Senior housing, N. Hadley Village Hall top Thursday’s special Town Meeting in Hadley

  • The 1864 North Hadley Village Hall at 239 River Dr. KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 05, 2019

HADLEY — A proposal to develop more homes for people 55 and over and determining whether North Hadley Village Hall has a viable future in the hands of a local developer could be decided Thursday at special Town Meeting.

The 17-article warrant for the meeting, which also includes a series of capital spending items totaling nearly $1 million, will be taken up beginning at 7 p.m. at Hopkins Academy.

The request to rezone a 9½-acre parcel between Middle Street and East Street to become part of the senior housing overlay district comes from property owner Donald Dion, who would then sell it to Amherst developer Barry Roberts to build 28 homes for seniors. Roberts is already developing a similar project on the opposite side of East Street known as the East Street Commons.

The Planning Board has not taken a position on the matter, but board Clerk William Dwyer said the land being considered is a viable extension of the district and not spot zoning, and that it will be up to residents to decide whether the rezoning is appropriate.

Several residents have raised concerns that this is not a good use of the open land because the new homes will encroach on historic homes along Middle Street, necessitate a curb cut for a new street and have an impact on Newton Lane residents.

North Hadley Village Hall

The Select Board is again asking that it be able to petition the state Legislature to remove the protection, under Article 97 of the state Constitution, on a ballfield next to the North Hadley Village Hall. In exchange, it would ask that a similar protection be placed on the larger Zatyrka Park.

Town Meeting rebuffed this idea in the spring, but the Select Board is trying to complete a deal with Peter Heronemus of Hadley. Heronemus would like to convert the aging building into apartments, a workshop and a small performance venue that would be open mostly during the summer.

Select Board member David J. Fill II said Heronemus will gain flexibility by removing the Article 97 protection and that the ballfield would only be used to park vehicles during performances, and would otherwise remain open.

Other items

The warrant includes $934,418 in purchases, with some of these dependent on subsequent borrowing authorization at a ballot vote. Those that will increase the tax rate include spending $120,000 for a new school bus; $105,000 for a fire emergency generator at the public safety complex, replacing one that dates to 1993; and $100,000 for information technology equipment at the schools.

Other spending is already built into the budget or paid for with enterprise funds, such as $58,000 for a new hybrid police cruiser, $50,000 to study an expansion of the sewer plant’s capacity and $17,500 for creating a better room for storage in the basement of Town Hall.

Hadley officials are continuing to work with Kestrel Land Trust to place a conservation restriction on 336 acres of town-owned land off Bay and Chmura roads. Fill said if approved by voters, this restriction will spell out rules for how the land is used, allowing snowmobiling on trails, hunting and birdwatching, and some logging, as well as the continuation of municipal water activities.

Community Preservation Act spending includes $25,000 for Plainville Cemetery and $82,000 for Olde Hadley Cemetery for restoration of 45 gravestones, and $8,000 emergency repairs to the roof at the former Russell School.

Other articles include approving the dissolution of Hadley Kids Inc., which previously ran the afterschool program; adjusting rules surrounding water meters, such as a possible $50 charge to residents if a water meter has to be read manually; and adopting a new bylaw under the federal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System, or MS4, which would replace the existing stormwater management and erosion and sediment control bylaw.

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