Scituate Town Meeting voters settle on one site for water tower
Brian P. Nanos
April 15, 2009
Scituate -

After multiple meetings, last-minute negotiations and an 11th-hour change to the special Town Meeting warrant, it turns out that Scituate only wants one plot of land on which to build a water tower.

Town Meeting voted Monday to buy 0.92 acres from the Hennessey Land Trust as a potential location for a water tower. In exchange, the trust’s nearby development would receive $25,000 in reduced water hookup fees.

In doing so, the voters rejected taking a second nearby parcel of land, offered for free by Steve Bjorklund, as another possible site for the water tower.

Hoping that Town Meeting would approve taking both parcels of land, Selectmen had revised special Town Meeting article three to include the acquisition of both. Before that revision, the article only permitted the town to purchase the one parcel, which is near Bates Lane, from the Hennessey Family Trust.

During special Town Meeting, however, planning board member Mark Fenton proposed an amendment that effectively undid the selectmen’s revisions, eliminating Bjorklund’s acre from the package. Special Town Meeting approved the amendment and passed the article.

Hennessey Trust representatives have been meeting with town boards since the summer 2008 to plan the nearby housing development. According to trustee Chris Hennessey, in the course of those planning meetings the town had asked if a parcel of land could be used for a water tower. The trust had already planned to sell the adjacent 20.6 acres to the community preservation committee for open space.

Selectmen were bargaining with Hennessey to lower the purchase price from $60,000 after they learned that the community preservation committee had agreed to pay approximately $17,000 per acre for surrounding lands. While the town was trying to negotiate a better deal, Bjorklund offered his 1.04-acre plot.

Bjorklund said he made his offer because he believed the original price of the Hennessey land was too high. Bjorklund’s offer was conditional: If the town did not build a water tower on the property within the next 10 years, the plot would go back to Bjorklund.

The advisory committee, which had been in favor of acquiring the Hennessey property, voted against acquiring Bjorklund’s acre. According to advisory committee member Lisa Fenton, that decision reflected, in part, the number of residents of the nearby Indian Winds development who were against a tower being built on Bjorklund’s land.

While potential water tower location on the Hennessey property is surrounded by land held open for conservation, the Bjorklund property is directly adjacent to Indian Winds homes. “That is, as you can see on the map, literally in people’s back yards,” said Carlos Perez, a neighbor who argued in favor of the town’s acquiring only the Hennessey acre, during special Town Meeting.

Perez called Bjorklund’s land offer a disruption of what he described as a carefully thought out plan to put the tower on the Hennessey property.

“There’s a plan in place, it was carefully thought out, it was carefully vetted with the whole neighborhood, and there’s no reason not to put (the water tower) there,” he said.