To the editor:
At the the Financial Town Meeting on June 16, 2021, out of the total 14,768 eligible voters in Barrington, the 351 voters who attended held a close vote to acquire the 25 Watson …
To the editor:
At the the Financial Town Meeting on June 16, 2021, out of the total 14,768 eligible voters in Barrington, the 351 voters who attended held a close vote to acquire the 25 Watson Ave property - where the former Carmelite Monastery still stands. How this issue came to the FTM was explained, by then Town Council President Mike Carroll. He shared that we would not want to lose the opportunity for the community to have senior housing and other amenities for the town. He said that the bid has been tentatively accepted and that evening we would have the opportunity to vote to acquire and preserve this property. There was assurance from him that there will be public hearings to decide what we will do with the property in the future.
Mr. Sam Chase questioned why place affordable housing there and that the town could have done an impact study.
Ms. Christine Squatrito asked, what are the other options?
Mr. John Conte, discussed that we need an environmental impact study and questioned open space.
Mr. David Butera, suggested keeping it as open space for townspeople.
Mr. Steve Venuti, Ms. Laura Young, and Ms. Irene Inouye added input on the opportunity for senior and/or affordable housing.
However, the future was left mostly open for the community to decide.
The motion that passed that night would “fund the Acquisition and Preservation of the former Carmelite Monastery and the Financing thereof through the Issuance of General Obligation Bonds and/or Notes in an Amount not to Exceed $3,500,000.”
Now, two years later we have had input from the community on proposed plans gathered by the 25 Watson Ad-Hoc Committee. The three takeaway areas of consensus the initial consultants listed were “Natural Resources, Non-Resident Use, and Parking.” Looking into notes from the Ad-Hoc Committee, you can see there is consensus around utilizing the natural resource of the property for public use, with concerns about non-resident use and it being used for parking.
So, with that consensus, why did the Town Council vote NOT to look into a list of more than $25 million dollars of available funding opportunities to preserve or creatively use the open space for community use? Why do the two leading plans being pushed forward have either one or four affordable units, 10-14 market value senior units, and five or six market value luxury homes? The open space on the property remains an afterthought, with less than 1/3 of the lot for preservation and community use. It’s currently being proposed to be left to the management of an HOA. Something about this does not feel right.
To the 14,417 Barrington voters who were not at the 2021 FTM: this property is now yours, but maybe not for long. Come give your input during public comment at the September 11 Town Council Meeting and help create this as a beautiful space for all of us.