support for the abutter application which Ms Bongiovanni has made to the City; (ES seconded); (WK call for discussion); (WK called the question): Motion unanimous.
  • Pres Walter K instructed the admin staff to send out the letter of recommendation next day via email to the Department Head of Housing, Gerry McCafferty, to help in expediting the application.
  • SECRETARY’S REPORT: (Synthia Scott-Mitchell/absent; Damian Phillips, Asst Sec/Clerk, absent)

  • Pres Walter K submitted the minutes to the Board for review and approval:
  • Minutes of 8/09/16 Neighborhood Meeting
  • Minutes of 8/23/16 Executive Board Meeting
  • Minutes of 9/06/16 Special Meeting
  • MOTION: (LEC moved) to accept as presented; (ES seconded); (WK call for discussion); (WK called the question): Motion unanimous.
  • TREASURER’S REPORT: (Elizabeth Stevens)
  • Treas Elizabeth S distributed a financial report for July and August. The current bank balance is $3,044.79. She also submitted a projected budget for the current year for Board review, as requested at the August meeting.
  • Brief discussion of phone costs. If the Google Voice trial proves adequate, the Vonage cost can be eliminated.
  • Discussion of the projected budget. Previously the Council has put out two newsletters each year at a cost of approximately $1500 each. Projected budget will only allow for one newsletter. Block party cost last year was $1100. This year’s budget does not include any money for the block party. Treas Elizabeth S also included a summary of last year’s expenditures, so the Board could consider costs as it looked at fundraising this year.
  • Rep Lamont C committed the Pavillion [his family’s business] to providing the $1100 for the block party this year since the block party is an important community event that needs to continue.
  • Rep Lorenzo G asked when the last time the Council’s expenditures had been audited, and was told that a formal audit by an outside accounting firm had taken place in 2009; and that the books were internally audited in March of this year by Treas Elizabeth L and Asst Treas Tawreak E after the resignation of the previous treasurer.
  • Rep Lorenzo G brought forward a motion to have the books audited, offering several concerns about how Council finances appeared to be managed. Rep Art J recommended that the matter be referred to the Executive Board for discussion to determine if in fact there is a need for an audit, as he did not feel the Board as a whole had enough information available at this time to make such a determination. MOTION: (AJ moved) that the treasurer’s report be accepted as presented and discussed. (LEC seconded); (WK call for discussion); (WK called the question): Motion unanimous.
  • MOTION: (AJ moved) that the matter be referred to the Executive Board as described above, who would return to the body as a whole information such that the Board could make an informed decision on the matter of an audit; (ES seconded); (WK call for discussion); (WK called the question): Motion unanimous.
NEW BUSINESS—Open to the Floor
  • Call for new business—no one came forward.

  • Special Meeting on 1090 Worthington—Follow up
  • Pres Walter K summarized the Special Meeting on 1090 Worthington held for the neighborhood on September 6, which was attended by a representative sent by the Bridge Home, but not the principal operators. He reported attending the neighborhood “open house” held by Bridge Home operators Christopher White and William Cosgriff on September 8, and distributed a summary of the discussion that took place at the open house among those in attendance.
  • Chris White had asked to come and speak at tonight’s meeting, which Pres Kroll declined due to the fact that this meeting did not provide time to adequately address neighbor’s concerns. Mr White asked then for another special meeting if possible.
  • Neighborhood members and audience guests expressed various concerns about the Bridge Home situation, and other overall concerns and opinions about group homes in the neighborhood.
  • Lengthy discussion of the Dover amendment and its application. Rep Elizabeth S reporting there is a bill on the State Level being promoted by a Senator Moore to create a Dover Commission. It has yet to pass both houses, but he intends to take it up in January when the Legislature reconvenes to try and move it forward again. She recommended that we follow this situation, and lobby our own Senator and Representative to work on this.
  • Rep Ben S observed that there were two avenues to pursue relative to the Bridge Home situation. One was to stop it, and the other was to hold their feet to fire in terms of making sure they followed all that is required of them. General agreement that it is unlikely they can be stopped, but they could choose to back out if they come to realize that circumstances in the neighborhood are not optimal for the success of their program, and if other factors come into play, such as the expense of meeting code requirements.
  • Suggestions from neighborhood members included sending the minutes of the Special Meeting to Mr White and Dr Cosgriff to give them an opportunity to review the discussion that actually took place there. The question was also raised about their promise to deliver answers to the questions that their representative supposedly took down at the meeting, which they were supposed to do at the open house and did not. There was general agreement that they needed to be given a deadline to respond. The suggestion was also made to engage the City Council by sending them the minutes of the Special Meeting and beginning to lobby them to take on the Dover issue on behalf of constituents.
  • MOTION: (WK moved) that a copy of the Special Meeting minutes be sent to Mr White and Dr Cosgriff, requesting that all questions, including the ones taken down at the meeting by their representative, be answered in writing by this coming Friday [Sept 16]; and that the Board generate a letter to be sent to each City Councilor, along with a copy of the minutes of the Special Meeting, asking and directing them to work with the our Legislators, to address the need to reform the Dover amendment in that this is a city-wide problem and needs to be brought forward; (BS seconded) and offered a friendly amendment that the Dover amendment needed to be reformed with attention to the definition of educational use and with respect to the saturation of neighborhoods; (WK called for discussion]; (WK called the question); Motion unanimous.
  • Discussion about whether it was a reasonable idea to file a grievance with MASH (Massachusetts Assoc of Sober Houses) related to the Bridge Home’s false website presentation of a functioning program when it is in fact non-existent. Agreement that there was not enough information about the grievance process to pursue this.

  • Final Committee Chair assignments as listed on agenda were announced.
  • A written Public Safety report was distributed to those attending the meeting.
  • MOTION: (TE moved) that other committee reports and work be tabled until the next meeting; (ES seconded); (WK called for discussion]; (WK called the question); Motion unanimous.

  • Approval to Activate PayPal Account for Donations on the Website—set up already completed by Rep Bryan M.8:00 pm: Meeting adjourned.   
  • MOTION: (TE moved) that the account for donations be activated; (LEC seconded); (WK call for discussion); (WK called the question): Motion carried unanimously.
  • 8:00 pm: Meeting adjourned.  MOTION:   (TE moved) to adjourn; (LEC seconded); (WK called); Motion unanimous.Submitted for approval by Elizabeth Lederman, Administrative Staff, 10/11/16