Board of Selectmen votes to recommend ‘Hospitality’ district
The Board of Selectmen voted at their March 24 meeting to recommend the passage of all the articles that will be up for votes at the April 10 Special Town Meetings, including the Notos Group’s “Hospitality, Recreation, and Entertainment District.”
The Notos Group’s proposed rezoning of land between Glen Charlie Rd. and Rte. 25 to create a mixed-use district for large developments of at least 100 acres was a complicated topic.
“This is obviously a very controversial article,” said Selectman Alan Slavin. But Slavin said that he trusts various governing bodies -- including local boards and federal and state regulators -- to ensure that the land is protected and any projects will not be harmful to the town.
Selectman Jim Munise was more trepidatious.
“All I know is you don’t know what you don’t know until you find out after that maybe we shouldn’t have done it,” Munise said.
Munise added that he thought the land, particularly that which was mined by the Graziano gravel company, would be a great location for a solar field.
“I obviously am in favor of this,” said Selectman Judith Whiteside, who emphasized that there would be a number of authorities regulating any potential development and that there are no current plans for the property.
Selectman Peter Teitelbaum said that he is hopeful that under the Biden administration, spending on infrastructure would increase.
“I think we need to have something in place so if and when Congress gets off their butts and tries to pass an infrastructure bill, we’re ready to try to take advantage of it,” Teitelbaum said. “I understand there’s some uncertainty here, and for some people it will take a leap of faith, but as Alan and Patrick reiterated, it would go through multiple levels of checks and balances, reviews, demands for environmental reports and monitoring and everything else. So that’s why I’m willing to roll the dice on this.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Selectman Patrick Tropeano expressed frustration with the environmental concerns many people have expressed about the rezoning proposal. In comments that prompted some to accuse him of racism, Tropeano specifically accused the Wampanoags who have raised environmental concerns of hypocrisy and being illogical.
Tropeano said that when a Wampanoag tribe proposed a large project for the land in 2003, the Board of Selectmen supported that proposal, which would not be regulated in the same way as other developments because it would have been on tribal land. That project fell through.
Tropeano went on to argue that because the land is currently covered with litter, environmental concerns about future development are moot.
“All of this stuff that people say about whatever is all just feel-good stuff,” Tropeano said. “It’s all just personal thought. It doesn’t mean anything to fact. Fact is what matters.”
Tropeano said that the Wampanoags’ proposal for the land decades ago made their present-day opposition hypocritical.
“And by the way, like I’m saying, in March of 2003, it would have been a different story. And nobody was complaining then, by the way. They were all happy. All the Indians and everybody were all happy about it,” Tropeano said. “But yet, today, it’s not good for somebody else. I don’t get that. I don’t understand it. It’s hypocritical, if you ask me. And I just want everybody to be aware that these things need to be looked at with eyes wide open and not necessarily listening to people with a heart on your sleeve.”
Slavin, Tropeano, Teitelbaum, and Whiteside voted to recommend the article’s passage, while Munise voted against it.
The board was unanimous in its support of two articles related to Westfield. One would give the board the power to lease land at Westfield for a term of up to thirty years. Westfield currently hosts the Wareham Girls Softball and Wareham Youth Soccer fields.
The Wareham Tigers youth football and cheerleading program has requested the use of the property for a complex that would include several fields and a gymnasium.
Back in 2010, Town Meeting attendees approved an article that restricted a portion of the Westfield property for senior housing. However, Sullivan said that the town put out two requests for proposals for developers, and there was no interest in senior housing at the site, due in part to the lack of sewer access.
Therefore, Town Meeting voters will need to first vote to override that 2010 article before offering a lease.
The lease would need to be given through a bid process, so it is not guaranteed that the Tigers will secure the land.