Official documents on what voters will approve; Answers to some questions from the public

ByShannon J. Cortes

Oct 26, 2021

Above: More information on the zoning article put to the vote and questions raised about a project that officials may pursue later.

The special fall municipal meeting will take place in six days. The article that catches the most attention of readers is certainly the proposed zoning changes for the downtown area.

I’m following up on some of the questions asked in blog comments about wastewater treatment. (Scroll down for that.)

Furthermore, I am happy to see that the City has posted the official version of the Modified article voters will be invited to pass. (This will supersede the version posted in the Terms of Reference.) They also posted the Board of Selectmen’s To analyse how the adoption of Section 10 will result in differences between the current and proposed zoning. (I would call this a red underlined document, but it doesn’t use colors.)

[On Friday, I posted my own analysis with charts comparing current and proposed zoning. You can look at that here.]

Downtown zoning mapFor those who haven’t been following the zoning bylaw closely, these changes would only apply to parcels identified as being rezoned to be part of the new “downtown neighborhood.”

There is land that will remain in the Business Village area. (These are the parcels divided between the business and a residential area, as well as the property currently owned by the railroad company, CSX.)

For other documents and to see if other documents are posted between now and the meeting, check here.

Below, I share some background and links related to questions and complaints about the costs the City may incur if zoning is passed.

Several comments on the blog asked about the City’s plans for a sewage treatment facility. Some have argued that zoning will pave the way for voters to pay for a facility that benefits developers.

If a project were proposed to be paid for by Southborough tax, the voters of the town assembly would have to pass it. However, while rezoning requires 2/3 approval, funding for downtown infrastructure may not. (If a project were funded without the City issuing a bond or triggering the 2½ proposal, only a majority would need to support it.)

So, what type of project are we potentially considering?

In February 2019, the economic development committee held a forum to reflect on the challenges of downtown revitalization. In it, the public learned of serious septic limitations preventing the development of certain commercial properties like restaurants.

Wastewater treatment concept map for the city centerEDC researched and received a grant to study how to solve septic tank problems (and to help with the zoning effort). A Wastewater treatment feasibility study was conducted to “evaluate an independent treatment option” for up to 20,000 gallons of sewage per day in the area of ​​the present village business district.

The study estimated that a project (map on the right); would cost $3,298,000. (Click here for a conceptual drawing of a downtown plant.)

The consultants, Weston & Sampson, recommended seeking grants. They also recommended a follow-up study on how the project could be funded outside of grants.

The second report offer several options. He looked at full taxpayer funding, split funding with an account funded by properties that would directly benefit, and a property tax charge. It listed the pros and cons of each scenario. (You can find all documents related to the Wastewater Scholarship here.)

It should be noted that the cost scenario tables do not assume any compensation by state or federal subsidies. City officials said they hope to secure grants for any expensive infrastructure projects.

Study reports were published in June and July. In August, EDC discussed the status of reporting and grants. But there was no presentation of the content or discussion of the next steps for the wastewater treatment project. The Board of Selectmen has not yet placed the reports on its agenda for discussion.