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UMass Community Meeting Report

What an amazing turnout! The Mayor’s rep said this was the largest community meeting he’d ever seen. Four UMass execs hosted the event led by the school’s chancellor, Kumble R. Subbaswamy. In the audience, EVERY area of our village was represented; we had neighbors from Baldpate Hill Road, Brookline Street, Nahanton apartments and of course, Oak Hill Park too. The Mayor sent her Chief Operating Officer and her Director of Community Engagement. Our State representative, Ruth Balser was in attendance and our local councilperson, Cheryl Lapin contributed to the conversation and answered questions from the audience.

What happened? Jhonatan Rotberg, who created SAVE CARLSON AVE WOODS, thanked the UMass team for inviting us and set the tone for a positive, non-combative evening and discussion. Chancellor Subbaswamy spoke first. He spoke about the school’s long, 150-year history and the successful relationship they have with the town of Amherst. He reinforced their on-going commitment to the environment, their love of trees and their interest in maintaining the 74 acre-campus as a leafy, green environment for their students and the neighborhood. On a practical note, he explained the process they must follow if they were to make any changes to the facility or the property: a Board of Trustees, Board of Governors and the State Legislature all have the authority to weigh in on any changes, plus the City of Newton too. Chancellor Subbaswamy indicated they would be meeting with the LDS Church soon as the Church, like our group, will be their neighbors too. Kathleen Kouril Grieser from the Newton Village Alliance asked if, when they meet with the Church, would they discuss buying the Church’s land? That question, understandably, was not answered directly but it is one of the most pressing concerns ‘we’ have as a neighborhood, particularly concerning increased traffic congestion. And that brings me to the Q&A portion of the evening. Traffic, Traffic, Traffic, Trees and Flooding. This has been our mantra since 2016 and it hasn’t changed. The audience pushed for a new traffic study – we’ll follow up on that.

What’s next? At UMass Amherst, there is a neighborhood/school committee that meets regularly. At Monday night’s meeting, the UMass delegation agreed that within 30 days they will begin assembling a similar committee here. That is a great ‘take-away’ ... Finally, we have a seat at the table.

I’m working on the master mailing list and will send out a note to all this weekend. Fantastic turn out! We showed up. We showed that we are informed, engaged, and not to be dismissed.

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