By: Tom Duggan, 3-12-16
The contentious race for Board of Selectman in North Andover has gotten even more contentious between five term incumbent Rosemary Smedile and challenger Chris Nobile who sits on the town’s Finance Committee. Nobile is blaming Smedile for the debacle that is the Bradstreet School project saying that if she had voted for the low income housing proposal put forth by Selectman Tracy Watson the building would be finished and the contractor would not be looking for more money.
At issue is the fact that the developer appeared before the board of selectmen last week asking for more money and/or the ability to be able to add more housing units, and possibly turning units into condos long after the project has already begun.
Nobile says that the lack of vision by the board and the absence of a master plan means that the town lost a historical building and its replacement is now in question.
Selectman Smedile wasted no time hitting back, telling The Valley Patriot in an exclusive interview Saturday, that Nobile “doesn’t know what he’s taking about, his fact are all wrong.”
So goes the race to fill the only open seat on the Board of Selectman this month, which is supposed to be a non-partisan race, but once again has Republican Smedile being challenged by the Democratic party activists in town who are all supporting Nobile.
(For the record, Nobile left the Democratic party shortly before seeking office.)
The election is Tuesday, March 29th.
THE FIGHT OVER BRADSTREET
“At the forum sponsored by NACAM, Rosemary Smedile pointed to the Bradstreet project as something she was proud of. In my view it is an embarrassment,” Nobile said in a press release on Friday.
“We have a developer she voted for that is seeking to totally change the deal, delay construction again, and totally change the use, terms and conditions that she voted for. Furthermore, because of the lack of a master plan we’ve lost a historic building, and have accomplished only uncertainty and years of delay. If she had voted for the competing proposal supported by Chair Tracy Watson, the project would be near completion now and we would have kept at least the facade of that beautiful iconic downtown building,” Nobile says.
Not True Smedile says.
“His facts are wrong. He is wrong,” she said softly.
“First of all, Tracy’s proposal was all affordable housing, and the board said, ‘No, that’s not what we had in mind.’ So, for him to say that if I supported Tracy this project would be up and running, is simply not true. Even with my vote it still would have failed. But, I did support another project where the school building itself remained. The contractor was out of Cambridge and has a fantastic reputation. That plan was for keeping the existing school with built out additions coming out from each side. They would have had a commercial building that was all glass, and then in the center there would have been a nice park. Bill [Gordon] and I voted for that proposal but it failed,” she said.
“Am I proud we finally made a decision, rather than let an empty building sit there doing nothing downtown? Yes, I am. But, as far as his claims that it would be all finished by now, it’s just not true. Sometimes, when you lose a vote on an issue, you still need to move forward with the consensus decision of the board so things can move forward, even if it’s not exactly what you want” she said.
Chris Nobile says that Smedile’s vote demonstrates her “lack of vision as a Selectman to understand that a project without financing is a loser from day one…”
“During the forum Smedile also claimed ‘the board regularly tweaked the master plan’, when in fact only the master facilities plan (for municipal buildings only) has been revised. It has actually been nearly 20 years since the town master plan, which sets one integrated view of needs and vision for form North Andover, has been updated.”
“How much opportunity and revenue to support our senior center, veterans’ housing, and schools has been lost due to Smedile’s hesitance to invest in a new master plan which is nearly 10 years overdue?” Nobile lamented.”
NO MASTER PLAN
Smedile defended her position and her comments on the master plan, also defending the rest of the board, saying Nobile’s attack on her are really attacks on the entire board of selectmen.
“As for his claims on the master plan, that really comes under the planning board. And it’s just a guide. You can’t have a master plan that is unchanged for 20 years, whether it’s your home, or business, or for a community. Certain things come up and you have to adjust for that. Sometimes priorities change, so you have to move things around and make changes as you go. Master plans are expensive and time consuming, and if he thinks the master plan will be the fix for everything, it’s not.”
“I want to make something clear,” she continued, her voice dropping from the usual even keeled tone.
“I’m not just defending myself, here, I’m defending the board. When he takes shots at me like this he’s really going after the whole board of selectmen and I think that’s really unfair. We worked very hard to come to a consensus to make sure that the project was as in line with the town’s priorities as we could.”
“Before we singed over that property to the Hearthstone Development, they were being financed through Pentuckett Bank, that’s the primary lender. For the secondary lender we brought in Mass Development. So, in order for us to transfer that property over to them, they had to have financing. That’s a fact. It’s in the agreement.”
THE TOWN HAS PROTECTION
“Also, if they don’t proceed in a timely fashion,” Smedile continued. “We have a schedule of performance, which is pretty typical for construction. They have a schedule to perform and if they don’t do it according to the performance schedule, we can exercise our right to take back the property. Now, nobody wants to do that. But, we do need to have the developer work with us and be sure he is giving it the advertising and promotion it deserve to comply with what we all agreed to.”
Smedile says that the initial proposed development was to have housing on the second floor in the first round [of voting by the board]. “We refused that proposal. We insisted that it be office space. I would certainly be amendable to commercial or retail or office space on the second floor, because that’s what people wanted. They wanted businesses downtown. So, there’s absolutely was a finance agreement. He absolutely had financing before we transferred the property and we do have a schedule of performance that he must comply with. I mean, we can give him relief if there’s weather issues or something comes up, but we now need the developer step up and make this project work.”
Nobile says the mere fact that the developer has come back to the town looking for more money shows the lack of planning and leadership by the board, and in particular Selectman Smedile.
“The guys had the project in the ground, he has the foundation in and then come to us magically and says it’s not going well. He wants to add another floor and sell them as condos and add residencial units. That’s not what we negotiated. But now the town is in a defensive position and it’s problematic. With a new vision for the town we can avoid this in the future.