Selectmen hear plans for Hallocks Point and outdoor dining

| September 9, 2020

Sept. 9, 2020

By Ann Needle

          The Board of Selectmen, at their Tuesday, Sept. 8 meeting, heard about the latest plans for possibly securing a major parcel under Chapter 61. And, for those seeking pandemic relief, the Board also gave a nod to some temporary regulations allowing restaurants around Stow to set up outdoor dining.

          The 12 acres of Hallocks Point are up for sale at $1 million, with Conservation Commission Coordinator Kathy Sferra reporting the findings of the Hallocks Point Working Group on potentially buying the land. As the largest remaining undeveloped area on Lake Boon, Hallocks Point is located next to conservation land that would make it an ideal scenic and recreation area at a good price, she said.

          As Chapter 61 land, the Town has Right of First Refusal, extended by the state to expire 90 days after the state of emergency ends. The plan so far has been to vote on the sale at a Special Town Meeting in late November/early December, or at Annual Town Meeting in May 2021. Should the Town pass on purchasing the land, Sferra reported it would be sizable enough to hold a seven-lot subdivision with four docks.

          Tuesday night, Sferra outlined a plan for funding that would include pursuing $400,000 from Community Preservation Act funds, and another $500,000 from the sale of two of the potential seven housing lots, at $250,000 each. Conservation aims to raise another $150,000 from private resources through a partnership between the Stow Conservation Trust and Lake Boon Association, she said. Sferra explained that the extra $50,000 beyond the purchase price would hopefully leave some funding for the Healthy Lake Boon Initiative.

          Selectman Ellen Sturgis agreed the property would be a good deal but questioned whether the CPA funds and state match could be counted on as revenues continue to slide through the pandemic. The CPC’s Vin Antil responded that, with $4.7 million available, “We didn’t feel the $400,000 was digging too deeply into our next egg.”

Selectman Cortni Frecha said that, with Boston and a few other municipalities now participating in the CPA program, there are “big players” that would advocate for continued funding.

          Town Meeting timing remained a big issue. Selectman Jim Salvie maintained that a Fall Town Meeting would not be reasonable if this was the only Warrant item. And, though it appears the state of emergency will run long enough to put this on the ATM Warrant, Salvie questioned whether the seller would be restless about waiting.

          Paul Alphen, attorney for Hallocks Point’s owner, responded, “I don’t think my client is ready to extend the time beyond the legal limit. If for some reason you need additional time, please get back to me.”

          The next step is a public hearing, which Sferra recommended the Board of Selectmen hold at one of its October meetings.

Outdoor Dining Gets a Boost

          The Selectmen enthusiastically approved Town Planner Jesse Steadman’s draft of rules around officially allowing outdoor dining at Stow’s restaurants.

          Steadman confirmed that existing businesses still need to re-apply for an outdoor dining permit, despite their current al fresco arrangement. For those with a liquor license, Steadman said those licenses would likely be updated to reflect what the premises for serving would be.

          Jim Salvie praised the simple, one-page application. But he questioned who would be enforcing the rules. The Selectmen then agreed it would be the Building Inspector or Board of Health, depending on the issue in question.

           Selectman Megan Birch-McMichael explained that the system should help restaurants take advantage of the many visitors coming through Stow during apple season.

          In other topics discussed, Select Chair Tom Ryan welcomed new Town Administrator Denise Dembkoski to her first Board meeting. He also congratulated Arnie Epstein and the Town’s Energy Working Group on securing a grant totaling more than $70,000 for energy-savings updates to the Highway Dept. and Town Building facilities. 

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