Fraine, Kupfer Update Business Community on Town Projects
Apr 28, 2016 10:11AM ● Published by Pamela Johnson
Town Planner Jim Kupfer, BBA President John Orthman & Town Administrator Denis Fraine at the BBA meeting
Two of the Bellingham Business Association’s dinner meetings each year are dedicated to keeping members apprised of town and state activities involving the business community. April’s meeting featured Town Administrator Denis Fraine and new Town Planner Jim Kupfer (featured in the Bulletin’s January Municipal Spotlight).
After dinner at New England Country Club’s Egan’s Pub, Fraine took the floor first and efficiently and knowledgeably ran through an update of what has been happening since he last spoke to the group.
Future of Macy School DecidedHe began with Macy School, which was closed last year. As building surplus, the property was conveyed to the Board of Selectmen, who held meetings with the residents of the neighborhood to get their input regarding the future of the building. The majority of local residents did not want the traffic that would be generated by businesses, but were concerned about vandalism if the property remained empty, so it was decided that the best course of action would be to demolish it. At Special Town Meeting in October, $700,000 was approved for that purpose.
“We had some engineers review the site to recommend what type of development would work best in that [neighborhood] setting; and, of the options presented, a decision was made to preserve the ball park and playground and divide the rest into lots for 12 single-family, 40(b) affordable houses,” Fraine explained.
Sewerage Problems Brew in WethersfieldHe also discussed the sewerage problems in the Wethersfield housing development in the north end of town. (As background, he indicated that residents had voted against a proposed town-wide sewerage project in 2000.) Fraine said that each Wethersfield resident who chose to connect would be assessed about a $12,000 betterment fee; the balance of the project cost would be paid by all town residents, if it were to be approved by a majority of voters at a future Town Meeting. When questioned where the waste from Wethersfield would go, Fraine indicated that this sewage, along with that from the neighborhood behind the bus barn known as “the acres” would go to the Charles River Pollution Control District in Medway.
Water Project CompletedFraine noted that the $15 million water system project comprising two new water-treatment plants had been completed. The new police station was also finished and an open house was held so that residents could tour the facility. (Future open houses are being planned and will be announced in the Bulletin.)
RFP for Solar Project at Former Landfill AnnouncedAccording to Fraine, the RFP for a solar project on top of the former landfill on South Maple Street has been announced. Because of the capped landfill located there, the property is virtually unusable for most development. This plan will make use of the site and will, as an added benefit, generate approximately $250,000 annually for the town.
Poor Road Conditions DiscussedFraine once again touched upon the “sore spot” topic of the abhorrent condition of the roads in Bellingham, indicating that the town spends $1-$2 million annually on road improvements. He said that there is a design project underway for Maple Street that will lower the water table and improve drainage to make the road less susceptible to the destructive freeze-thaw cycle that wreaks havoc on that road and many other roads in New England.
Kupfer Discusses DevelopmentThe Request for Proposals (RFP) for the state project to redesign route 495’s exit 18, according to Fraine, will not be issued until 2018. He envisions the reworked area as resembling what was done with Route 140 in Franklin, with the overpass, etc. He also emphasized that the exit project and the other “sore spot,” the Shoppes at Bellingham, are in no way connected.
At this point, he introduced Jim Kupfer, who talked about the newly created position he now fills. “The Town Planner/Zoning Compliance Officer position allows me to work hand-in-hand with [concerned parties such as] residents, real estate agents, the Planning Board and the Zoning Board to first discuss ‘best use of site’ rather than site development first, then the resulting compliance issues,” he said. He also noted that prior to the creation of his position, there was essentially no one to enforce compliance with planning/zoning board directives.
Kupfer emphasized that the main goal is controlled growth so that route 495 does not become like route 128—and then went on to discuss a proposal for 100 homes by Fafard Development near its existing development (off of South Main and Center streets), additional townhouses off of Bellwood Circle, and Phase II of the over-55 Hartford Village community.
He also said that EMC is developing a large-scale solar project in Bellingham; however, the only entrance to the solar field will be in Milford, so it will have zero impact on traffic in Bellingham. Apparently, there are other solar companies interested in Bellingham as well, according to Kupfer.
Q & AOnce he was done speaking, both men invited questions from the audience.
“At a Town Meeting several years ago, Maple Street was designated as a ‘scenic drive,’ ” said Pam Johnson, Bulletin Publisher and author of this article. “Anyone who drives on Maple Street now can see that it is about as far from a scenic drive as you can get. What happened?” Kupfer explained that the designation has no teeth for restricting development; owners have the right to develop their property according to town bylaws. “But it does give us some control over how that property looks for so many feet back from the roadway,” he noted. He cited Victory Packaging as an example, saying that, as part of the approval process, they had to agree to replace all trees removed when building the facility.
When asked about the appearance of the property with all of the piles of mulch, Kupfer indicated that he has been working with the owner of the property, which spans both sides of Maple Street, to make it look more attractive from the street and to resolve some safety issues.
In response to another of Johnson’s questions, Kupfer stated unequivocally that no gas fracking will actually be done in Bellingham, that the project calls for pipelines through the north end of town and affects only “two small parcels of land,” noting that the few abutting homeowners have been notified of the proposal.
While this information was meant to be reassuring, if you do even a bit of research on fracked-gas pipelines, it is very far from reassuring. (See Lynn Ulsh’s article on this project on page 2. You can also learn some very interesting facts about Spectra Energy, the company proposing the pipeline, at https://stopspectra.org/ and check out http://www.momscleanairforce.org/pipelines-methane-leaks/ which talks about the nearby organization Burrillville (RI) Against Spectra Expansion (BASE). And lastly, for more information on drilling & fracking, check out the documentary showing on cable now called Dear President Obama, featuring Mark Ruffalo, and see that they managed to get the state of New York to ban fracking altogether.)
Fraine also said that the town is working to get a much-needed traffic light at the Lake & Pulaski intersection.
State of the State Slated for MayAt the BBA’s May meeting, the focus will be at the state level with Rep. Kevin Kuros and Sen. Ryan Fattman or their designated representatives; speakers were unconfirmed at Bulletin deadline. It will take place at Coachmen’s Lodge on May 11. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
May is also BBA Membership Drive MonthThe BBA is now conducting its annual membership drive. The only requirement for membership is that either the business is located in Bellingham or the owner lives here in town. Become a member and stay abreast of business developments in the community, network with other local business owners, and participate in giving future business leaders their start via the two annual $1500 scholarships the organization awards. Active members are also listed in the organization’s online membership directory. To attend an upcoming dinner meeting, contact Secretary/Treasurer Sue Grady at email@example.com. For more information about the BBA, visit www.BellinghamBusinessAssociation.org.
BBA IS Seeking Unsung Hero Nominations!Do you know someone who is always doing good deeds with no expectation of reward? The BBA is seeking nominations for its “Unsung Hero” award. If you know of someone in the community who frequently does unsolicited acts of kindness and charity without seeking recognition, and you would like to nominate that person for the award, visit www.BellinghamBusinessAssociation.org/Contact/Forms and download the Unsung Hero nomination form.
The Unsung Hero will be honored, along with the two BBA 2016 scholarship recipients, at the organization’s June dinner meeting.