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ESBC discusses permits, public outreach plans

by | Aug 31, 2023 | Education, Featured: Education

At Tuesday night’s Elementary School Building Committee meeting, members talked about permitting matters with the Zoning Board of Appeals and Conservation Commission as well as plans to start outreach about the proposed Elmwood School replacement.

The committee approved $2,500 for additional survey work on the site. The money will come from the approximately $20,000 left in uncommitted funds from the previously approved feasibility study account, according to Jeff D’Amico, Vertex’s project director.

He said both Vertex’s scientist and the Conservation Commission peer reviewer agreed on where wetlands boundaries begin and end but had a few additional points to confirm.

D’Amico also described the process with its submission to the Board of Appeals.

He noted the building project’s height exceeds the zoning regulations of 35 feet, but added that educational buildings are exempt from this limit through the Dover Amendment.

The ZBA must concur that the Dover Amendment would apply here. Before the Special Town Meeting, a hearing is expected on this issue.

ESBC chair Jon Graziano said Thursday that the same procedure was used with the Marathon School project because “schools often exceed this height restriction.”

Efforts shift to information sharing

Graziano noted during the meeting that it is time for the committee to shift its effort to sharing information about the project to as many groups in town as possible.

He said he would be meeting next week with a group of residents who offered help with public outreach. Graziano said the committee will need volunteers to cover tables at upcoming back-to-school nights, where the goal is to engage with people participating at those events.

He said the committee needs to put together informational materials to hand out to organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce with plans to have a presence at the Sustainability Fair/Forum in October as well as Family Day on Sept. 23.

Graziano said it is important to hold in-person conversations with residents in neighborhoods throughout Hopkinton, but he emphasized the board cannot spearhead these events. As an appointed board, the ESBC is allowed to provide information, but it will be up to volunteers to conduct more advocacy-type work.

“It’s been a crazy few weeks for this committee in terms of work that had to get done, and I think it’s going to be a crazy couple of months leading to Town Meeting,” Graziano said.

He added his appreciation for the committee members’ “time and commitment” throughout the process.

“I’m sure everyone feels as strongly as I do that because of the hours we put in and how strongly we feel about this solution, we want to make sure this thing gets over the line in November,” Graziano said.

Letter to be sent to Select Board

In other business, the committee agreed the town would benefit from exploring speed limit changes along the Hayden Rowe corridor near Marathon School and the proposed new school recommended in the traffic study. Graziano was advised to send a letter to the Select Board recommending it act on speed limit mitigations that can be done to regulate speed and increase safety.

“This will serve the town as a whole, not just the schools, and it is important for the Select Board to chime in and take care of it for us,” ESBC member Mike Shepard said.

Graziano noted the Select Board is the entity charged with acting on such measures.

D’Amico noted he was to submit the schematic design report to the Massachusetts School Building Authority on Thursday (Aug. 31), and it should take about three weeks to receive a reply with a status update and feedback.

D’Amico said the MSBA is dealing with seven projects at once, so the timing may not be exact. However, he advised the committee to plan a late-September meeting that may correspond with one of the back-to-school nights. Noting that Vertex would be handling “99 percent” of the MSBA’s possible issues, the meeting will be short and could be held before or after the event.

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