Updates for the start of the Holiday Season
By Gregory T. Federspiel
A Happy Thanksgiving to all! While this holiday season is muted by the on-going demands imposed by the pandemic, I hope that you find creative ways to celebrate family and the things that bring you joy. We live in a beautiful part of the world and, even if we must celebrate without extended family and friends, we can be grateful for what we have.
The “Home for the Holidays” theme is especially suited for the next month. The Selectmen, using donated funds, have teamed up with Erika Brown at The Cricket and local merchants to promote holiday shopping right here in Manchester. This coming Saturday is Shop Local Day. Weekly shopping spree give-a-ways are happening over the next several weeks, and the Town is supporting local merchants in their use of the new Bridge Cape Ann Facebook page. Holiday displays are going up, including a new light display at Town Hall coupled with nightly music from the First Parish Church bell tower. The annual Cape Ann Chamber sponsored Holiday Stoll will take place over three days this year, December 4, 5, & 6.
How we choose to spend our consumer dollars can make a difference. Please support our local merchants this holiday season.
December also will see the continuation of the discussion of the 40B project proposed for Shingle Hill. The Selectmen will host a listening session on Thursday, December 3 starting at 6:30PM. The Zoom link can be found on the Town’s meeting calendar on our website. This session will be devoted to listening to resident’s concerns and hopes for the project as well as answering questions that the public may have. Two weeks later, on December 17th, the 5th public workshop on the project will be held where the Selectmen hope to hear some preliminary analysis from town hired consultants regarding project impacts and suggested mitigation measures.
To date the Selectmen have started to develop a list of mitigating measures they may want to see if they were to allow the project to advance as a Local Initiative Project (LIP or “friendly 40B.) These measures can be broken out into four categories: environmental; fiscal; traffic and miscellaneous. Environmental concerns include ensuring no net gain in stormwater or nutrient runoff from the site, permanently conserving the remaining 18 acres of the parcel, using non-toxic blasting chemicals, incorporating high energy efficiency standards, and utilizing native plants in an organic landscaping plan.
Fiscal concerns center around reducing the overall size of the project, having the developer pay for utility and sidewalk extensions to the project site as well as other improvements our consultants might identify. Also, under discussions are possible contributions to various capital needs in town.
Traffic concerns might be addressed in part by operating a new shuttle van service between the train station and the development and other areas of town. Impacts to additional intersections will be studied to see if improvements are needed. And the need for improvements paid by the developer might be left open until we see the actual impacts once the project is occupied.
Other issues include the design of the project (a less industrial look) and a local preference to fill the Affordable Units.
Whether an agreement with the developer is prudent remains to be determined. If an agreement can be reached that mitigates the potential negative impacts of the project it might produce a better outcome then if the developer ultimately seeks approval under appeal to the state. However, the project might simply be too ill-suited for town. Alternative projects that get the town to the 10% threshold will be needed if this is the case.
December is also when the Preliminary FY22 budget will be presented. At a joint meeting of the Selectmen and the Finance Committee on December 7th an initial FY22 budget will be presented setting the stage for careful review and debate during January and February.
As always, a lot is happening. But be sure to take time to enjoy the holidays.