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Hadley approves housing trust, library conversion at Town Meeting

  • The Goodwin Memorial Library in Hadley. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

HADLEY — A municipal affordable housing trust is in place and plans for converting Goodwin Memorial Library into new municipal office space are moving forward following actions at Saturday’s annual Town Meeting.

Gathered in the field at Hopkins Academy, with numerous umbrellas propped up to protect themselves from the heat and morning sun, residents spent a little more than two hours voting on the 23-article warrant.

With little discussion, a $21.95 million spending plan for fiscal year 2021 was adopted, with $17.83 million coming from the general fund budget. The budget is just $104,554, or less than 0.5%, higher than the current year’s $21.85 million budget.

Voters established the affordable housing trust fund that, in combination with Community Preservation Act money, will promote more options for where low- and moderate-income families can live in town.

While Hadley has already received $350,000 for affordable housing from the East Street Commons senior housing project, as the result of its construction in the senior housing overlay district and use of the town’s inclusionary zoning bylaw, this money can’t be accessed or used until the trust is in place, Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski said.

Residents agreed to an additional $270,000 in spending from the $2.8 million available in the CPA account. Most of this is related to Goodwin, including $226,093 for converting and renovating the early 20th-century building into municipal office space, and $25,000 for an elevator design study.

Former building commissioner Timothy Neyhart said when the library moves to a new building this year, Goodwin will have the first floor as meeting space and a temporary bathroom installed for use by the Planning Board and Park and Recreation departments.

“This is the first step of the three-phase steps to actually get that building back into total use,” Neyhart said.

Select Board member Christian Stanley said this is wise spending because he would hate to see the town have to sell another municipal building as it did North Hadley Village Hall, or find renovations cost-prohibitive, as it is finding with the former Russell School building.

“The goal of this entire project is to make it a truly accessible building for us to meet in, to have town offices in, and for us to use as a town,” Stanley said.

Zatyrka Park 

Residents defeated, by a 90-26 vote, $110,000 from CPA for a fitness park and athletic court at Zatyrka Park. That item generated the most discussion of any warrant article.

Joseph Zgrodnik, a member of the CPA Committee, spoke against the spending, concerned that the fitness park would interfere with ad hoc activities there, including children sledding in the winter, and that the town had already sunk too much money into the site.

“Zatyrka Park is the park that doesn’t keep giving, it’s the park that keeps asking,” Zgrodnik said.

Jenny Vanasse, park and recreation director, said she had applied for a $30,000 grant that, with the town’s match, would feature seven stations for workouts by anyone 14 and older.

Sharon Parsons of Mill Valley Road said she was concerned there would be a cost of maintenance and a salary for someone to coordinate fitness activities. “Just putting something there doesn’t prevent us from spending more money,” Parsons said.

Nancy Bandman-Boyle of High Meadow Road spoke in favor of improving the “gem of a little park” and that fitness activities would be attractive. “I think we should invest in our community,” Bandman-Boyle said.

Outdoor exercise opportunities should be viewed as a good thing, said Jessica Kem of West Street. “Having a site with equipment that’s ready for us is an interesting opportunity for this town,” she said.

Select Board Chairman David J. Fill II said Zatyrka Park is already an incomplete project since there is no playground or other attractions to draw people.

“Focusing on grants for a playground, focusing on things we’ve already started first, would be a better option than this,” Fill said.

Voters also supported a zoning change that allows less parking for industrial uses in industrial districts, giving the Planning Board the right to waive the normal two square feet of parking for one square foot of building. Maksimoski said this change will make the limited industrially zoned land in town more usable and bring in tax revenue through more buildings on those properties.

During a brief presentation that touched on Black Lives Matter, Stanley acknowledged the impact of systemic racism on the country and community and advocated for residents to join the town’s Civility and Inclusion Committee to discuss issues of bias and their impact on Hadley. 

Meantime, the annual town report was dedicated to the people and workers of Hadley during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the annual Fred W. Oakley Award was presented to Ted and Merle Buckhout, lifelong residents of the Hockanum section of Hadley who have been longtime volunteers, especially for matters related to preserving the Mount Holyoke Range.

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