The next meeting is scheduled for 8/16 at Parkside Middle 5-7PM.
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Here’s some media coverage:
Proposal for West Side community center clears first hurdle…
WHAT DEFINES a community? Is it a location, a value system, a bit of both? Should something be called a “community center” when the people who live there don’t want it? Can you claim to be building “community” when you don’t inform abutters, the residents who would be most impacted?
The Manchester Board of Alderman and Mayor Joyce Craig voted to sell 4.2 acres of public parkland next to Parkside Middle in West Manchester for $600,000 to a private entity called the “Mark Stebbins Community Center.”
Fourteen individuals spoke against the center at this location. Eight spoke in favor, all affiliated with the city or project. The week before, the project facilitator, Jeanine Tousignant, shut down an informational session when it became clear the approximately hundred attendees were aggrieved.
Abutters were not informed until after the letter of intent for the sale had been signed; i.e., neighborhood homeowners were not told about the plans until the “deal was done.”
Joe Kelly Levasseaur voted against the “surplus” recommendation without abutter consent. Ed Sapienza stated that an RFP process should have been followed. At Tousignant’s abridged meeting, we were told, “We aren’t legally required to inform abutters.” My neighbor responded, “We all know what’s ‘legal,’ isn’t always what’s ‘right.’”
Do you think the government should change the nature of your neighborhood without your consent? Do you think it is right for one group of special interests (the Mayor’s friends pushing this, Group A) to “help” another group of special interests (the beneficiaries of the largess, Group B) without telling the people who bear the brunt of these actions (Group C)?
Is this good governance? No; it is exactly what’s wrong with the government– everyone thinks it’s OK to bleed Group C, the taxpaying property owners. We are tired of this.
The park is next to Parkside Middle, situated on five dead-end streets. The speed limit is 10 mph. A robust community garden exists called Manchester Grows. Forty percent of the property is on a steep hillside, not suitable for building. They are proposing a 40,000 sf building plus parking.
To declare the site “surplus,” Parks and Rec must demonstrate the land is not being used for any purpose and that the sale is in the “public interest.” Based on my Right-to-Know requests, the boilerplate letters submitted simply state the land is “surplus” and that taking it will be in the “public interest” without explaining why. One might even ask, who is “the public”? Apparently no-one in Group C.
What about our community garden and green space where children play? Only the president of Manchester Grows supports relocating. Other gardeners do not. One asked why the notices weren’t put on the fence to inform them? Good question. Perhaps the claimed efforts to involve the community is not the whole truth?
What about other sites? West High, Second Street, and the Housing Authority plot near Rock Rimmon that seems more suitable? Erin George Kelly (Ward 12) cited a conflict of interest during the surplus vote; what was it?
Everyone is committed to doing good for the children of the West Side, but let me be clear. We cannot start with objectionable, unethical behavior and expect good to follow. The city and the Mayor’s friends need to apologize for the railroading, and let’s regroup together.
If this is such a good idea, they should be able to persuade the majority of abutters. Or do they realize as I do, that this rushed decision will depress our property values by 10 to 30%, downshift to us the costs of services provided to this “tax free” property, and invite increased crime and homelessness into our safe neighborhood.
Perhaps the reason they failed to inform us is because they know exactly what they are doing and don’t want to confront our rightful outrage.
We can debate the best solutions to solve society’s problems, but I know when you harm one group to benefit another you are not doing good, despite what you tell yourself. Deciding who must make sacrifices for “the greater good” should be done with the advice and consent of the people doing the sacrificing.
I hope we can figure something out, not only for the connected and the people who will receive services, but also those of us who live next to the park, grow our vegetables there, and pay our property taxes for our still safe streets.
The next MSCC meeting is scheduled for August 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Parkside Middle School. Learn more at ParksidePark.org.
Carla Gericke lives in West Manchester. She is the Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in Ward 11.