Monday, March 23, 2015

We're doing what with Nelson Place land?

This was originally an adendum to the announcement of a public meeting on Nelson Place next Monday the 30th, but at this point, I'm concerned enough that I'm giving it its own post.

Item 9.6B regarding Nelson Place on the Council agenda for Tuesday is a land swap with Assumption that appears to give Assumption access around a wetland to the back edge of their property. Note, per Commissioner Moosey's memo, that the City already had the easement it needed for building a new Nelson Place through an early February vote of the City Council. This change simply benefits Assumption through the land swap. This assessor's map may clear things up a bit: Assumption owns 12 Romula (at the bottom right, which gives access onto a road) and owns the property marked as 0 behind that and the property marked as 500 (it's 500 Salisbury, their main campus) on the left middle of the map. You'll note that the property marked 0 and 500 Salisbury don't connect, but they could get from one to other via WPS property by cutting the corner of Nelson Place (which is 35, for 35 Nelson Place, in upper right).  

This seems to involve a land easement swap of WPS land as voted by the City Council, which it can't legally do; as we all have become very clear on, WPS land and the rights to it can only be conveyed through a majority School Committee vote. 

Moreover, an easement across public land, as it's a public asset that is being offered, would need to go out to bid. This hasn't. 

And the land in question is on the Open Space Top Ten List as passed by the Worcester City Council; it's called Bald Hill.

There was an effort at the very beginning of the Nelson Place process to try to tie this to new fields at the top of the hill that Assumption would pay for and allow the public to fact, it sounded a lot like the deal that was being offered with Worcester State about fields adjoining Jesse Burkett field. The Worcester Public Schools administration made it VERY clear that this was not of interest; this is a school project, and playing field projects for public use and the college ties that may or may not go with them was not part of the deal (and, frankly, is a level of complication we'd just as soon not have). 

This neighborhood has likewise been very concerned about Assumption's role, if any, in all of this, as they're concerned about Assumption's expansion and ongoing questions around transparency. 

I've been impressed at how this has been handled by both administrations (most notably by Julie Lynch, who works for the DPW and has been the point person for the Nelson Place project). This deal undermines all of that.

I don't have an answer to any of this as yet. Yes, I've been chasing this down, but if it concerns you, I'd let Council know before Tuesday night.

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