Dog park, tax break, selling old Town Hall on Town Meeting agenda

Oct 18, 2017

On Oct. 23, Town Meeting voters will be asked to fund a $20,000 request for an off-leash dog park, give a tax break to a new business and authorize the sale of the old Town Hall, which now houses Wareham Community Television.

Wareham’s Fall Town Meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium. All registered voters may attend and participate. A request for funds for the proposed Wareham Dog Park has generated much discussion over the past few years. The agenda item asks the town to give $20,000 of Community Preservation funds for the creation of a dog park on town-owned property. Each year, the Community Preservation Committee allocates money to projects through the Community Preservation Act in four categories: open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and recreation. The money is raised through a 3 percent surcharge on property tax bills. The state then matches a percentage of the town-raised money. Spending of the funds must be approved at Town Meeting.

The request arrives after three years of planning by the Dog Park Affiliates of Wareham (DPAW) and one year of study by the Dog Park Study Committee.

The dog park is planned for one acre off Maple Springs Road, said Sandy Slavin, co-chair of the Community Preservation Committee. The $20,000 requested will cover 10 percent of the cost of the dog park.

“That shows that the town is interested in making this happen,” Slavin said. The money could make it easier for organizers to get a grant from The Stanton Foundation for the remaining $180,000 needed to make the dog park. The foundation has given large grants to other towns on Cape Cod and the South Coast for dog parks.

At the 2016 spring Town Meeting, a $100,000 request for Community Preservation funds was withdrawn. DPAW members said more study was required and a new group, the Dog Park Study Committee, was formed. That group worked to identify new locations, funding sources and liability and maintenance issues. Dog Park Study Committee member Trenton Blanchard said members have addressed all of those issues and earned the endorsement Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator’s endorsement.

“We’re looking forward to getting approval,” said Blanchard. “We have the town’s support and hopefully we will have the people’s support.”

Blanchard said DPAW has submitted its grant application to the Stanton Foundation. This year, the foundation will provide three grants and Wareham is one of four applicants. If DPAW doesn’t earn the funds this year, Blanchard said the group will be first in line next year.

Stone Path Malt tax break

Voters will be asked to approve a Tax Increment Financing Agreement between Wareham and a new business that will educate people on the malting process, provide products for home brewers and attract beer tourists. The owners of Stone Path Malt, on 11 Kendrick Road, received approval from Selectmen for a seasonal wine and malt license in June. They plan to produce malt – germinated grains that are dried in a process called “malting” – for craft brewers in New England and offer a tap bar. The tax agreement proposed would give the business a property tax break for five years, said Selectmen Chair Peter Teitelbaum. This is at the low end of the spectrum for the span of time giving a tax break. The tax break encourages new businesses to come to Wareham and makes it easier for businesses to get tax breaks from the state as well, said Teitelbaum.

“We’re not just giving stuff away,” he said. “There’s economic reasoning behind it.”

A similar tax break was given for TownePlace Suites by Marriott, which worked out well, Teitelbaum said.

“They’re improving the value of the town and adding opportunities in Wareham,” Teitelbaum said.

Selling 505 Main St.

Wareham Community Television, the tenant at 505 Main St., which was Town Hall at one time, are hoping the town will sell the building, allowing them to purchase it for renovations. Funds from the sale will be put in the town’s sale of real estate fund.

Approval would allow the town to make the property, currently used by Wareham Community Television, up for sale.

“We’re trying to cut back on real estate stock because it’s tough for the town to maintain all of them,” said Teitelbaum.

Steve Ruiz, the station’s director, said the TV station has used the building since 2009. In that time, the building has been gutted and rebuilt. Ruiz hopes his group will be the highest bidder if it is for sale. Ruiz requested the article be added to the Town Meeting agenda. Ruiz said Wareham Community Television hopes to put a 1,800 square-foot addition on the building and owning the property outright would give them more control of the builders, architect and construction process. No taxpayer money will be used to build the addition as all the funds will come from Wareham Community Television.

“A lot of people have a concern that they would be losing a historic building,” Ruiz said. “But the town will never lose the property. If it gives it to us, it never gets lost.”

The property is in the historic district, so Ruiz said he doesn’t anticipate many other bidders trying to obtain the property because of restrictions on the building.

He said plans for construction will maintain the integrity of the building and the New England style of architecture.

“Everybody gets a little bit happier if this works out,” Ruiz said. “The town won’t have another property to oversee all the time.” They don’t lose anything, it’s just a transfer of control.”