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Baron’s South Committee: A Follow-Up Report

Alert “06880” reader Tom Leyden and his wife Rita have been busy. They attended yesterday morning’s Baron’s South Committee meeting. They were also at the September 21 meeting, and this week’s RTM and Board of Finance sessions. Tom sent along this report:

We’re interested in the prime subject (affordable housing), the utilization of public town owned property, and the process.

I was impressed tremendously by how this committee worked yesterday morning (2 members were absent: Jo Fuchs-Luscombe and Ken Bernhard). There was meeting management, give and take, obvious caring and expertise shown. Many opinions were aired.

Several members were defensive, but restrained in response to how they were characterized in the public sphere. However, this took little time.

Given the result of Wednesday’s Board of Finance meeting, everyone present agreed to staying on the committee to conclusion.

Selectmen Gordon Joseloff and Shelly Kassen offered whatever resources necessary, and open minds. They supported redoing, if that’s the final result.

Janis Collins (BOF) offered insightful suggestions on how to proceed forward. This is too complicated for me to accurately explain, but was well taken by the committee. Many of her points led to the “next steps.”

A point that Paul VanOrden made that I agree with is that the committee came up with a recommendation based on the limitations of the scope of the Request For Proposal for good and well-considered reasons, and should not be forced to change but rather explain why, etc. It’s up to the approval process to accept or reject their recommendation.

John Thompson suggested that there was confusion in the public’s interpretation of the numbers, and that the committee should set out to correct that confusion. Who could disagree with that?

Most of the balance of the meeting was taken determining the intermediate steps towards the already scheduled RTM meeting of October 29. “Sub-meetings” (my words, not theirs) will be scheduled between and among the Board of Finance, RTM, Planning and Zoning and other interested parties (again my words) to insure an effective meeting on the 29th.

Shelly Kassen served in a very effective fashion to guide the committee through the vagaries of the “approval” process. She was very informative to me, a “public” listener. She did not strike me at any time as having anything but the best interests of affordable housing and the town’s fiscal interests at heart.

Part of the Baron’s South property.

Toward the end of the meeting I was asked to comment. I made the following points:

1. The committee was impressive.

2. The committee suffered from a communication problem, meaning that their reasons for choosing the proposal they chose should have been articulated more clearly and effectively quickly, making sure the restrains of the RFP were thoroughly understood by the public.

3. I believed their conclusion was the only one that could be chosen under the RFP.

4.  Whether they liked it or not this was a political process, and the lack of intermediate communication as to what was going on let the public decide any way they wanted what they were up to or not. The public has opinions, good or bad, and with the marvel of modern media, instant and widespread capability will fill the vacuum with “noise.”  The committee should have found a way to provide intermediate communication.

5.  I was happy with the “next steps.”

All in all I witnessed a good, effective committee meeting with a process road forward to achieve the best result for a serious and genuine need for affordable housing with fiscal viability for the town.

Let’s keep our powder dry, and let the process work.

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