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.
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