Council approves WRA land consolidation

WESTFIELD – The City Council voted Thursday to approve the transfer of land to the Westfield Redevelopment Authority, but unlike the last such vote this was not controversial, winning support of 11 of the 12 councilors present.
The transfer was actually an amendment to a vote taken last November by the City Council when six parcels of city-owned property in the Arnold Street parking lot. The first reading of the consolidation was approved in July of 2014, but took several more meetings, and votes, to gain approval.
The consolidation was requested by City Advancement Officer Joseph Mitchell, who also serves as the executive director of the WRA, to support the Elm Street Urban Renewal Plan which includes construction of a mixed-use commercial building at the corner of Elm and Arnold streets, a transit pavilion on Arnold Street and a multi-story parking garage off Church Street.
The Arnold Street Municipal Parking lot, which was held by the Off-street Parking Commission, is being modified under the Gas Light District improvements in the area between Elm and Washington Streets and between Franklin and Court streets.
A new access road is presently being installed along the west property line and the current access, through the center of the lot, will be removed to make way for the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority transit pavilion and eventually for the parking garage.
The Planning Board voted last month to approve a special permit, site plan and stormwater management plant requested by the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority to construct a 2,700 square-foot transit pavilion on Arnold Street.
Mitchell said that only two municipal agencies, the WRA and the Housing Authority, have the ability to execute an urban renewal plan, which includes assembly of the site for development, such as the Pioneer Valley Transportation Authority bus facility.
“The Westfield Redevelopment Authority (WRA) is a corporate and politic body, established by the City of Westfield and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under former Massachusetts General Laws (“MGL”) Chapter 121, Section 2600, the predecessor to the present MGL Chapter 121B, Section 4 (Chapter 121 was recodified in 1969 as Chapter 121B), Mitchell cited.
“The WRA has the powers of an “operating agency” and additional powers as an “urban renewal agency”. The broad development capabilities of the WRA include the power to engage in “urban renewal projects” and other projects, the power to buy and sell property, the power to acquire property through eminent domain, and the power to designate projects under MGL Chapter 121A.
The City Council vote last week was “to correct the deed reference for parcel #6” which had been improperly described in the deed documents submitted as part of the property consolidation.
Legislative & Ordinance Committee Chairman Ralph Figy, said “it was a clerical error and this process corrects that error. We’re doing it this way to save the city money because there is a fee to change the deed.”

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