Lowell City Council Meeting: January 12, 2016
Unfinished business: By Councilor Elliott to reconsider denial of grant of an easement to benefit property at 155 Mansur Street. Also vote to take out of order a petition by property owners (the Rombergs) to reconsider the denial of the petition to grant an easement onto his property from Fairview Street. (Councilor Samaras, an abutter, has left the chamber for this matter because of a conflict). Mr. Romberg asks the council to grant access to their property from Fairview Street. Petitioner explains why he thinks he already has legal access to his property from Fairview Street. Elliott says his motion was to get an update on the status. He says in the past we have allowed easements of this nature. Says the city is not using the land the easement would cross.
Mayor Kennedy says the normal procedure is to refer a petition such as this for a report and recommendation. Councilor Rourke says this was before the council back in May 2015, says neighbors came and spoke in opposition to it. The council voted to deny this request back then on a roll call vote (6 against, none in favor). He asks what has changed since then? Councilor Elliott says the petitioners asked again, it’s a simple request, and asks Mr. Romberg if anything has changed. Mayor Kennedy tells Councilor Elliott that the motion on the floor is to refer it to the Law Department, not to take testimony from the petitioner. Mr. Romberg gives a general explanation. Mayor Kennedy asks what is different now. Mr. Romberg says he received no notice of the petition being on the agenda the last time and so he wasn’t there. City Manager Murphy says that since the original petition was for an easement there was no need to go to the planning or zoning boards. Matter is referred to the Law Department.
Motion Responses: Regarding Cupples Square parking meters, Councilor Belanger thanks the Manager for a comprehensive report, but says the report indicates that the meters will still be emplaced even though some business owners “weren’t too keen on it.” Manager Murphy says “some” business owners weren’t keen on it but many of them are and see the benefits of it. Says there is a Cupples Square business association meeting on January 20 when it will be discussed again. Councilor Samaras asks Manager Murphy to explain the process: He says it began 18 months ago on Bridge Street. A big team from the city visits the business district and holds meetings. From the meeting at Cupples Square we learned they desired more curb appeal, improved facades. We helped with both of them and then have installed the new traffic and sidewalk patterns. He says he suggested parking meters on Westford St but the businesses were opposed to that so the city deferred. The businesses did agree that parking meters should be installed in the LeRoy St lot behind the businesses. Councilor Elliott says he’s visited this area frequently. He says he’s concerned about a lease of some of the spaces in that lot to Caleb Corp. He says that lot needs to be managed better. He says that Westford St is clogged with cars, probably by business owners. Maybe there should be 30 minute parking signs on Westford Street.
In response to a report on the process of changing the charter, Councilor Mercier says she has filed a motion for next week to increase number of candidates needed for a preliminary election from 19 to 25 and to increase the signature requirement from 50 to 150.
Smith Baker Center – Vote to Accept Proposal by Coalition for a Better Acre to purchase the Smith Baker Center for $300,000. Councilor Elliott commends CBA for all the work they’ve done thus far and predicts that in the next few years there will be a lot of activity in the building (which is across the street from City Hall). Councilor Mercier says that she concurs. That the CBA under the leadership of Yun-Ju Choi has done amazing work. Council unanimously adopts proposal.
By Councilor Mercier, to request Congresswoman Tsongas to support restoration of asset forfeiture program that helps fund local law enforcement. Passes
By Councilors Leary and Samaras, to investigate traffic safety risks of cars using the breakdown lane on Pawtucket Blvd to turn onto Old Ferry Rd.
By Councilor Leary to contact Federal elected officials to advocate for adequate funding for newcomer students. He explains we get about $12K per student while the cost of a newcomer student is closer to $22K. Councilor Belanger says it is a good motion. He says we receive nearly 400 newcomers per year. Says this is not sustainable. It could cause an increase in taxes. Ten years down the road, “we’re in trouble.”
By Councilor Leahy have proper department address liter in “panhandling areas” around the city. He says this is “driving me nuts.” Cites Plain Street, downtown. Says anything we can do to address this would be appreciated. Councilor Belanger says “they leave signs for the next person, coffee cups, etc.” He then asks the City Manager to brief the council on “our rights” after the court ruled against the city’s panhandling ordinance. Manager says the courts have ruled that we cannot stop panhandling in the way that we have tried with a specific ordinance. He also says that all of these cases say it is permissible to use existing ordinances such as anti-littering laws to deal with panhandling. Councilor Leahy says when he was in Savanah, Georgia, there were signs outlawing panhandling all over the place.
Meeting adjourns at 8:14 p.m.
8 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: January 12, 2016
You need to do something about the people sleeping on Middlesex Street I’ve got pictures if you need to see them also using the street as their outdoor outhouse it’s an embarrassment to family and friends who come to visit downtown to go to the registry to come to the coffee shop or do any of the business and that neighbor boy he wants to go there clean it up it’s disgusting and getting worse every single day make them who they sleep there all night all day long on that porch of the church at 150 Middlesex St. You have officers coming in for training from other cities they come from the elevator the first thing they get to look at are the people hanging out are shooting up being on the street right in front of them there is not A lot to like about Lowell!! I’m challenging the city manager to do something about it it only hurt the businesses in the area.
Can the city council vote to change the charter? It seems unethical to vote to make it harder for people to challenge you.
Parking meters were invented to help businesses. Putting a price on on-street parking prevents freeloaders from taking the best spots and discouraging would-be shoppers.
Properly pricing parking ensures shoppers with disposable income will always find a spot. Charging only for the less desirable Leroy St lot spots will make the Westford St spots more desirable for employees and business owners. They’re screwing themselves advocating for free on-street parking.
Mayor Kennedy has advocated for a ‘downtown improvement district’ where businesses put funds into a kitty to spend on improving downtown. It’s basically a self imposed tax. I like it but politically it’s difficult to institute.
A ‘parking benefit district’ is easier politically to institute because users pay the “tax”. A portion of the metered revenue would be put into a kitty for improvements to Cupples Square.
The city has spent too much money reconfiguring the square to mess this up.
Kim, it is the state legislature that can make changes to the charter. The city council can request that such changes be made but it’s up to the legislature to do it.
“Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order. Its essence is intricacy of sidewalk use, bringing with it a constant succession of eyes. This order is all composed of movement and change, and although it is life, not art, we may fancifully call it the art form of the city and liken it to the dance — not to a simple-minded precision dance with everyone kicking up at the same time, twirling in unison and bowing off en masse, but to an intricate ballet in which the individual dancers and ensembles all have distinctive parts which miraculously reinforce each other and compose an orderly whole. The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any once place is always replete with new improvisations.”
― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
There aren’t enough “eyes” or “individual dancers” on Middlesex street to police the street from the ground up. Top down policing is too reactive to make a difference.
If we stop prioritizing cars over people we’ll get more dancers.
What Westford street is in desperate need of is shade trees. This is the main corridor from the highland to downtown; we spend a year putting in new sidewalks and not one shade tree. This is proof that no matter how much the council wants more complete streets; we simply don’t have the engineering to make it happen. Aside from the cupples square portion; the street is no more walkable than it was two years ago. Literally spinning our wheels.
Excellent point Jay. There are no students of good urbanism on the council. Everyone is swinging for the fences when all we need is singles and doubles.
I agree about planting more trees, they make areas that are all asphalt and granite much more attractive. Sidewalks that aren’t shoveled don’t encourage walking. I’ve heard many complaints about icy walkways in front of businesses and city property recently.