Marshfield approves Dukakis Center’s outside look at plans
“There will be a time we will have forgotten how we turned our beautiful town into a city.”
Spoken by Montana Street resident Bob Parkis, these words echoed in the Furnace Brook Middle School Auditorium as voters passed an article allowing expenditure for a program identifying economical statistics and features in Marshfield.
The article requesting $4,500 to establish a contract with Northeastern University’s Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy stirred conversation and raised concerns with several residents.
According to selectmen John Hall who presented the article, the agreement enters Marshfield in a program featuring site location specialists who will identify the town’s economic strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. The article passed with a majority vote following comments and questions from voters – many of which were skeptical of its purpose, necessity and implications.
Among subjects to be studied are accesses to customers and markets, labor, municipal process, quality of life and tax rates, Hall said, adding the information would complement the town’s Master Plan currently underway. (In 2012 Town Meeting approved $113,000 for the project which town planner Paul Halkiotis described as providing a forum for residents to express how they envision the town in the future and develop strategies to make it happen.)
“It is a time of rising federal deficits and a drive to cut the federal debt, little additional aid coming to local communities, and the state is facing a structural deficit,” Hall said. “In the new environment of fiscal restraint local communities will prosper only if they find new sources of revenue. The best way to do this is to attract new businesses.”
Urban affairs and public policy professor Barry Bluestone who directs the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University would oversee the study, according to Hall.
Peterson Path resident Eric Kelley asked why the study was not more appropriate for the Chamber of Commerce or a real estate firm to commission.
“This seems like information that they would use,” he said. “The taxpayers should not be expected to pay for this.”
Wilson Road resident Joe Pecevich said he was concerned about Bluestone’s involvement stating Bluestone was known for supporting Chapter 40B (and similar) affordable housing projects in communities, which Marshfield has repeatedly rejected in the past.
“We cannot have him come into Marshfield,” he said. “He will find a way and draw a map to make it easier for developers to exploit our town.”
“Quincy once looked like Marshfield and soon Marshfield will look like Quincy. We are doing this to ourselves,” said Parkis, who inquired why the town planner was not doing the work. “It seems to me the planning personnel and the people of Marshfield have a better feel of the town they want to live in and the town they moved to.”
Halkiotis responded the plan would bring an outside objective view of the land use, regulations and permitting process.
“It will assess the town’s ability to attract the right kind of businesses to create jobs locally,” he said.
Residents stated examples of incomplete projects that needed to be finished before the town assumed another study or survey. Speakers raised Enterprise Park, Route 139 widening, field construction and rezoning in their comments.
In response Hall told the audience developers interested in selecting business locations look for highway access and information about permitting and taxes, which would be reviewed in the process.
Phyllis Maglio of Arlington Street had concerns over changes to the town.
“(Residents) don’t need industry, distribution centers, congestion, more and more development just to have more tax money to come into the town. When that happens more people are in the town and we need more schools and more sewerage, which we don’t have at this point anyway. There are other things we need.”
Genevieve Lane resident Ann Pollard spoke in favor of the article telling voters she believed economic development was important to the town.
“We need to be proactive about economic opportunities,” she said. “People have an opportunity and now is the time to think about the types of businesses we want to attract to Marshfield.”