Chatham Selectmen Against Alternative Senior Center Location


CHATHAM – The Chatham Board of Selectmen voted unanimously this week not to recommend an article proposing an alternative senior center location.

A petitioner’s article will go to special town meeting March 7 seeking funds for a feasibility study for 2 acres of land on Stepping Stones Road that is leased by the Monomoy Regional School District.

Proponents of the site believe it is more accessible with adequate parking. They say it would also provide for a more efficient, less expensive single-story building.

The article follows the passage of articles at a special town meeting in January approving a site on Main Street in West Chatham.

Voters approved the donation of land and $130,000 for hiring an owner’s project manager and completing a conceptual design and cost estimate.

Selectman Jeffrey Dykens said traffic concerns for the Main Street proposal are unjustified.

“You have the Oppenheim [Rehabilitation] Center with elders going in and out all day long. You’ve got the post office with elders going in and out all day long. You’ve got Ocean State Job Lot with elders and traffic going out all day long,” Dykens said.

“Who lives in this town? The elderly. Who lives in West Chatham? The elderly.”

Dykens said there is no argument that seniors will not be able to navigate safely to and from 1610 Main Street.

Dykens believes it would be less safe for seniors to get to and from the site off Stepping Stones Road.

“When you come down Stepping Stone from both angles the sightlines are not great,” he said. “You are asking to put a whole bunch more traffic on that residential roadway and you are asking to overburden that area.”

Dykens also wants to know why the petitioners went to the town with the article before going to the school department. The schools control the land and have to declare it surplus to give it up to the town.

“It’s really not under prudent consideration until the schools say, ‘yay we’ll give it up,’” he said. “What are we going to do at a special town meeting without knowing where they stand?”

He said the petitioners have put the school department in a tough position.

Dykens said school officials have legitimate safety and congestion concerns with the proposed location’s proximity to Monomoy Regional Middle School.

Proponents of the Stepping Stones Road site also believe there are no topographical issues that would result in increased construction costs compared to the Main Street location.

Superintendent Scott Carpenter said at a recent school committee meeting that the land slopes downhill.

“On the north side of that piece of property there is a large rise and I’ll be surprised if you don’t need a retaining wall there,” Dykens said. “It is very high. It is 8- to 10-feet high there.”

Dykens said the Main Street location would be a civic anchor for West Chatham.

Selectman Peter Cocolis said the Stepping Stone proposal is an acceptable alternative, but is worried that having two proposals go before town meeting voters in May could split the vote and result in neither project getting final funding approval.

The special town meeting is March 7 at 3 p.m. at the Monomoy Regional Middle School.

The article requires a simple majority to pass.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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