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Busa Talks Continued Due to Overcrowding

Facing an overflowing meeting room on Monday, Feb. 13, the Lexington selectmen tabled a scheduled discussion of housing on the Busa Farms property, citing concerns about participation and fire code violations.

 

The house was too full to talk about housing.

With apologizes to Janet Kern, her LexFarm crew and, later, to Dawn McKenna, the resident who alerted his board to the probable capacity problem, selectmen Chairman Hank Manz last night continued a what was to be an hour-long discussion about housing on the .

The make-up date is TBD.

According to the selectmen’s posted agenda, the Busa discussion—the third item for individual consideration—was due to come up around 8 p.m., but sizeable crowd gathered in the hallway as the board sat in executive session before the re-opening its meeting at 7 p.m. One woman even brought a lawn chair.

The posted capacity for the Selectmen’s Meeting Room is 55 persons if the room is set up densely with tables and chairs, and 72 if it’s standing room.

Before the public comment period ended, 39 chairs were filled and at least a dozen more lined the windowsills and aisles. In the front of the room, the five selectmen and two town staffers sat around their table. Add another 20-something out in the hallway.

Following an interim report from the Estabrook School Access Ad Hoc Task Force, McKenna voiced her concern that the meeting had exceeded its capacity for the room, and that the people in the hallway could pose a safety hazard.  

Initially, Manz brushed off the comment, but he then agreed to take a short recess and see how the room looked after any who came out for the Estabrook item exited the . 

A few moments later, Manz returned to the room and announced the Busa discussion would have to be continued, due to the potential fire code violation in the hallway.

When the room had cleared out, Manz thanked McKenna for bringing the possible violation to his attention and, later in the evening, further explained his decision in a post to the popular “Lexington List” Yahoo Group.

“Based on a discussion with the Town Clerk some months ago, and noting that we had a full room with more than 15 people still in the hallway and blocking the passage which would be a violation of the fire code, I reluctantly took the item off the agenda,” Manz wrote.  

“My apologies to all who showed up for the meeting.  I had based my estimates of how many would attend on the number who showed up for a similar discussion last week. As it turned out, that estimate was wrong. I also apologize for making the decision late in the game.”

Monday’s overflowing meeting came two weeks’ after for four to eight units of affordable housing on the Busa Farms property, which the town purchased in 2009. (Those plans are posted in a PDF, below the photos to the right.)

Following the Jan. 30 presentation, which was met with mixed reviews from the BOS and residents, Manz announced the board would block off at least an hour for discussion about housing on the Busa Land during its Feb. 13 meeting.

Monday night’s meeting was to be, at least in part, a response to questions from LexFarm representatives, residents and backers of strict adherence to the BLUPC report about when there would be public hearings at which there could be open conversations about plans and collaboration.

As of late Monday night it was unclear when that discussion will take place. Next Monday is a holiday – and school vacation week – so that’s out of the question.  As well, the selectmen said the next discussion about the Busa Land would be held at , where there is much more room than the Selectmen’s Meeting Room.

Stay tuned to Patch for more information about the next meeting as it becomes available.

Hank Manz February 14, 2012 at 01:17 PM
In fact, I did not brush off the comment. Rather, I delayed a decision. Some weeks ago, with nothing pressing on the agenda, I sought advice from the Town Clerk and others about how to handle unexpected attendance. So there is a natural order to things. Make sure those who were there for the previous discussion have cleared the room. Then get everybody for the current discussion in the room. Then count the house. Then make a decision. The room had not yet cleared from the previous discussion when the request from the floor was made. So I waited until the room had filled again before making the decision to suspend the discussion. I always welcome help, but rushing into a decision was not going to be helpful.
Patrick Ball (Editor) February 14, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Hank, fair enough. Once I'm able, I will watch the meeting again and quote both of you directly. In the meantime and in the interest of keeping the conversation going, If not for a suggestion from the public, do you believe your board would have eventually arrived at the same decision to suspend last night's discussion?
Hank Manz February 14, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Actually, I have no quibble with the Patch account. I should have explained the process. Just because I have a plan does not remove a requirement to explain that plan. And yes, a plan was in place and would have brought about the same result even absent the suggestion, although as I have said, help is always appreciated. The Town Clerk has suggested that all who show up must be accommodated. I have informally confirmed that interpretation with the AG's office. So with any event my plan is to wait for the room to fill and then see how many are left in the hallway. Once the room is truly full--and the stated capacity of the room allows it to be somewhat packed--and once the hallway is overflowing, then the meeting cannot move forward. Moving suddenly to Cary Hall would have been a mistake. Moreover, Cary Hall is a bit big for a discussion. What the Town needs is a hall able to hold about 100 people. The halls which can accommodate an audience of that size mostly have bad sound systems. As an aside I think some in the room expected a wide-ranging discussion of a community farm when, in fact, the discussion was to be a somewhat narrower discussion about affordable housing on the Busa parcel.
Meg Muckenhoupt February 15, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Why would you think people were interested in something other than affordable housing on the farm? The people I've talked with are very concerned about how much housing is planned for the farm and where it will be placed. Personally, I was there because I wanted to see LexFarm's alternative to LexHAB's plan to pave and build over the entire open stretch of Lowell Street next to the Arlington Reservoir. I'm sorry the session is being delayed; a lot of interested parents are going to be out of town during school vacation next week. That said, the Busa farm issue has *always* drawn a lot of people to town meetings. Be prepared!
Beth February 27, 2012 at 03:24 AM
The meeting is rescheduled to 2/27/12 http://www.egovlink.com/public_documents300/lexington/published_documents/meeting%20postings/2012-02. By the way, it is almost a year since BLUPC report was presented to Selectmen on 3/14/11.
Beth February 28, 2012 at 03:34 PM
"As an aside I think some in the room expected a wide-ranging discussion of a community farm when, in fact, the discussion was to be a somewhat narrower discussion about affordable housing on the Busa parcel" -- many more people attended the meeting yesterday and everyone came to hear the discussion on HOUSING. Clearly, there is no support for affordable housing on Busa land. Why to build expensive new housing on Busa land if we can buy existing homes at better price ? Will Ideology Trump Opportunity?

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