City Council liveblog: 6/15/10

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Agenda. Cover it Live. Party time.

7:06: Lukes assumes the chair for the beginning of the meeting. We’re going to see the end (hopefully) of the ACLU motions for public forums before council meetings, but we’re starting with some economic development talk.

7:08: M.O’Brien says that the City Square II team “is doing final assessments” for demolishing/developing the buildings. M.O’Brien gives a rough estimate that demolition will happen at the end of this summer–by fall we’ll see significant progress.

7:12: Clancy notes that the visitor’s center hasn’t been demolished. Tim McGourthy says F&D (the demo firm) has done all the asbeostos testing. The city has compensated them extra for this–he calls it a “contract change.” He says another month until it gets demo-ed. Clancy wants a report on potential use of the MassDOT (MassHighway) owned property. He also talks about the Worcester Academy purchase of the building near St. Vincents. He wants details on the building’s lease with the state and when Worcester Academy will buy the rest of the property, and how Liberty Property and Worcester Academy will clean up their respective parts of the area.

7:16: Petty jokes that M.O’Brien lined up a nice econ. dev. report because his evaluation is next week. He offers a lot of praise, saying he’s not sure how he’s going to top it next year. He wants to know about putting wireless throughout the city and what/how Worcester works with the Chamber of Commerce to promote businesses coming here.

7:20: J.O’Brien just got here from University Park Campus School’s graduation. M.O’Brien says MCPHS is expecting the new Crowne Plaza investment to be ready “shortly.” He says the 1,000 student project is more of a 3 to 5 year estimate. He also says MCPHS is working with more realtors downtown to acquire more residential properties.

7:21: Toomey says all the econ. dev. work has been “fabulous” and she appreciates all the ground work done to make all these projects happen. She says a constituent called her about shoddy blacktop construction around the DCU Center. She wants to know if it’s just a temporary fix because of construction. M.O’Brien says that’s the case–it’s temporary paving. She also wants to celebrate smaller developers who are working to improve properties. She also wants to know more about marketing Worcester.

7:26: M.O’Brien says “we’re evaluating opportunities now” for more things happening downtown. Toomey says we have momentum now with all that’s happening, and she doesn’t want to miss opportunities.

7:29: Germain wants to know if losing the Crowne Plaza impacts future conventions here like NCAA hockey and bball tournaments. M.O’Brien says the Crowne was operating around 40% occupancy at the time of close, and that when trying to book major events Worcester was looking for hotels regionally. He says there could be some impacts, but they can be fixed. Germain wants to know if events like the NCAA have a minimum requirement of full-service hotels in order for cities to bid on hosting those events. M.O’Brien says he’ll look into it.

7:31: Haller brings up Wyman-Gordon’s building. She says their inactivity to market it is “disappointing, disappointing, disappointing” and we’ll be hearing more about it. She also wants an update on Pharmasphere and Clark’s athletic field planned for the Boys and Girl’s Club.

7:33: Here’s the reconsideration on last week’s vote that Smith missed: “that the primary petitioner for any item before the city council be allowed to speak on his or her petition the day it appears on the agenda.” J.O’Brien says it’s still not clear on the procedure here, even after consulting the clerk, solicitor and past mayors. J.O’Brien invokes rule 41–he interprets it to say any member present in the chamber can vote if something comes up for reconsideration, no matter where they were when the initial vote takes place. Here’s the vote to reconsider. 8 votes are needed:

Clancy-Y, Eddy-Y, Germain-Y, Haller-Y, Lukes-Y, Palmieri-Y, Petty-Y, Rushton-N, Smith-Y, Toomey-Y, O’Brien-N.

Eddy wants this recommitted to subcommittee to iron out the details that made this such a divisive vote last week so it can pass closer to unanimously later on.

7:38: J.O’Brien takes the floor. “The intention of Mr. Madnick and others was a good one.” He says we face a challenge–it’s clear no one participates in government because almost no one is in the audience–“that should be disturbing to us.” He wants to have a thoughtful process that will ask people in the community how to do this better. He says that if this goes back to committee then looking to the community for more guidance on this should happen before a new proposal comes back to council.

7:41: Petty agrees with J.O’Brien. He says he’s willing to change his position if a compromise can be reached.

7:41: Toomey says she voted for this because “it is our duty to listen to the public.”

7:43: It gets sent back to the Rules and Leg. Affairs subcommittee. The sister petition, 12a, “request City Council adopt a “public access” open forum, which would take place in the first 30 minutes of any council meeting and allow anyone to speak on any item of business on the agenda, regardless of its position on the agenda.” The council votes to reconsider (8 are needed):

Clancy N, Eddy N, Germain Y, Haller N, Lukes Y, Palmieri N, Petty N, Rushton Y, Smith Y, Toomey Y, O’Brien Y. With only six Yays, the motion to reconsider doesn’t happen. No public forum.

