Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Open Government To The Max?

Amherstma.gov  talks the talk

UPDATE:  Now I'm told the secret meeting will be held Monday at 11:00 a.m.

  I'm always a tad concerned when pubic officials hold a private meeting in a cozy office -- especially when it's the highest elected body in town government, the five-member Select Board. (For those of you outside quaint New England, they are the town's executive branch, aka Mayor if we were a city.)

Even more concerning when they are discussing land acquisition in northeast Amherst that could cost the taxpayers $6.5 million dollars, the most expensive land taking in town history.



To recap:  More than a majority of Amherst Town Meeting rejected the idea of taking by eminent domain (which requires a two-thirds super majority) 154 acres of woodland property in northeast Amherst as a means of stopping the student housing development known as "The Retreat."

A private developer, Landmark Properties, has offered a private landowner W.D. Cowls, Inc $6.5 million to purchase the property.  Since the property is currently in Ch61A conservation the town has a "right of first refusal" on the property, but only a yes-or-no option to match a legitimate offer. 

Town Counsel has twice rejected the Purchase & Sale agreement between the two private parties as not being "legitimate" because it offers the buyer too easy a way out somewhere down the road.  Attorneys for both private parties agreed the first offer was problematic but feel strongly the second one is "legitimate."

 Amherst Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe speaks to Town Meeting

Yes, Ms. O'Keeffe says she has tentatively scheduled a "public discussion" of the Right of First Refusal for July 29; but I wonder what happens in the first few minutes of Friday's meeting if the Town Attorney tells them -- aka breaking news -- that the Purchase & Sale agreement is indeed legitimate?

Because at that point there's no "bargaining strategy" to discuss. It's an all-or-nothing $6.5 million bid to which the town can either match or fold.

And the vast majority of taxpayers, unless they live in Cushman Village, would prefer the Select Board take a pass. But at the very least, EVERYBODY needs to see this play out in the clear, open, light of day.

Click headline below to enlarge/read or click here

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

What I take away from the email exchange, Larry, is what a pain in the ass you are. I know - music to your ears. But still - you are a royal PITA!

Paula Barrows said...

Larry, saying that only Cushman residents are the only folks that are concerned about the retreat is totally incorrect. People all over town and in neighboring towns are concerned. This situation concerns the entire town. Resources in town are used on the crazed student parties now. Imagine the further depletion of town resources should the retreat not be stopped.I was raised in Cushman in the same home that housed my great grandparents, my grandparents and finally my parents with my brother and myself. I realize that Cushman is an out of the part of town, but it should be noted that if it were in other small out of the way parts of town, ones opinion on the matter would be quite different.

Anonymous said...

I'm opposed to the Town's buying land. Period.

Tom McBride said...

That's VERY complicated, but thanks for what you're doing Larry.

Larry Kelley said...

It is kind of complicated.

But when things gets complicated in the public arena, I always try to think transparency first.

Our very own chimp cryptocracy said...
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Anonymous said...
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carl reiner said...
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Anonymous said...

If the majority of five selectmen decide to spend 6.5 million of the taxpayers money to buy the property, that is it? No Town Meeting vote?

Larry Kelley said...

Town Meeting would have to approve any spending.

Anonymous said...

Very similar situation in South Hadley where 2 of 3 Board of Health members have decided to block the expansion of the landfill. Mostly because of the complaints of neighbors that live close to the landfill. There is no proven public health issue so the Board of Health should have no authority. And if it went to Town Meeting, the landfill expansion would pass by a landslide. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.