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Harvard Selectmen Oppose Vicksburg Square Development

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR THE HARVARD POST

Harvard

Marie Sobalvarro, Board of Selectmen chairman, and Selectmen Tim Clark and Ronald Ricci, said they will vote against the Vicksburg Square proposal when it comes up for a vote at the March 28 Super Town Meeting. Peter Warren will vote for it. Selectman Bill Johnson did not attend the March 20 board meeting.

Among the complaints are concerns over a lack of public transportation, fears over how the school program would play out, and the findings of the Shirley and Ayer financial committees, which, according to Sobalvarro, had both shown the project to be unsustainable.

“It will cost approximately $338,000 to renovate a [affordable housing] unit, which will bring in less than $1,000 annually in tax credits. I don’t see that as being sustainable,” Sobalvarro said.
Warren said he was voting for the project as it would strengthen the economy in the area and create construction jobs.

“I think this will bring an economic boost to our area. I don’t think we should be thinking about Harvard, I think we should be thinking about the entire region,” he said.

Tim Kinch, vice-chairman of the Devens Committee, told selectmen that the results of the survey of 110 residents in Devens on the Vicksburg Square project had been indecisive. The vote was split, 55-55.

“If people are looking for a reason to reject or to affirm their positions based on the Devens residents, it’s not there,” said Kinch.

Annual Town Meeting

Selectmen approved the annual Town Meeting Warrant, which includes 45 articles that will be voted on by the town on April 28. These articles include allowing accessory housing to be converted into affordable units, and permitting seniors to do community service – whether in person or by proxy – at state minimum wage for 125 hours a year to help pay off their taxes. The town will also decide whether to fund the Town Hall renovation and the reconstruction of Littleton County Road.

Two articles that are likely to see changes before appearing at the Town Meeting are the Senior Citizens Property Tax Exemption Home Rule Petition and the Solar Photovoltaic Installation bylaw.

The senior property tax exemption is a plan which would cap qualifying resident’s property taxes at 10 percent of their total annual household income. Currently, the Finance Committee does not support the article. Ricci said he fears an item in the petition would restrict residents from participating in the program if their property is more valuable than the assessed value of a single family home in town plus 10 percent.

“I don’t think it’s fair that they’ve got a very expensive property and they’re poor … a person with low income that qualifies for this is worse off if they have expensive property,” said Ricci.

The solar photovoltaic installation bylaw is an attempt to clarify the state’s vague regulations regarding installing solar installations and is running into policy concerns over a number of issues, including defining commercial solar and residential solar.

Bragan and Warren announced that the town would not be receiving a Community Innovation Challenge grant for a municipal buildings facilities manager. Warren had hoped to receive a grant of $56,630 to hire a facilities manager. The article to hire a manager will still be kept on the warrant.

The loss of the grant funds means there will be no opportunity to hire a town planner for this year.

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