READING – After narrowly voting against the purchase of the five lots in Meadow Brook, the members of the municipal assembly said yes Thursday evening to the acquisition of a lot for $ 450,000.
The entire three-and-a-half-hour night was devoted to one article, leaving three more for Monday. The lengthy discussion included criticism of the cost, our environmental crisis, the need for parking, the endangered blue-spotted salamander, and for a moment, a motion to buy three lots.
There were friendly amendments, substitute amendments, and as the members turned into pretzels trying to figure it all out, more points of order than you could count in Zoom chat.
To understand the end, you have to understand where it started.
“Meadow Brook and Bancroft, with Bancroft the developer here, have entered into a purchase and sale contract to sell the five lots,” said municipal lawyer Ivria Fried. âThe city, under chapter 61B, section 9, has the option of putting itself in the buyer’s shoes and buying the five lots. The case law is clear that we cannot exercise on just one of these lots or on two of these lots, we must put ourselves in the buyer’s shoes and buy the five lots. Bancroft came to town and offered the town the option of purchasing Lot 5 only, for $ 450,000. Meadow Brook accepted this.
City officials debated the initial offer to buy the five lots for $ 2.25 million and with Bancroft’s late offer to sell a single lot, the debate intensified. Buy all five? Buy one? Don’t buy any? With the city’s decision-making deadline next Wednesday, the debate has finally reached Town Meeting.
Followers of Town Meeting might wonder how Article 9, the last article of the Town’s mandate, got past Articles 6, 7 and 8. This is because Town Meeting member Angela Binda proposed to take item 9 first, citing the time constraints of Wednesday’s deadline. . By a vote of 91-74, item 9 was moved up the ladder until Thursday night.
The debate began with a presentation by the President of the Conservation Commission, Annika Scanlon, who spoke in favor of the purchase of the five lots, citing the spring pools, the wetlands and the habitat of the species in disappearing from the area, as well as the need for additional parking.
âIt’s rare that we can buy back land and keep it under protection,â Scanlon said.
She added that the Conservation Commission voted 5-0 in favor of buying all five lots, and if that failed, 5-0 in favor of buying one lot. The municipal forestry committee did the same.
But the finance committee went in a different direction, voting 7-1 against buying all five lots at its Wednesday meeting.
âIt’s a lot of money for little land,â said Marianne Downing, member of the Finance Committee. “I can’t stand this.”
Others have accepted.
âFriends, this is not conservation. It’s about buying land and finding out later, âsaid Alicia Williams. “This is not fiscally responsible and it is not the job of Town Meeting.”
âWe’re not buying land saying we’ll figure out what to do with it later,â said Michael Giacalone. âIf you’re going to spend $ 2.25 million on land, you need to know what it’s worth. It’s way too much money for me.
But more people came out in favor of the purchase than they opposed.
âWe are living in an environmental crisis that is getting worse by the minute,â said Theresa Wiggins. âThe idea that we would let this go troubles me. “
âThis is a unique opportunity to expand the city’s forest every 100 years,â said Select Board Chair Karen Herrick. “
With 31 people waiting to speak, John Arena launched the second curve ball of the evening, proposing a substitution motion to simply buy lot 5, the lot closest to the entrance to the composting center and the one proposed by the promoter. Suddenly, as moderator Alan Foulds said, âthe game has changedâ.
This meant that members seeking to debate the purchase of the five lots were limited to debating the purchase of one. It also meant an explanation from Foulds who confused many despite his best efforts. Foulds said if Arena’s motion fails, members could once again discuss purchasing all five lots. And if that failed, members might revisit the purchase of bundle 5. If that sounds confusing, you have
But Arena’s motion lost, 106-64, meaning it was back to the original motion to buy all five lots. And the comments, mostly in support, have continued to flow.
âThis is where we decompress. This is where we flocked during the pandemic, âsaid Helena Johnson. âIt’s beautiful every season, especially now. I am strongly for the city to buy this beautiful land.
Guy Manganiello, developer of Bancroft and member of Speaker 2, proposed to end the debate but did not get enough votes and the debate continued.
During the discussion, Finance Committee Chairman Ed Ross made a friendly amendment to explain how the city would pay for the five lots. He said FinCom had offered debt of $ 1.5 million with $ 757,000 in free cash. Municipal assembly approved, 133-33.
The discussion continued.
âIt’s a question for us, what do we value as a city,â said Dave Talbot in support of the purchase. “Let’s keep this for our children and grandchildren, for all the environmental and conservation purposes that have been articulated, including maintaining this stretch of road with that lovely country lane feel.”
While most agreed with Talbot, it was not enough. With 102 yes votes, 68 no and 2 abstentions, the article lacked 13 votes, the 2/3 necessary. It also meant that the option to buy only Lot 5 was back on the table.
This time, Chairman Ed Ross said, the finance committee voted 8-0 in favor of purchasing a lot for $ 450,000, all from available cash.
The third curve of the evening came from Town Reunion member Ian Brown. The representative of CitÃ© 8 proposed the purchase of three lots.
âI think one lot is insufficient for parking,â said Brown, reacting to the plan to turn Lot 5 into a parking area.
But the cost of three lots was unclear, and Fried reminded members that Bancroft has no obligation to sell three lots. Town Meeting could do whatever he wanted, but legally it was all five or one. This became clear when Manganiello spoke again.
“On behalf of Bancroft Estates, we will not enter into any negotiations beyond the single lot with the city.”
Shortly after, Brown withdrew his motion.
With the only lot in play, it was time to vote and the motion to buy lot 5 was carried, 121-40. At 10:52 p.m., members of the municipal assembly called him one night.
It’s back to work Monday with the water tower discussion, the biggest of the three remaining articles.