Take My Council, Please: Closing the Book on 2015…
SPRINGFIELD—During the final meeting for two city councilors defeated for reelection November, the City Council closed out the year with new ordinances and approval of grants for parks in the city. Several weighty issues will be delayed until next year when the new council is sworn, but the body did take its first action, if also the least controversial one, toward approving MGM’s site plan.
At a special meeting held two hours before its regular seven o’clock meeting, councilors approved a zone change to establish a casino overlay district for MGM’s property. Following the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s acceptance of the company’s Section 61 conditions, the zone change allows MGM to begin demolishing buildings, although further approvals for its design changes still lie ahead.
Those will not be taken up until next year. Monday night, the Council faced other matters, if ones it dispensed with quickly.
Substantive policy encompassed erecting the Colony Hills Historical District near Longmeadow. The new district, wedged between the city line and Forest Park, includes some of the city’s stateliest homes.
Also approved was an ordinance making minor changes to the taxi and livery commission ordinance that removes minimum vehicle requirements for livery services registered in the city.
Several items remained in committee including a resolution urging limits to the sale of cigars, rules on for the Council’s agenda and a home rule petition establishing special elections for vacancies in the Council’s ward seats.
New items going to committee were a resolution urging Congress to allow municipalities in Puerto Rico to seek bankruptcy protection and an ordinance on freshwater fish consumption.
The rest was mostly housekeeping. Councilors had few questions on the revenue and expenditures report or grants. One grant totaling $650,000 was notable as it is slated for South Branch Park. Part of the park is being renamed for Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, a native son of Springfield killed during the shooting of a Chattanooga, Tennessee military recruiting station.
The Council also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission looking into establishing a bike share program in the region.
The Council allowed payment of a bill from last year and signed off on quitclaim deeds for properties along Maple and Central Streets. Facta Non Verba, LCC, the buyer, will restore townhouses along Maples Street and redevelop a lot on Central Street for parking.
Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards, whose district includes the properties, praised the developers for investing in the city. While acknowledging a need for low-income housing in the area remains, he noted, “This is not subsidized housing, this is market rate housing.”
One of Facta Non Verba’s managers, Roger Roberge, purchased the former Sumner Avenue fire station in East Forest Park last year. Previous redevelopment schemes for these townhouses have not worked out and hopes that Roberge will succeed where others have not will be high.
Before an informal caucus of reelected and newly election councilors to nominate the Council’s president and vice-president—President Michael Fenton and Vice-President Orlando Ramos were re-nominated—councilors honored their outgoing members with a pair of proclamations.
Both Ward 1 Councilor Zaida Luna and Ward 5 Councilor Clodo Concepcion were defeated for reelection in last month’s election. Luna and Concepcion were part of the class of councilors elected in 2009 when Springfield restored ward representation.
“They have served with great distinction and honor and an incredible work ethic over the last six years,” Fenton said announcing the recognitions.
Before the meeting, the Council also issued a proclamation to Springfield Police Sergeant John Delaney.
In the spirit of the season, the meeting was short so the Council could hold its annual holiday gathering for councilors, staff and other City Hall denizens
(Disclosure: WMassP&I Editor-in-chief Matt Szafranski attended off the record).