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Worthless Land? Not! Join us on March 24!

I have many questions about the Brightview project. As I understand it, an idea for a 90-unit assisted living facility on private land has been transformed into a proposal for a 140-unit assisted/independent living facility. To move from the original to the current proposal, town officials issued a request for proposals (RFP) to use town-owned land behind the Wakefield Cooperative Bank for construction of a parking garage.

Brightview responded to the RFP, and, subsequently, the town and Brightview (or The Shelter Group) negotiated a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement, which has yet to be viewed by the public. Before voting on April 1st on whether to “convey” our land to Brightview, I would like to see this PPP, and I’m sure many others in town would too.

Town officials claim that all the information we need to make an informed decision was on a Power-point presentation shown at the February 6th Special Town Meeting. However, the presentation only addressed the garage and gave hardly any information at all about the large assisted/independent living facility. Despite questions about the facility, the moderator of the town meeting repeatedly asked that questions be confined to the garage. I would have liked to have heard about the entire package, as well as the alternative smaller facility on private land.

At the Town Meeting, it seemed to me that Mr. Falvey and other town officials made conflicting statements.  I heard several say that the town-owned land is worthless and land-locked, and then I heard Mr. Falvey say that the town land was “super valuable” when combined with the surrounding lots of land. After the Town Meeting, I learned that the land is assessed at $432,000, so how is it worthless?  Also the land is not “land-locked.” The deed for the land included a strip that extends to Main Street. If this land will be “super valuable” when developed with a parking garage and several levels of housing units, why are we not getting a good price for this land?  Why will we be paying them to use whatever parking is left over? 

We were told by the Town officials that they want to “convey” the town-owned land to Brightview.  They used the word “convey” because the town cannot legally give away public land. So what will be the sale price? Probably about $1. So for no price at all (merely a legal gimmick), we would give a billion-dollar corporation land to build themselves a “super valuable” facility, and then pay $105,000 per year (basically rent) for 20 years to use a portion of their garage. Not only that, we would pay to maintain and police their garage for perpetuity.  This sounds like a terrible deal to me!  I also think it will have a terrible effect on our square and its unrushed, historical feel. To me, a much better deal is to let Brightview develop on private land, and we can improve the open, safe lot we already have.  There are many more public parking spots within a few blocks of downtown (about 1300!).  Better parking enforcement will free up many of these spots.

You have another opportunity to review this proposal at 7PM on March 24, when the Town will deliver a presentation about it to the public at the Whs (TSB) Theater  at Wakefield High School.   In addition, the entire video of the February 6 Town Selectmen’s meeting is now up on You Tube for viewing if you have the time to view it for background. 

You decide for yourselves whether giving away public land for the promise of a handful of parking spaces and the reality of a large housing complex is worth destroying the unrushed, historic character of the north end of our downtown.  I have decided to vote NO on April 1st.

Sincerely, Susan Randolph-Frey

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Bronwyn Della-Volpe March 11, 2014 at 03:47 PM
This is a great letter which broaches a lot of the questions about this project. It is simply not a good deal for our town. There's just too much giving and not enough in return. The garage would not be some magical thing that would transform our town and prevent businesses from closing. A more attractive town, enforced existing parking regulations and limits, better, more consistent signage and a pulled together downtown will do more to rejuvenate our downtown. Oh, that and a better economy.
Janice Warchol Glynn March 12, 2014 at 04:33 PM
I fail to see how an assisted living facility will hurt our downtown. I am in the health care field and have worked in ALFs for many years. I think that as people age they want to stay in the town where they have lived and raised families. They have family, friends, churches and supports to assist them. It is a comfort to be around people and things that you know and love. Without an assisted living facility here in Wakefield our elders are forced to move to another town when they can no longer stay at home. In my years of working in these buildings I have found them to be well designed, pretty buildings with beautiful grounds that are well cared for. With this kind of building close to town it also allows the residents an opportunity to visit the downtown area. I fail to see how this can harm our town. I will also be very happy to see a parking garage. The current parking lot is not beautiful to look at. More parking will only help to bring business to our town. There certainly have been more than one occasion where I have taken my business elsewhere simply because I could not find a convenient place to park. It has been nice to see the growth of the downtown with new restaurants going in and I think that people will choose to frequent these places if the parking is readily available. I plan to vote YES.
Joseph Tringale March 15, 2014 at 04:34 PM
If you look at the actual property lines we do not, in fact, own the strip that opens onto Main Street. The Savings Bank owns that property and the town of Wakefield has an easement agreement with the bank for general use. Also, not allowing us to gain a FREE garage is essentially telling each and every shopkeeper, hairdresser, and restauranteur on Main Street that you do not care about their businesses and wish to see downtown Wakefield lose even more businesses. I hope you understand that you would be responsible for accelerating the decline of downtown. As a lifelong resident of Wakefield and hopefully, a future Wakefield homeowner, I want to see Wakefield thrive. Clearly you do not.
Jessica Belyea March 28, 2014 at 02:36 PM
How, being a current Wakefiled homeowner - would I be allowing Wakefield to "Thrive" as Joseph puts it by voting Yes? I would be taking money away from our town by giving them $400,00 land for free! That money could go to other area's in our town government that needs it - SCHOOLS/ROADS/SNOW REMOVAL. Also, a garage downtown will completely change the atmosphere of the downtown area. I moved to Wakefield to enjoy the small town feel - a garage is not small town feel. VOTING NO AND PROUD OF IT.

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