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Select Board roundup: Center School, Upper Charles Trail updates presented

by | Jun 7, 2022 | Business, Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

The former Center School at 11 Ash Street currently sits vacant, but there are discussions taking place about the future of the property across from the Town Common.

On Tuesday night, Dan McIntyre, chair of the Permanent Building Committee, provided the Select Board with an update on the Center School reuse process.

McIntyre indicated the property covers about 12 acres and should allow the town to complete multiple objectives.

“It’s large enough to support the town needs as well as open up some of the property to private development,” he said. “This would have benefits both economically and socially. Economically it will help offset some of the cost of the town needs. It also will bring more life into the downtown area, more people, more pedestrian-friendly area that will support our downtown revitalization.”

The town asked developers for requests for information (RFIs) and received 17, with three submitting details about what they might do with the property, McIntyre shared.

McIntyre said the preference for the back part of the property is to construct multi-family homes, although that would require a change in zoning.

The front part of the property includes the former Center School building. The idea would be to retain the front portion of the school, constructed about 100 years ago, while the two back portions, added in the 1950s and 1980s, would be torn down.

Board Member Mary Jo LaFreniere said she would like to see senior housing as a part of the project, noting the importance of having the units be accessible.

Board Member Muriel Kramer requested public input before a more formal request for proposal (RFP) goes out to potential developers.

“I think that this is a sea change for what we might do with that property,” Kramer said. “It’s a substantial town asset and it’s dead-center in town. So I think that for me it’s going to be important to first get a rigorous input from the town to make sure that we’re aiming in the right direction.”

Kramer also expressed concern about potential spot zoning changes.

“I think that there’s a reason for the spot zoning to be a less amenable, because people don’t want things that are unexpected to drop in next to them, even if it has some financial benefit for the town,” she said.

Select Board Chair Amy Ritterbusch questioned whether the town would support 100 housing units, which she said some of the RFIs indicated could be part of the plan.

“I don’t think anybody wants to really overcrowd that area, because it’s a residential area,” McIntyre responded. “But we want to at least explore the opportunity there.”

Upper Charles Trail update offered

Jane Moran, chair of the Upper Charles Trail Committee, updated the Select Board on the group’s progress.

The committee has been tasked with presenting multiple options for Hopkinton’s section of the Upper Charles Trail, which is to connect to Milford and Ashland.

“As you can see, this process is long and arduous,” Moran said after a brief presentation. “However, we are confident that by continuing to strategize, gather public input and set reasonable goals, this trail will be built to the high expectations that our citizens have come to expect.”

Moran explained that there are 11 segments to the plan, and many of them still are being studied and considered.

Asked about the committee’s suggestion to run a segment down Hayden Rowe Street — which was the subject of substantial opposition from the public, primarily due to safety concerns — Moran said that piece “has been put on hold” due to questions about the locations of the town’s right of way on that street. She said until the committee receives survey details from the town about Hayden Rowe, which is likely to take at least a few months, it is focusing on a section from Hopkinton State Park to the future site of the International Marathon Museum off East Main Street.

“I’m happy to hear that the Hayden Rowe segment is on hold at least for the moment, because I really don’t feel like there’s public support for that option at this point,” Ritterbusch said. “I know you’re studying it more.”

The board thanked Moran for her work and for sticking with it despite taking some criticism.

“I know a lot of people have looked at it negatively, but I always looked at the various conversations that have been taking place as a positive, in that it helped our townsfolk become more aware of the project,” Moran said. “We couldn’t have bought this publicity. I for one have been very grateful for it, because this is how we make the best product happen possible.”

New deputy fire chief introduced

Gary Daugherty Jr. was introduced by Chief Bill Miller as the town’s new deputy fire chief.

Daugherty has been with the department since 2004, after serving more than five years in the U.S. Air Force. In 2011 he was promoted to lieutenant.

Daugherty noted the department has had a lot of turnover lately, with many young employees, and said one of the challenges is “hands-on experience.”

“I just look forward to leading these new kids and training them how I’ve grown up, and hopefully they come to love the community like I have over the past couple of years,” he said. “That’s what I’d like to instill.”

Daugherty follows in the footsteps of his father, Gary Daugherty Sr., who worked for the Hopkinton Fire Department, including as chief, from 1997-2009, before leaving to become chief in Framingham. …

Two other new employees were introduced. Robyn Goldberg is the new volunteer coordinator for the Senior Center, while Carmen Cifuentes was promoted from a per diem employee to a full-time dispatcher.

“Volunteers are the backbone for anything,” Goldberg said. “I know how important it is to have volunteers participating. I’m excited to be a small part of that.”

Pizza restaurant gets OK

The board approved a common victualer license and an entertainment license to Troy Sproul for Blue Square Pizza, a new restaurant at 30 Main Street that will offer pickup and counter service. The entertainment license is for a radio.

The restaurant is situated in the location previously inhabited by Royal Pizza, which closed earlier this year.

“We would like to welcome the applicant to the community,” Town Manager Norman Khumalo said. “We are always looking for opportunities to fill vacancies along Main Street. With much gratitude to the owner of the property, they were able to find a new business to occupy that space sooner rather than later.”

Deal with Baypath approved

The board approved a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with Baypath Humane Society and OK’d the town manager to sign the lease for 5 acres of land on town-owned property at 66 Fruit Street. Baypath, which currently has a small facility on Legacy Farms North Road near Cedar Street, will construct a new facility.

“Taking care of animals is really an essential part of being a person, being a human being,” LaFreniere said. “How we take care of our animals is as important as — well, not as our people, but it’s right up there. I think Hopkinton is blessed to have a facility like Baypath here.”

Misc.: Cultural District idea introduced

Members of the Hopkinton Cultural Council appeared to introduce its idea for creating a Cultural District in town. HCC Member Amy Groves indicated that the whole district has to be walkable and accessible, and she added that the hope is to have the district run from the forthcoming International Marathon Center to downtown and over to the Hopkinton Center for the Arts. HCC Member Ilana Casady noted that one advantage of having such a district is it could help the Cultural Council obtain more funding from the state. …

The board approved a parade permit application for the annual Wicked 5K Road Race to be held at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts on Oct. 30. The course follows Loop Road and uses the Center Trail and Center Trail extension. No road closures are requested. …

The board approved a request presented by treasurer/collector Christopher Heymanns for $5,297,501 in bond anticipation notes and $4,881,543 for long-term general obligation borrowing to fund previously approved projects. …

The board approved a license for the underground storage of 42,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline and 12,000 gallons of diesel fuel at the gas station that is being reconstructed at 92 West Main Street, owned by Global Montello Group Corp. …

Sue Pearson’s resignation as an associate member of the Council on Aging was accepted with appreciation for her service.

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