Lowell City Council Meeting: May 24, 2016

Rourke Bridge: Councilor Belanger reports that the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments and the member communities of NMCOG are all lobbying the state to raise the priority of a Rourke Bridge replacement. He also warns that the initial feasibility study is several years old and that if the follow-on environmental study is not done in the next year or two that the feasibility study will be obsolete and will have to be redone.

Payments in Lieu of Taxes – Aside from a few churches that voluntarily pay a few hundred dollars per year, only the Lowell Housing Authority and two co-generation companies (which are compelled by law to contribute), no non-profits in Lowell make any payments in lieu of taxes so Lowell is 23rd in the Commonwealth in terms of the amount of money so collected. City Manager Murphy plans to reach out to the communities higher on the list and learn about their strategies with an eye towards adopting them for Lowell.

Master Development Agreement with WinnDevelopment Co LTD – pulled at request of City Manager.

Resolution in support of State Senate transgender anti-discrimination bill (which was debated last week). Passes 8 to 1 (Elliott opposed).

Councilor Milinazzo asks to suspend the rules to refer several matters requested by the Pawtucketville Citizens group to the Zoning Subcommittee.


By Councilor Elliott, request City Manager work with Superintendent of Lowell Public Schools to determine cost of out of district students. Councilor Elliott says the school committee has discussed this but never with a cost associated with it. Given the school department request for additional funds, the city council should know how much of the school department budget is being spent on students living outside of the city but who attend Lowell public schools. Councilor Leahy says this is more of a school committee matter. Councilor Mercier responds that it is her duty to do what’s best for Lowell residents, not for people from outside of the city (i.e., children of teachers in Lowell schools who don’t live in Lowell). Councilor Elliott says “it’s a Lowell issue” and “any Lowell issue belongs here.”

By Councilor Samaras, request City Manager establish a commission in order to best plan the future use of the Auditorium to ensure that it becomes a successful venture. He explains that the Auditorium’s finances and performance in the past few years have been shaky. He’d like some strategic planning to be done to help the Auditorium pay for itself. This would not take away from the Auditorium’s trustees but would be a way bring forward new ideas. Councilor Belanger appreciates the motion but says the city is suffering the consequences of a management contract that is not beneficial to the city. He says this is “another Tsongas Arena” since it loses money every year.

By Councilor Samaras, request City Manager work with Lowell Police Superintendent to establish a dialogue with the supervisors of the Nesmith Street group home regarding security and supervision of youth under their trust. There have been an increased number of break-ins of cars in the neighborhood and Belvidere residents are concerned about the type of supervision being given.

By Councilor Leary, request City Manager provide a report to the City Council outlining the financial and infrastructure impact that the Ameresco has had for the city. The report should include savings or increased costs achieved to date by project, savings or additional costs expected in the future and any recommendations for the future as it relates to this program;

By Councilors Belanger, Leary, and Samaras, request City Manager reopen dialogue between the city and local business Unwrapped regarding the potential purchase or lease of city building at 268 Mt. Vernon Street. Councilor Belanger says this is a very impressive company and would like the city to do everything it can to keep the company here in Lowell since the company hopes to expand. Owner of company is present, says they have outgrown their present space and are turning away work. Would like to stay (they have 200 jobs).

By Councilor Rourke, request city manager explore establishing a 5 year property study and to create a formal living document of abandoned properties and their five year progress into healthy homes. The study would chart the progress from troubled to good properties.

Meeting adjourns at 8:05pm

8 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: May 24, 2016

  1. Brian says:

    Perhaps not having a master developer would be good for the Hamilton Canal District. A master developer needs scale to make the most money at the lowest cost. This lends to monotonous buildings and super blocks that are unfriendly to pedestrians, small business, street life, culture, community pride etc.

    Breaking up the parcels and selling them to various interests would hedge against bad design. We would still end up with some flops but we also end up with some gems. Most would be mediocre. This would also spread ownership around and vary the types and number of businesses making the HCD more resilient to downturns in the economy that evitably happen.

  2. linda says:

    I would like to know why Enel, and profitable company that owns the hydroplant that in no way serves the city and has no debt is allowed to have a PILOT deal.

  3. Brian says:

    There’s no such thing as a permanent bridge, only a less temporary one. Advocating for a new bridge isn’t about it being “temporary” but about getting more lanes. That it was called temporary is the hook, the soundbite, and what makes it memorable, but has no real bearing on why people want it replaced.

    In better times MassDOT would probably fund a bigger, wider bridge but there’s not even enough money to fix the crumbling bridges we’ve overbuilt over the decades, never mind “upgrade” the temporary ones.

    It’s the concentration of people around work, home, and play that create community, social, cultural, economic opportunity and wealth. Any infrastructure or rules that work to disperse the concentration of people, like widening streets or bridges, surface parking lots and garages, minimum parking requirements, or bad zoning contributes to at best the status quo or at worst decline.

    The collective gains by the concentration of people in Lowell is the only way to reduce the shootings, housebreaks, panhandling, poverty, etc that we all fear and complain about. It’s the only way to increase jobs, attract a downtown hotel or hotels, increase property values, and better the schools. Widening the Rourke bridge only spreads us thinner.

  4. linda says:

    The residents aren’t the ones who decided to ignore crumbling infrastructure. Last I checked there is a lot of development going on in Pawtucketville that increase jobs.Taxpayer monies were used to study a replacement of the Rourke bridge. Soon that money will have been wasted and the studies will have to be redone. Money down the drain also spreads us thinner.

  5. jay says:

    Expanding bridges or roadways that lead to less dense, less accessible parts of the city is just another incentive to drive. What’s worse is that a four lane bridge won’t do much to alleviate traffic, motorist will fill up as many lanes as you give them.

    It’s the proverbial viscous cycle. Good news is – we now know that we’re stuck in the cycle. Bad news is – people don’t won’t to believe it and would rather keep walking down the existing path.

    This should be so low on the cities’ list of priorities its not even funny.

  6. Brian says:


    Not long ago a good development on Mammoth Rd was shot down because of “neighborhood concerns.” The developer wanted to count curbside parking in meeting the minimum parking requirements for a mixed-use project. Had it passed it would have increased tax revenues, provided jobs, housing, and space for locally owned small business.

    It was lambasted by the people of Pawtucketville because of concerns of increased traffic. The widening of the Rourke bridge will increase traffic on Mammoth Rd 100- fold compared to that project.

    Where are the neighborhood concerns now?

  7. linda says:

    Brian, the project on Mammoth Road was shot down because it wasn’t “good development” and required going to a number of meetings. I’ve gone to meetings re: the Rourke bridge and they were well attended. Unfortunately many people at the meetings will be dead by 2035. Development brings traffic, we’re expecting a new Market Basket. Not everyone can walk or cycle.