Milton officials say there are still concerns over a proposal for affordable housing off Randolph Avenue even after developers redesigned the property to better conform with the neighborhood.
The three-building, 72-unit development has been scaled back from a two-building, 96-unit proposal on the eight-acre site; and the look changed from tall brick structures to multi-tonal ones with increased architectural elements.
Yet town officials say this second attempt by developer The Holland Companies still has problems.
“I think it has way to many three-bedrooms, not enough two-bedrooms,” said Town Planner William Clark. “There are nine two-bedrooms and over 30 three-bedrooms. I know that’s one of our comments. The other is the access issue. Trying to access that site on Randolph Ave. Randolph Ave. is a traffic nightmare and you want to take and have cars coming and going from that site.”
The town has until March 31 to turn in comments to MassHousing, the state entity that is charged with issuing preliminary approval for the affordable development.
According to Clark, the state agency looks at a number of criteria, including if the proposal financially works, if it fits the site, if it meets state requirements, and if it fits with the neighborhood.
The latter became a problem for the designers two years ago, when MassHousing determined that the massive, brick buildings were out of sync with surrounding houses.
Despite concerns from some town officials, developers say they are optimistic about this latest proposal.
“I know there will be challenges, certainly the kind of community meetings - there have been some concerns and we’ve tried to deal with the items we can deal with,” said Paul Holland, manager of the project and member of Holland Companies. “It’s just the location that is an issue for some people, and there isn’t much we can do about that. I think at this point, we’re waiting [for state determination].”
The anticipated $20 million proposal, to be named H&W Apartments, calls for 27 one-bedroom units (seven affordable), nine two bedrooms (two affordable), and 36 three-bedrooms (nine affordable), according to application documents.
All the units would be rental, meaning they could all count towards the town’s affordable housing threshold.
Under the state’s Chapter 40B law, towns must have at least 10 percent of their housing be at an affordable level.
“Affordable” varies by town, but is typically classified as a house that could be rented or purchased by a resident making up to 80 percent of the median area income.
In towns shy of that threshold, developers can streamline approvals and bypass some local bylaws by offering at least 25 percent of their units at what is deemed to be an affordable rate.
The proposal would first need MassHousing approval. The Zoning Board of Appeals would also have to issue a comprehensive permit for the plans.
The addition of 72 units would bring the town’s quota up half a percentage. According to Clark, Milton currently has around 4.5 percent affordable housing (433 units), though two developments have not yet been counted.
Clark said the state will likely issue a decision on the proposal within a month of receiving it.
Holland said the quickest the zoning board might vet the proposal is several months.
“The best case scenario is [to begin construction in] late summer/early fall. I suspect it may take a bit longer than that,” he said.
Throughout the month of March, state Rep. Dan Cullinane, who oversees the 12th Suffolk, will hold a series of community office hours.
“Many people who care very deeply about our communities, who have great ideas and observations, do not have the time or flexibility to visit the State House, to make a phone call during the work day, or to attend a monthly community meeting.” Cullinane said in a statement. “During the campaign, I made a promise to the people of Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, and Milton to make accessibility for all one of my top priorities. I believe this aggressive weekly schedule blocking twelve hours to meet with residents at five different locations throughout the district every Friday shows that commitment.”
Beginning March 7, Cullinane, whose district includes portions of Hyde Park, Mattapan, Milton, and Dorchester, will be in the communities every Friday, as part of his “Dan in the District” initiative.
Community office hour schedule:
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Flatblack Coffee Co. (Ashmont Station)
1906 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Flatblack Coffee Co. (Lower Mills)
1170 Washington St., Dorchester
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Brothers Deli & Restaurant (Mattapan Square)
1638 Blue Hill Ave., Mattapan
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. The Plate Restaurant & Café (Milton)
27 Central Ave., Milton
4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Pit Stop Barbeque (Morton Village)
888 Morton St., Mattapan
Advance notice is not required, but constituents will be met on a first come first serve basis.
For questions or more information, contact Cullinane by phone at (617) 722-2006 or by email at Daniel.Cullinane@MAHouse.gov.
Milton officials say sticky budget decisions mean an override is probably in the town’s future, though it is unclear exactly when.
“It won’t be for fiscal year 2015 [which will begin July 1], but there will be a request to have an override in the future,” said Town Administrator Annemarie Fagan.
Town officials have been working to compile a five-year financial forecast for each department, discussing future capital needs, budget projections, and growth timetables.
That process will probably clarify when an override might be necessary, though it has only just begun, said Town Accountant Amy Dexter.
Milton last voted an override in 2009. The vote enabled a $3.4 million increase in fiscal 2010 over the Proposition 2 ˝ limit, which restricts property tax growth to 2.5 percent a year.
