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Hadley officials to convene grand meeting on future senior center, town library

  • The Hadley Senior Community Center and Goodwin Memorial Library. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Thursday, September 13, 2018

HADLEY — Site plans for a new senior center and town library will be brought before the Planning Board next week in what may be the final chance for a senior center to be built at the size town residents approved four times.  

A week after voting 3-2 to mandate the Senior Center Building Committee downsize the planned senior center from 12,050 square feet to 10,350 square feet so that the site plans would be in conformity with the town’s parking bylaw, the Select Board Wednesday agreed to be part of a larger meeting with the Planning Board on Tuesday that aims to resolve the lingering issue. The town bylaw mandates that the amount of parking be twice the area of a building.

“The voters have already voted that they want the senior center to be 12,000 square feet, and somehow we, as a Select Board, were able to reduce that square footage, so that voters are now getting less of a building, for the same money, than they voted for,” said Select Board member Christian Stanley, who supports the larger building. 

While no decisions are expected to be made by the Planning Board, Select Board member Molly Keegan said the idea is to get the Select Board, Planning Board, and the building committees, architects and owners project managers for projects in the same room and learn, once and for all, whether the two projects can fit on the 2.6-acre parcel currently occupied by the former Hooker School Building.

The hope is for the meeting to give an indication about whether the parking will remain a sticking point, and whether it can be overcome with use of the Dover Amendment, a state law that allows projects with educational uses to skirt certain municipal regulations.

Building Commissioner Timothy Neyhart explained to the Select Board that the joint site plan for the Middle Street location has complicated calculations for determining how much parking is needed, in part because it is a small site, and there is also uncertainty about how much of the pavement is parking, and how much is driveway.

The last-ditch effort to save the current plans came after Stanley, who joined Keegan in voting against shrinking the senior center building, proposed an amendment to rescind the previous week’s decision, and Senior Center Director Suzanne Travisano, who had been out the country at the time, told the board she and the building committee had been blindsided by the board’s vote.

For Stanley, his effort to overturn the earlier vote, which the board didn’t act on before adjourning, was based on feedback he received from residents.

“People are really angry about this decision, and I think we should reverse that vote,” Stanley said. 

He pointed to the August 2017 Town Meeting in which, by a 414-62 margin, voters agreed to increase the project cost from $5.3 to $7.1 million so the building could remain 12,050 square feet.

But David Fill II, who proposed the successful motion at the Sept. 5 meeting to reduce the size of the building, said that the Select Board had taken a hands-off approach and only needed to get involved because of the risk that the site plans would be defeated by the Planning Board.

“It didn’t get done, (and) we’ve been at this for months,” Fill said, referring to the Planning Board’s process.  

Had the Planning Board voted down the site plans, there would likely be a costly, drawn-out legal battle, Fill said.

Board member John Waskiewicz said he supports the project and still sees it as better to get a smaller building than no building at all. “You can’t blame the Select Board for what the Planning Board did,” Waskiewicz said.

Select Board Chairwoman Joyce Chunglo said she is frustrated that those designing the senior center didn’t understand the importance of meeting the town’s parking regulations. Chunglo said her goal remains to build the best building possible for senior citizens.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.