7:50: Petty talks about luring Lake Aerospace, Inc. to Worcester (out in the Airport Industrial Complex). A member of the city manager’s team says the goal is to have this deal sealed by late August.

This is a Lake Amphibian, made by Lake Aerospace. People want one, apparently.

7:55: There’s some concern about vetting Lake Aerospace properly and seeing if there’s demand for what they make. A member of the city administration says there’s letters to buy plane/boat/cars from other countries, militaries and police forces but they couldn’t be included in their report to the councilors. Rushton says we have time to look at this project because they learned lessons from City Square not to just jump into a project without vetting that it has proper backing/lending behind it.

8:01: The city’s Cable Services division received a “‘Communicator Award’ from the International Academy for Visual Arts for the ‘Water Recreation in Worcester’ Video Presentation.”

8:03: The council take the property at 72 Grove Street “for the Purposes of Creating Faraday Street Extension in Gateway Park.”–More specifically, to help out the hotel that’s there, according to Palmieri.

8:06: Lukes wants to know about trees–some that were planted have died, or some were removed after being planted. She doesn’t say where. She also says in the report it says some trees were purposely damaged. She wants more details. Moylan says the policy DPW is following in reforesting ALB areas is that there’s going to be diversification in their plantings and on certain intervals/spacings. He says the vast majority of people are happy to see them plant on the city’s right of way, not private property. But he says there have been isolated incidents of people objecting to the city planting on city property. He says sometimes their motivation is as simple as not wanting to rake leaves in the fall. He says that sometimes trees planted in front of objectors houses have ended up destroyed/damaged.

8:12: Lukes wants to know if there’s any uniformity to the trees that have died. Moylan says Worcester is below the typical tree mortality rate. He says to have only 15 trees die among the 900+ that have been planted shows “we’re doing very well.” Lukes says she’s disappointed that there’s stress between citizens and public works crews.

8:14: Smith thanks the admin for their work planting trees. He says the initial projection was only to plant 700-some. He asks what happens if a tree that’s planted lifts up sidewalks through root rising, who pays? Moylan says they’re selecting trees that won’t damage sidewalks and driveways like the Norway Maples did years ago. When tree roots “seek out” broken sewer connections, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to pay for fixing it.

8:18: Toomey says “every effort is being made to work with the community. I don’t know how you can do more.”

8:22: Clancy wants a report on the tree trunk and tree removal request backlog, and the cost of it. He says it might be time to look at an influx of money to clear up these requests.

8:29: Clancy says he has a report that identifies the bridges cited for improvements and four other reports. But Clancy doesn’t want to talk about this tonight because last night’s meeting dictates that the June 29 meeting take up all the information, after State Rep. Vincent Pedone’s June 24 community meeting. The join committee report from yesterday is held until then. George Kerxhali (Grafton St. Business Association–opposed to the CSX deal) is here to speak on it, but he can’t because there’s no further discussion since Clancy held it. Kerxhali speaks any, but to invite the councilors to another GSBA-led meeting about CSX that he makes clear is not in Pedone’s district.

8:32: Haller expresses disappointment over Crompton Park pool’s delay, reiterating that it won’t be open this summer.

8:41: Eddy asks about a timeframe/demolition for pools that won’t be fixed up. M.O’Brien gives no set figures or dates.

8:45: Smith talks about the “Resolution to File and Accept a Federal FY 2010 Violence Against Women Act, STOP Grant Application.” He notes its importance for women suffering from abuse who don’t know where to go.

8:49: Petty says the Out to Lunch concerts behind city hall were very successful (he also notes that people like to criticize things that happened behind city hall).

8:51: Councilors are asking about city manager evaluations. Next Tuesday is the deadline to get them in.

8:52: Lukes talks about repealing the Affordable Housing act law (40b) that’s a few decades old (she’s hearing gaining support for doing this). She wants a motion/report in two weeks about what would happen in Worcester if this law is repealed.

Chapter 40B permits housing, condominium and apartment developers to skirt local zoning restrictions in communities that have not reached affordable housing thresholds if they guarantee that 20 to 25 percent of their units. Buyers of such properties must make less than 80 percent of the median income of the community that hosts the affordable units. Similarly, for rental units, only residents earning below 50 percent of the median income of the host city or town are eligible. Developers are limited to 20 percent profits of for-sale units and 10 percent profits on rentals.
-From Wicked Local Cambridge

8:57: Adjourned.

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