Since then, all town departments have been asked to accommodate future year’s growth using the same amount of money as previous fiscal years, or to provide “level-dollar” budgets.
“We try to avoid an override for as long as possible, and the mechanism for doing that has been these level-dollar budgets,” Dexter said. “You’re only going to increase [total property taxes collected] by 2.5 percent … and local receipts don’t tend to have huge swings.”
For increasing expenses, such as salaries or utility costs, many departments have had to make equal reductions to their budget. In many cases, vacated positions have been left unfilled.
Capital expenses, such as school items and vehicle purchases, have been made with borrowed money or with “free cash” - money received above budgeted amounts from previous fiscal years.
“It’s because we have such limited funds. To balance our budget there is only so much revenue to spread out amongst departments,” Fagan said. “Each year budgets increase, it gets harder to spread money around.”
Local aid hasn't increased enough to compensate. Though education local aid has increased every year since fiscal 2009, general government aid dropped drastically in fiscal 2010 and decreased again in fiscal 2012. Any increases have been minimal.
Fiscal 2015 will be the first since the override that departments have been asked to submit both a level-dollar and a level-service budget. The latter allows department heads more room for growth
Warrant Committee Chair Ted Hayes said the due diligence of town officials in lowering insurance costs has created some extra money for next year's budget, but not nearly enough to meet requests.
Of the $1.3 million difference between level-dollar and level-service budget requests, town officials have approximately $400,000-$500,000 to accommodate them.
“We will have a final budget meeting on Wednesday…it gives people a chance to talk a little bit about the difference between level dollar and level service and how important a one-time request is,” Hayes said. “By the end of the evening, we’ll have to vote a level budget going forward and hope the state comes in with a bit more aid.”
Despite the additional funding, Hayes too recognized that an override will soon be necessary, suggesting that one probably should have been requested for fiscal 2015.
“I don’t think an override is anything to be scared of. You get what you pay for,” Hayes said. “If you want town services to maintain or get better, then you might have to pay some taxes. One of the reasons you want to live in Milton is because it is residential, but then the tax burden is on you. Overrides are part of the fabric of necessary municipal life.”
(Image courtesy Google Maps)
A new generation will be taking the reins of The Ice Creamsmith, which has been serving up frozen treats to the Dorchester, Mattapan, and Milton communities for more than 37 years.
Sarah Mabel-Skillin, the daughter of founders David and Robyn Mabel, and her husband Chris will take over ownership of the Lower Mills shop.
Located at 2295 Dorchester Ave., the shop is a popular summertime destination for shoppers looking to cool down and satisfy their sweet tooth.
“For the time being, we’ll be working here two or three days a week,” said David Mabel. “[Chris and Sarah] have a daughter, so we’ll also be babysitting.”
David and Robyn will likely have a little more free time on their hands, but David said there is plenty he'll miss about running the shop full-time.
“The customers will of course be missed,” said David Mabel. “The other thing we’ll miss is working with our employees. We’ve always been hands-on owners, and that’s a part we’ll miss.”
Not many changes are expected to be made to the shop, aside from a few cosmetic updates and the adoption of a social media campaign. The establishment, a favorite for youth sports teams, will continue to offer a slew of old fashioned frozen products.
The shop is currently closed for the winter and is expected to reopen March 1.
For more information about the establishment, visit its website.
Between college applications, upcoming tests, and school sports, students at Notre Dame Academy said they were stressed out.
Yet a fix has come in the form of Dr. Nadja Reilly, a clinical psychologist specializing in adolescents.
“Today, without question, we hear of teenagers in general feeling very stressed,” said Notre Dame Assistant Principal Barbara Mitchell. “That comes from various avenues. Whether through school or sports, sometimes it’s stress put upon them by themselves or by other people. Stress seems to hit them from all facets of their life. [The] guest speaker was brought in to help students recognize when they are feeling stressed and have coping mechanisms to deal with stress.”
The stress speaker program at Notre Dame Academy is only the latest program from the Student Support Team, a faculty and student group that has long sought to improve the lives of Notre Dame girls.
While Mitchell said this is the first speaker to cover stress specifically, stress coping has played a role in other topics and with other speakers.
“We recognize that students have stress in their lives,” she said. “At this point if we can help them discover coping mechanisms at this age, it will hopefully bode well for them down the road.”
Three presentations were offered in the latest program – to student parents on Monday night, and again to freshmen and sophomores and then juniors and seniors Tuesday morning.
Reilly covered a variety of insight and strategies on managing mental health, drawing from her 12-year tenure at Boston Children’s Hospital as a consulting psychologist and a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School.
