Fantasy League

20Nov15

The irony of the moment was not lost on acting Planning Board chairman Bill Spaulding.

“I do find it interesting that you’re questioning the parking – the amount of it,” Spaulding told Bronwyn Della-Volpe at hearing last week on Town Meeting Article 12, which was aimed at revitalizing the downtown with more mixed-use, residential-above-retail development.

Bronwyn Della-VolpeDella-Volpe is president of something called the Wakefield Civic League, the latest name adopted by the group that in 2014 succeeded in blocking the construction of a public parking garage in the downtown. Shelter Development would have built the garage at no cost to the town as part of its proposed Brightview Senior Living facility.

Now the Civic League is so very concerned about where people will park in the wake of another town initiative to revitalize Wakefield’s downtown. Article 12 on the Nov. 19 Town Meeting warrant was aimed the kind of mixed-use, residential on top of retail development that has helped to turn downtown Melrose into the vibrant, bustling district Wakefield aspires to emulate.

So naturally, the Wakefield Civic League opposed it.

But hey, they’re not anti-development – just like their members were not against assisted living when they signed a petition last year to eliminate the town’s assisted living overlay district.
Main_st-east_side
According to WCL’s Facebook page, which in six months has managed to amass 128 “likes,” they just “care deeply about Wakefield – its past, present and future.”

Unless, of course, that future involves building anything.

“If you’re building housing, with no plan for parking,” Della-Volpe asked at the Planning Board hearing on Article 12, “isn’t that a problem?”

“I think the vacant buildings and what we have downtown now is a problem,” Town Planner Paul Reavis shot back.

But the theater of the absurd was just beginning.

Parking garage opponent and current Wakefield Civic League treasurer Pat Bruno offered his analysis of the state of the downtown.

Patrick_Bruno“People think there’s no parking in downtown Wakefield,” he told the Planning Board at the hearing. “But nobody in Town Hall ever thinks about taking any property to develop an open parking lot. You make these properties so valuable that the town doesn’t have the opportunity to buy or take it by eminent domain.”

Let’s review. A public parking garage built by a private company on land the town already owned was unacceptable and would not have helped downtown businesses. But the town taking someone’s private property by eminent domain to put up a parking lot is something the town should consider?

Members of the Wakefield Civic League believe that they let the town down in 2012 when gullible Town Meeting voters were duped into approving by a two-thirds margin an Assisted Living Overlay District in the downtown area. If only our protectors had been there in 2012, they could have saved us from the error of our ways.

Alas, they failed us.

brightview_slim
But just like The Who, these guardians of the public good have vowed that they won’t get fooled again. They have been attending Planning Board hearings for all the zoning amendments headed for Town Meeting, just in case the town tries to sneak something past the voters again.

They even helpfully remind voters to read the warrant articles before attending Town Meeting. (And eat your vegetables, too!)

What would we ever do without them?

Now, the town wants to streamline zoning in an effort to attract investment in the downtown and fill some of the vacant space that everyone is constantly complaining about.

And the Wakefield Civic League is worried about where people will park.

You can’t make this stuff up.

[This column originally appeared in the Nov. 19, 2015 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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