Recap of eHop’s Spotlight Forum on Town Growth & Development

Recap of eHop’s Spotlight Forum on Town Growth & Development

On March 22, 2018 eHop hosted a public forum on Town Growth and Development attended by a standing room only crowd.  The forum provided a high-level snapshot of Hopkinton’s dramatic population growth, the impact on our budget and services, and information on how residents can get involved in shaping how the Town plans for and responds to development in the future.  Organized by residents for residents, the evening provided a unique opportunity for residents and town leaders to listen and learn from each other in an open exchange of information and ideas.  Much of the program was dedicated to open Q&A with a panel of town leaders including Elaine Lazarus, Director of Land Use and Town Operations, John Ferrari, Chairman of the Planning Board and the Open Space Preservation Commission, and Norman Khumalo, Town Manager.  eHop would like to thank our panelists and the many community leaders, department heads, committee volunteers, and residents who took the time to attend and engage in the conversation.  We would also like to thank the Hopkinton Center for the Arts for the use of their loft space as well as Mike Torosian and HCAM-TV for filming the event.

Below is a breakdown of the forum by topic and question.  Click on the hyperlinked time stamps and jump to the point in the video that is  most important to you.  Note that the questions and comments are paraphrased and are not direct quotes.

  • 0:00 WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION

  • 5:03 OVERVIEW OF TOWN GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT

  • 9:45 EHOP’S OPENING QUESTIONS FOR THE PANEL:

  • 9:36  Do you think that Town Growth and Development is the driving force behind the expected tax increase and can you talk about the factors that are driving the increase?
  • 12:47 Why doesn’t the new tax revenue from new growth in town cover the cost of expanding our services? Why is there a gap?
  • 15:00 Does the Planning Board have the power to slow development and what are the levers that the Planning Board and residents control that can shape development going forward.
  • 20:50 What trends have you seen over time in terms of growth and development in town?  What can we learn from them? What questions do you think we should we be asking based on your years of experience working for Hopkinton?

  • 23:32 COMMUNITY QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS:

  • 24:35 My neighborhood learned the hard way that the Zoning Advisory Committee is pivotal.  Agricultural zone can equal a solar farm. How do you plan for things you don’t anticipate?  How do we see around the corner to see what could be included within the agricultural zone that we might not have thought of already?
  • 31:33 Are we trying to incentivize development as a town?
  • 35:20 Why aren’t we able to consider a reduction in services?  Why is that off the table and the [tax] burden is passed to me?
  • 37:25 I’d like to find out more about some of the decisions that caused double digit and triple digit increases in our taxes per household.  What are our considerations when we make those decisions and why aren’t those decisions put on referendums?
  • 43:58 How do you put it in the bylaws that any new development that has a baring of triple digit tax increases must always come to a referendum?  Second question: How does the Town plan for variable costs?
  • 46:53 We need to get our neighbors and friends to Town Meeting.  If you’re not at Town Meeting or elections, you’re not playing a role in what your taxes are.
  • 49:03: How will the next ten years of development compare to the last ten years?
  • 51:54 Do we have demographics? I’m a senior living in a four-bedroom house and I don’t need it anymore, but I don’t have an option in Hopkinton to go to.  I want to stay here, but I don’t want condo or apartment, however I do want a smaller footprint. Developers are building four bedroom and three car garage houses and the median price is skyrocketing.  Maybe in the future we can attract developers who can build smaller homes? Do we have demographics on our population? Have we ever done a survey to find out how many seniors would like to stay in town and what housing is available?
  • 55:16 Do we have a figure in terms of how much debt the Town is carrying now and the projected growth of debt we’re going to carry?  I’m concerned about towns, states, and the country having very large debts.
  • 1:00:05  Do we know what our town’s build out number is and when we might reach that point?  How are we planning for that and what will our services and budget look like at that point?
  • 1:01:38 How can we fill up empty buildings on South Street?  What about the future of Dell/EMC?
  • 1:05:21 Regarding developing South Street — perhaps we could bring something like Marlborough’s Apex Center to the South Street, where there are restaurants, movie theaters, and activities for young people.
  • 1:06:13  Is there an update on Center School? That could be a huge project that might fall on the tax payers.  I’m for doing something with that wonderful location and building, but I’m wondering if there’s an update on it.
  • 1:11:07 I am a new resident.  Can you, in layman terms, explain what is it about Hopkinton that makes it unique?   For example, how we make decisions on tax policies — how is that different from other towns?
  • 1:15:55  Are debt exclusions on the referendum at the election? On the form when we voted on them, were the tax increase numbers written on the ballot?  If not, can we have that language on the ballot going forward?
  • 1:16:39:   We are victims of our own success.  We have good schools, good public safety…we have all this expansion because we have all of this land.  We are attracting new residents. All of this stuff costs money. As the former Police Chief, when we sat down at budget time, I had to justify every penny that we had to spend.  We can’t anticipate every penny we need to spend, however there is planning that goes into spending. You need to understand, when we want a brand new DPW building or brand new library, costs come with that.  You can’t expect that someone else is going to pay for that.
  • 1:18:28:  In a world in which we give the Town a 7% tax increase that you want, what is the glide path before the town is back having this conversation again?  How long before the uptick stops?
  • 1:19:38  Discussion about recent underrides.

  • 1:25:26 EHOP’S CLOSING REMARKS ON WAYS TO STAY INFORMED AND ENGAGED (Read more…)


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