PVTA amendment approved


WESTFIELD – The City Council took immediate action last night to approve an amendment to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and the state Department of Transportation.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik had requested immediate consideration of the amendment which will provide reimbursement of up to $50,000 from a state grant for the cost to the city to complete an on-going urban renewal plan which will be the foundation of the downtown revitalization program.
The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) awarded a grant of $427,000 to the PVTA for development of that master plan for a public/private partnership development on Elm and Arnold streets which will include the transportation element and a marketing element. The federal government has earmarked more than $4 million to implement construction the intermodal and marketing components.
The state Legislature has also designated $7 million from two transportation bonds for construction of a parking garage as another element of the redevelopment project.
City Advancement Officer Jeff Daley, who is shepherding the Elm Street project, said yesterday that Knapik is seeking to “reallocate existing funds” now held by the PVTA under the MOU to complete the revision of the city’s urban renewal plan, a process that has been underway for more than six years by Hayes Development Services of Springfield.
Daley presented details of the amendment to complete the Urban Renewal Plan (URP), which has to be approved by the city’s Planning Board, City Council, and state agencies when completed. Daley said the URP will then be used by the Westfield Redevelopment Authority to move forward with other projects, such as the Elm/Arnold development which will include construction of a mixed-use building, possibly five or six stories that have retail, commercial office and residential spaces and a proposed three of four deck parking garage in the present Arnold municipal parking lot.
At-large Councilor David A. Flaherty question Daley on how that $50,000 will be spent, noting that only $15,000 of that amount is needed to complete the URP.
Daley said the remaining $35,000 will be used for property assessment, legal services researching property deeds and environmental studies.
“All of that will be put into the Urban Renewal Plan,” Daley said. “The goal is to have that done in January, come back to the (City) Council in February, then go to the state to release those grant funds (for development of the Elm/Arnold streets project.”
Flaherty and At-large Councilor Brian Sullivan questioned the requests from the administration for immediate consideration of issues related to development projects across the city and why those issues cannot be presented earlier, giving the council time for due consideration through its committee review process.
Daley said that development projects are frequently under tight timelines for state and federal grant funding and that steps, presented as immediate consideration requests, have to occur quickly to enable the city to act within those rigid time constraints.
“I know that the council does not like to do immediate consideration all the time,” Daley said, “but the council (committee review process) takes at least five weeks and hampers what we’re trying to do.
“I jut got approval on Oct. 24 from the PVTA and DOT for this MOU amendment,” Daley said. “We tentatively plan to have a public meeting on the Urban Renewal Plan on Dec. 12 where all of the details will be presented for public comment and feedback.”
Flaherty countered that five weeks of council review may hinder development programs “but that’s our job. It’s a process.”
“We’re here to represent the people of this city,” Flaherty said. “That’s why we’re here. There is some resistance to the intermodal element of that project.”
The council then voted 12-0 to approve the MOU amendment and provide the funding to complete the Urban Renewal Plan.

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