Mitchell said it was important that parents be included in the discussion.
“Parents sometime want to jump in and solve their children’s problem. But [this is] helping students solve their own problems,” she said.
Parents were walked through the different kinds of stress, how to recognize stress in their children, and recognizing the difference between stress and anxiety or depression.
Parents were also given tips on how to help their teens deal with stress and how to talk to them about it.
“I was so impressed with Dr. Reilly’s engaging and insightful presentation last evening on stress and resilience,” said Hingham parent Coleen Cudgma in a release. “Included in her topics, she identified signs of emotional behaviors that would warrant early interventions as well as giving us the tools to help create resilient children. This is valuable information for every parent to walk away with."
Student discussion also surrounded stress thresholds, with Reilly leading students through a meditative exercise.
Students said the event was helpful.
"This program let us step back and think about what is actually causing us stress. I feel so busy that I don't usually take the time to think about it, " said senior Maeve Westwater of Milton, in a release.
"Dr. Reilly gave us some helpful ideas to put into practice and use everyday," agreed Senior Anna Duffy of Quincy, in a release.
Milton officials say they are finally moving forward with the sale of the “Town Farm” after receiving state approval to develop the land.
The decision, issued by a probate court judge on Jan. 23, concludes a three-year process to gain a decision from the court and the Attorney General on whether the town’s “Poor Farm” could be used for a residential development.
The state “approved the ability of the town to sell the property,” said Milton Town Planner William Clark. “The town can sell it and can use this mechanism.”
The issue has been ongoing since 2011, when town officials put out a Request for Proposals for 34 acres of land called the Town Farm.
Gifted to the town by Governor William Stoughton upon his death in 1701, the then 40-acres of land was required to be used for the town’s poor. The stipulations of the will were adhered to by a trust, comprised of the town’s Board of Selectmen and created for oversight purposes.
For nearly 300 years, the poor benefited from the land. The “woodlot” was used initially to create jobs. In the 1840s, the land was a “Poor Farm”, where the poor of Milton came to live and work. The first highway department employees lived on the land, and over time the land and building were leased out, with proceeds going to help the poor.
In early 2011, town officials decided to sell the 34 acres of land - six acres were taken by the state in the 1890s as part of the Blue Hills Reservation. In sale documents, town officials said the property was “underutilized for its intended purpose”.
Funds from the sale were to be given to the town’s poor.
By October 2011, a purchase and sale had been drawn up with high bidder Pulte Homes of New England LLC to buy 30 acres for $5 million.
The remaining four acres were to stay in the town’s possession, keeping the two old Almshouses, a stable, a pest house – used to quarantine people with smallpox, and the Milton Animal Shelter in the town’s control.
According to Clark, the type of will and the inclusion of a trust mandated approval from both probate court and the Attorney General.
The Attorney General process, which only concluded this past summer, took the longest amount of time for review. Clark wouldn’t specify the reason for the delay, but said the Probate Court process began soon thereafter.
The court decision will make way for the construction of 23 New England-style homes to be built on the lot, the first of its kind to be built under the town’s “cluster subdivision” bylaw that allows homes to be built closer together.
Under the confines of the purchase and sale, the developer can exchange some of their land for the additional four acres of land on the lot if the construction of 23 houses isn’t possible with the existing terrain.
According to Clark, Pulte has until April 5 to do site engineering, a process that will solidify which land will remain the town’s.
“They can’t take more than 30 acres, but they will affirm what the boundary is going to look like,” Clark said.
The Conservation Commission and Planning Board will need to approve the final development.
The Board of Selectmen will remain the trustees of the funding behind the sale, and will appropriate the money to the “town’s poor” at a later time, Clark said.
The Curry College student accused of sexual misconduct has been suspended from the school until at least 2016.
“Robert ‘Troy’ Jones has been suspended from the College as a result of the College’s investigation and conduct process, and [he] is unable to petition for reinstatement until August 2016,” Curry College Communication Director Fran Jackson said in an emailed statement. “Should a petition for reinstatement be filed, the College would make a decision based on the totality of the circumstances at that time.”
Jackson wouldn’t comment on the college’s investigation and suspension process as it related to Jones, a 19-year-old Reading man.
Yet according to the student handbook, investigations into sexual misconduct begin with the director of student conduct or a designee from the dean of students.
That person speaks with both the alleged victim or victims and the alleged suspect ,as well as other students who may have knowledge of the incident. The alleged victim and suspect then attend separate student conduct meetings for the college to further investigate the allegations.
Jones was put on interim suspension immediately after college officials received reports on Dec. 6 that Jones had allegedly assaulted two students in two separate incidents.
