Stoneham’s next Town Meeting will be held on Monday, October 27th, 2014. And, like just about every Town Meeting, there are warrant articles that community members are divided on. There is one in particular that many have recently become, well, let’s say “very passionate” about: Warrant Article #10
While I’m all for people taking strong stances on issues, I have a real problem when people’s “passionate behavior” includes spreading false information. And this past Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting was stunning to watch because it most certainly fueled the spreading of misinformation by way of fear mongering. Of course, the next day all I heard was, “eminent domain!!” “stealing from local businesses!” “what about our children!” “Stoneham’s youth programs are being compromised!!” “Our children are being sold out for money!”
Whenever I hear people get worked up about an issue, the first thing I do is research and ask questions. And when I ask questions, I ask for the answers to be clear, concise and in direct response to the concerns/ accusations. For that, I went right to Anthony Wilson, Chair of Stoneham’s Bikeway/Greenway Committee:
“So we’re selling out our children??” – We are selling our children out if we don’t vote “yes”!!! What about the seniors? Are we depriving our children of improved street crossings at Pleasant street? Are we depriving our children of 7 miles of greenway? Are we depriving our children of safe access to the Central School? It is all perspective.
Many more children will benefit from this project. More importantly, the trail will not stop any play on the field at Rec Park. We are happy to work with the teams to make this work and thought we were set. We met on site FOUR times, including with the project engineers. The sports teams have not come to a single meeting and did not even let me know there was still an issue until I asked Monday night.
I am pursuing several options to further reduce the scale of the trail in that section, but what I am hearing is that they will not even talk. This is an opportunity for 22,000 residents, not just our sports teams. Also, I agree the teams have committed huge amount of time and resource on that park. So have your tax dollars. This is not about one group, but our whole town.
Just to be clear, there are NO permanent easements on private land. “Eminent domain” is a scare factor. We are talking NO private land in the current plan. As for the construction easements, they happen with every project. We needed them to build the school. We need them to put in a sidewalk. For this project, an independent assessor will determine the value of the land and the properties will be compensated. The project is not allowed to block access to businesses. It is written into the construction contract. Most of the easements are small areas that allow contractors to grade or put in the power for the lights.
Ah- “eminent domain.” This seems to be the little term that was used and twisted to get community members worked up. Here’s what Anthony stated when asked about the term in the context of Warrant Article 10:
MassDOT provided the wording and requires it in the review. It does not say that we will use eminent domain, but authorizes the BOS to use it if negotiations fail. Just like if we were doing work on Rt 28 or any other public project. I am unclear what would happen if we removed it in town meeting.
Please remember that these are construction easements. Landscaping or running a power line for the new lights (safety!) require access to private property. We are addressing any material issues around this. We will not block businesses. I think we even removed the one location where a parking space was taken by a construction easement. This is primarily existing green area that will be used for access or grading and expect them to be no issue.
So the bottom line? No one’s taking or stealing anything from anyone, and the Bikeway Greenway Committee did everything by the book- and beyond. “YES” on 10.