Eversource hearing. The council conducted a public hearing on a request by Eversource to install a large transformer on the Town Common. There was considerable opposition to the size and placement of the transformer. Discussion was continued to the September 9 council meeting after the Design Review Board and the Historical Commission can weigh in.
Hickory Ridge Golf Course Purchase. Asst Town Manager David Ziomek gave details of a proposed purchase by the town of the 149-acre Hickory Ridge Golf Course to use the land for open space for the town. It includes 1 mile of frontage on the meandering Fort River, paths that the golfers currently use to walk the course, and proposed development of conservation trails. They pointed out that the land is within walking distance of many of the large apartment complexes in South Amherst that currently have little access to open space. The seller will continue to operate a proposed solar farm on 26 acres with a 20-year lease from the town. The appraised value is $910K, and selling price is $540K. The town has Community Preservation funds and proceeds of prior real estate sales available to go toward the purchase. The Council could also consider the sale of the clubhouse on the property. The Council will vote when the appropriation of the remaining $306K, easements, and coordination with state solar programs are ready.
Real Estate Assessments. Provisions were made for retired Town Assessor David Burgess to conduct the 2019 Assessment of Real Estate (and OCA will take up the recruitment of his successor).
Working groups or taskforces v. ad hoc committees. The council discussed, at length, the possible formation of working groups, citizen and council task forces to study one issue or accomplish one limited goal. The Council had received an opinion from the town attorney that according to the charter, working groups are not permissible and that the committee appointments could not be made by committee chairs, but only by the Council President. President Griesmer broke the deadlock by appointing the first such requested working group as an adhoc committee—for the Percent for Art Bylaw—to be composed of 3 members of the CRC committee and 2 active members of the Arts Commission. Vote passed 9-4 (Brewer, Hanneke, Ross, and Swartz voting no).
John Hornik, chair of the Affordable Housing Trust, pointed out that the town does not have an official affordable housing policy, so he proposed one. It was referred to the Community Resources Committee and the Finance Committee. •
The council received the report of the Town Manager and approved new appointments to the Design Review Board and Board of Assessors.
The Council adopted the (positive) Town Manager Composite Evaluation memo without discussion. Vote was 11 yes, 1 abstain (D. Dumont), 1 absent.
Town Manager’s report: Community Participation Officers are currently very active with activity around opening of schools, elementary through colleges. Rank choice voting committee met with attorney around the state laws regulating what we may do. Groff Park project did not make it in time for this summer, but anticipate debut of new design and equipment in the spring.
Council Members’ comments: a suggestion to consider pursuing the Crocker Farm School Study in advance of the plans for the new school.
Meeting recessed to an executive session at 11 pm and the public was invited to leave.