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Open Space Preservation Commission gives input on potential town building uses

by | Mar 17, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Permanent Building Committee chair Dan McIntyre appeared before the Open Space Preservation Commission on Thursday to gauge members’ opinions on the potential repurposing of three town-owned properties.

The three properties under consideration are Center School, Elmwood School and Town Hall. Center School is vacant, and the Elmwood School will be after a replacement school is constructed. Due to Hopkinton’s growing population, Town Hall’s services have outgrown the building’s capacity, according to some town officials.

Said McIntyre: “It just doesn’t function as a town hall anymore.”

The lack of parking there makes the site unattractive for development, he added.

“We’re kind of coming down to our last analyses of these properties,” McIntyre explained. “We didn’t want to make any decisions without getting as much input as we can.”

He is seeking feedback from various committees and boards about their space needs and interest in the buildings.

On March 11, the Permanent Building Committee reviewed two proposals for mixed-use development at the Center School. One emphasized apartments while the other presented age-restricted condominiums.

“I am extraordinarily pleased that another board came to Open Space and asked us what we thought,” said chair Ed Harrow.

Another option for Center School is to move Town Hall departments there, McIntyre explained. The Trails Committee has expressed interest in having a trail from there to the Town Common. Harrow said the OSPC would be interested in the open space behind the building as well.

A third option would be to move the Parks & Recreation Department, the Department of Youth & Family Services and possibly the Land Use Department to the Center School site, capitalizing on the gym there for youth programming.

The OSPC likely would find the third option attractive, McIntyre said, “because there are more opportunities for open space there.”

If Center School is sold, Elmwood School “would be the prime target for a new municipal center,” according to McIntyre. The 19-acre property could host all town departments. The integrated pre-kindergarten program also could be housed there to free up space at the Marathon School.

OSPC member Steve Levandosky said he was pleased to learn that the parcel behind the Center School building is intended to remain as open space.

Member Jane Moran expressed some interest in the splitting of Town Hall between two sites. She also said that it was important for the town “to hang on to its property.”

Stressed Moran: “You just don’t know where our town is going and what our needs are going to be in the future.”

Member Nancy Peters disagreed about splitting Town Hall functions between two sites. She said it would make it more difficult for residents to have their needs addressed effectively.

Site walk planned to evaluate potential open space donation

The commission voted 4-0 to participate in a site walk to evaluate a potential donation of open space at the Elmwood Farms III subdivision before deciding on whether or not to accept it.

Members noted that the site is wetlands and currently unbuildable. They raised concerns about accepting land that could be overcome by invasive species.

Harrow said he would request that Conservation Administrator Kim Ciaramicoli and wetlands consultant Joe Orzell also attend the site walk to offer their professional expertise.

Potential pollinator garden discussed for Emerald Drive open space donation

Harrow brought up the potential for a pollinator garden to be planted on the open space that will be donated to the OSPC as part of the Emerald Drive development. He hoped to gain advice on plantings from Weston Nurseries.

Emerald Drive, formerly known as Connelly Farms, is under construction. It is located on Hayden Rowe Street, just north of the intersection with College Street.

Developer Craig Nation said that he could discuss a landscaping plan at a future Planning Board meeting. It would not hold up his development plans. Harrow will keep the OSPC apprised of any feedback from Weston Nurseries.

Winter Street encroachment issue discussed

Harrow noted that there has been an ongoing encroachment issue at 61 Winter Street. The unnamed abutter accused of encroaching upon the land “does not like coming to meetings,” he said, and proposed an on-site meeting instead.

Harrow stressed that there have been several previous meetings on-site already to discuss the issue. He requested that Shannon Isaacs, the Land Use Department’s administrative assistant, draft a letter detailing the previous meetings and explaining that the problem persists.

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