You can read all the facts in our Get the Facts series, but let's go over some of the biggest objections:
Eminent domain - The Town will pay land owners for any property taken at a fair market rate. Eminent domain will be a last resort only if owners refuse to sell.
Why is that necessary? - Even aside from paving, the Town has to secure the rights to access our utilities. "Prescriptive easement" allows the public to continue walking the path but would not allow the Town onto private property to work on fiber optic and sewer lines that run under the path.
(Emergency repairs are under a different standard and would be able to happen.)
What's to say the Town won't take my land next? - There are lots of safeguards against this, actually. The fact that it's almost unprecedented for the Town to use eminent domain should reassure you: it's incredibly rare. And when it is even suggested, we have to vote on it, as we are doing now, and reach a 2/3 consensus that the project justifies the taking.
Aren't some people losing half their front yard? - People are losing land; there's no question about that. Some residents along Railroad Ave will lose front yard space to create a safe path for pedestrians and cyclists. Those easements are actually not even eminent domain; those easements were always there because we knew we would someday have to create that safe path. Now is the time.
OK, but what about Blanding's turtles? - There are no active nesting sites affected by this project, and the Department of Environmental Protection has signed off on that. Dr. Windmiller, the expert that the opposition cites, has admitted that the paving project would not directly impact the turtles. Check out our Environmental Facts for more info.
Isn't the funding for this revoked? And what about when costs go up and up? - The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that administers the Traffic Improvement Plan (TIP) where this money is coming from did take the project off their budget for the next cycle. Why? Because we didn't get the 2/3 majority in the spring to make this happen. However, they also voted unanimously to put us back into their budget when we have the 2/3 vote done. It's also standard policy that once MPO funds a project, they commit to covering overages from inflation and anything else that we can't currently account for.
I've heard that there's no accountability for how much clearing and grubbing will be done. I'm afraid nature is being destroyed. - The project plans have clear limits on where work can be done. There has been some confusion over what "proposed" means, and also the idea that the Town "can't dictate means and methods" to MassDOT. These are technical terms in engineering projects. Proposed sets the maximum boundary of where work can happen; it could be well within those lines. And means and methods refers to the fact that the Town and MassDOT can't micromanage the contractor. In other words, we collaborate with them - they're doing this at our request remember - but we can't tell them to use a backhoe in one spot and a shovel in a different spot. They figure out the right tools and materials within the project scope.
I understand the objections. But why should I vote YES? So many reasons! Accessibility, safety improvements, benefits to the whole Town. Please read more and feel free to ask us any questions.