A quiet meeting of the Planning Board turned into a semi-heated debate over the potential for a Community Preservation Act in Rochester, with some Planning Board members speculating that the Conservation Committee had used town personnel and funds to mail flyers that they say are fully in support of the CPA.
“The Planning Board does not support this,” said Chairman Arnold Johnson, who argued against the CPA along with Ben Bailey and other members of the Board. The only member of the Planning Board present to support the Article, which will be voted on at Town Meeting later this month, was Susan Teal.
“In the towns where it’s been passed, it’s been considered a moderate success,” Teal said. “There are other examples where it’s worked, so I think we should give it a try.”
Bailey said that a flyer fully in support of the CPA had been created by the Conservation Committee, which Teal said was published with funds from the Buzzards Bay Coalition, had at least been reviewed by paid employees of town, as well has having been mailed on the town’s postage permit.
“It was reviewed by Town Counsel – that’s tax dollars,” he said. “That doesn’t sit well with me.”
Johnson said that though there’s noting wrong with a committee being in favor of an article, they’re not permitted to use town money to push for it.
“When we were pushing for [Rochester Memorial School], they had to fund [informational brochures, etc.] without having any of us [the Planning Board] on it,” said Johnson, who added that a separate group was formed for fundraising and promotion for that issue in particular.
Johnson and Bailey also said that the brochure, which was mailed to residents, was deceiving because it did not provide anything negative about CPAs.
“The brochure is misleading because it doesn’t provide all the info,” Johnson said.
“There were no cons,” Bailey agreed.
According to Teal, the added tax for residents with a vote in favor of the CPA would be about $54 dollars per year, and that money would go into a rolling fund, upward of 27 percent of which is matched by the state for preserving things like historical buildings and open space in town, as well as potentially providing funds for affordable housing and other projects.
In other news, the board discussed tree removal along Route 105, which is considered a Scenic Highway, which means the they must first approve any tree removal along the road.
“Some neighbors aren’t happy that a house is being put in there,” said Johnson, who said they must have a hearing, which will take place at the next meeting of the Planning Board, before any trees can be removed. “We’ll have a hearing to cover the basics for the town and the applicant.”
The Board also voted to continue the public hearing for Covanta Energy regarding the future construction of a CNG Fueling Station on Route 28, noting that the next meeting could eventually be the last in a series of public hearings, at which it’s likely they approve the final plans for the site.
“I didn’t see anything earth-shattering [in the latest plans],” Johnson said.
The next meeting of the Planning Board is scheduled for November 22.
By Nick Walecka