PLYMPTON– On Monday, May 2, a new controversy reared its head before the Board of Selectmen. Increasingly, issues in Plympton that the board has no jurisdiction over end up before them at informal hearings, allowing the public to voice their opinions, but leading to little in the way of concrete action.
The major issue before the Board on Monday involved a commercial development project entirely outside the town limits of Plympton, and it is not clear why Plympton abutters to the Town of Carver appealed to Plympton selectmen, but none-the-less the meeting room was full.
A developer who own property in Carver, Route 44 Development, has proposed several projects over the past year that would be assisted with state urban redevelopment grant money. Residents who live near the Plympton/Carver border on Montello Street and Heather’s Path are concerned.
The latest iteration of the proposal, which includes a hotel and a mall, made some residents nervous because, they say, at a Carver Planning Board meeting the words, “eminent domain” were used in conjunction with the project, and 12-16 properties were listed. Eminent domain is when the government takes a property for public use, or in this case, commercial development.
According to residents, a U.S. Supreme Court case involving New London, CT, granted this expansion in eminent domain powers of governments, allowing private property to be taken for commercial development if it benefits the city or town. Although only two Plympton residents have properties which straddle the Plympton/Carver line that were on the original list of properties being considered for seizure by eminent domain, they are fearful, as are their neighbors, that their properties could be the ones selected.
Carver Selectman Alan Dunham was in the audience to allay some resident concerns, and the Plympton board allowed him to address the room. While he noted that the Carver developer has a right to build on his property, he said that 0-3 properties would be considered for seizure via eminent domain. He also noted that Carver would have no power to use eminent domain to take property physically in Plympton.
Dunham says that the project will not include a hotel, and is still in the early stages of planning. As the Carver Redevelopment Authority is providing assistance, the plan must first go from that board to the Planning Board to assure that it fits in with the town’s master plan, and then to the Carver selectmen, who would hold a hearing, and only then on to the state for approval for urban redevelopment funding.
Brian Cherry, of Trout Farm Lane, a candidate for Selectman, asked Dunham whether he was ready to support a project that would take, “half of this man’s property,” referring to one of the two border-straddling residents. Dunham was careful in his response, stating that he couldn’t lock himself in as he hasn’t seen a final plan. He also noted he was speaking personally, not on behalf of his five-member board.
The neighbors opposed the development in general, although from what they said it seemed as if many of them could have accepted living with the original, smaller plans for a two-building distribution facility in their backyards, which they were first notified about in May of 2015, they say.
The scale of the current plan is what appears to have struck a chord with so many, despite Selectman Dunham’s assurances that the current plans are a stretch– although the eminent domain issue certainly looks to be a real fear.
Lisa Maffioli, of Heather’s Path, characterized the project as a “monstrosity,” as well as a, “safety issue.” Jean Winslow, also of Heather’s Path, said she had received a notice from the Carver Planning Board that up to 30-50 trucks would pass through the Plympton section of Montello Street during the construction phase.
Some residents even suggested physically blocking off Montello Street at the Carver line, essentially creating a very long cul-de-sac from Route 58 to the end of Heather’s Path, but Town Coordinator Dale Pleau said that this could not legally be done for safety reasons. He also mentioned a statutory limit for the length of cul-de-sacs.
He did mention that the functional equivalent could possibly be achieved with signage designating the Plympton portion of Montello Street as forbidden to “thru-traffic”.
What began with residents and a lone Carver selectman arguing in the hallway ended in a civilized, if passionate discussion, and residents were respectful to each other, the board and to the visiting selectman.
There was a palpable sense of relief from those gathered that their concerns were being heard, even though the Board of Selectmen has little to no authority over the situation.
As the selectmen were also meeting the next day to finalize preparations for Town Meeting, much of the rest of the agenda was moved to Tuesday, and the meeting ended shortly after the hearing.
• The Plympton BOS next meets on Mondays, May 9, May 16, and May 23 at 6 p.m.