It is unclear if Jones was allowed on campus to attend the conduct meeting. Conditions of his Dec. 9 bail prohibit him from going near the college or the victim.
Handbook rules state that the student doesn’t need to attend the conduct meeting for the process to move forward. Outside criminal cases also wouldn’t impede the college’s process, the handbook states.
Suspension appeals can be submitted within three business days of the determination, the handbook states.
Jackson said Jones will be barred from college property throughout his suspension.
Jones is facing two charges of assault and battery over a person 14 or older and a charge of kidnapping out of Quincy District Court. One assault charge stems from an alleged incident on Nov. 14, the latter from an alleged incident on Dec. 6.
Jones’s attorney did not return a call for comment. Jones is due back in court on March 21 for a probable cause hearing.
Milton selectmen have approved the latest changes to the controversial LED sign perched on an East Milton Square building, a compromise members hope will preserve business in the spot while satisfying neighbors' concerns.
Under the requirements approved at the meeting on Tuesday, the sign atop Kennedy Carpet Sales will no longer be allowed to shift to different messages and different colors, instead staying as an unchanging sign that shows “Sleepy’s” in red letters against a black backdrop.
The sign will be turned off from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Previously, it was only dimmed.
“We made the best of a bad situation,” said Milton Selectmen Chairman Denis Keohane. “It’s a horrible sign. It should never have been approved in 2008."
The billboard-like sign has been unpopular since its installation in 2008 and was even moved to another side of the building in 2011 to accommodate upset neighbors.
Even with the sign, business has struggled at the location right off the highway. Owner Jay Kennedy has since sought to lease the building and move his 35-year-old business to another site.
Although Kennedy has invested over $1 million in the building, tenants have been hard to come by. Sleepy’s is the first legitimate offer to apply for the lease in nearly two years, town officials said, and it is mainly interested in the sign.
While selectmen initially hoped to require that the sign be removed at the end of a lease with Sleepy’s, Keohane said that any mandated removal would open the town to a lawsuit.
“You build your house and then we want you to take it down again, you can’t do that without a lawsuit. If we make him take it down, we open the town up to a lawsuit that we don’t think we could have won,” Keohane said.
The latest agreement keeps the town safe from legal consequences, while also keeping the building occupied and on the tax rolls, Keohane said.
“I believe we made the right decision,” he said.
According to Town Planner William Clark, the building lease with Sleepy's is for 10 years.
The sign will be complemented by a sign at the front of the building that will have 20-inch letters saying “Sleepy’s” with eight-inch letters underneath saying “The Mattress Professionals”.
Gooseneck light fixtures will illuminate the letters. Those, too, will be turned off from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Although some neighbors feared that the LED sign would set a precedent for other similar signs throughout town, Clark said it isn’t a possibility.
Not only is this building the only one in town that can be completely accessible using state roads, but town officials may pursue a zoning bylaw that would expressly prohibit such signs at other location.
“It will not impact this sign, but moving forward, [it will be prohibitive],” Clark said.
Milton Police officers were on scene of a lockdown at Tucker Elementary School in Milton after someone wrote a menacing message on a school wall.
According to Milton Selectman Denis Keohane, the message threatened to kill everyone. The school was on lockdown but the restriction was lifted around noon.
Milton Police Department staffers said they didn’t have any further information and were investigating.
"We don’t have information to give at this time beyond everyone is safe,” an officer person said.
School officials at Tucker Elementary and the superintendent’s office were not immediately available for comment.
For a night of inspiration, Joyce Kulhawik, known as an Emmy-winning arts and entertainment reporter for WBZ-TV for over 30 years, will discuss her experience living with and surviving from melanoma and ovarian cancer at a cancer support group sponsored by St. Agatha Parish Milton/Quincy on Feb. 27.
"We began the first support group in October and since then, we have done it every other month," said Mary Gallagher, pastoral associate for the parish. "We have these for people who have been diagnosed and their friends, family, and anyone who has been affected by the cancer. Joyce is going to speak about her own way of going through the diagnosis while still living a very full and active life. We are absolutely thrilled. She is such a positive person."
Gallagher said they started the group as a way for people to have spiritual and emotional support in addition to the medical support they receive.
"The people who have been coming are finding that they are connecting to everyone on a very deep and supportive level," she said. "But it's also for friends and family who need a place or space to relax and not have to worry for a little bit. Even thought it's being held at a Catholic church, it's still open to everyone and we hope to see a lot of people come out."
Joyce Kulhawik will speak at the group's meeting on Thursday, Feb. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Gathering Space, in the lower level of the church. For more information check out www.stagathaparish.org or 617-698-2439.