Many of our members in Canton have expressed concern over the possibility that the Canton Town Garage, long slated for removal from the edge of the Farmington River, may instead be re-built on its present site. The question of re-locating the garage will be on a referendum this November.
FRWA has consistently encouraged re-building the garage at some new location away from the riverbank. Some of our previous comments on this topic are provided below.
The argument for re-building the Canton town garage on a mound at its existing location goes something like this: No other site is presently available, affordable, and acceptable; using the current site is the cheapest alternative, it’s technically feasible, and conforms to the letter (at least) of regulations about building on floodplains; the garage staff should have a better facility; and not least, people are tired of this issue, and it could be resolved with a referendum vote in November.
But consider. This idea still opposes the town’s own 2014-2024 Plan of Conservation and Development and the Upper Mill Pond Master Plan. Both documents were generated in a well-regulated process of review, public comment, and approval. Along the way, people had time to analyze, reflect, and decide what’s most desirable for the long term. They clearly intended removal of the garage from the riverbank, for a variety of good reasons that have been articulated already by both town officials and citizens. Finding a new location for the garage aligns with the town’s plans. It does not come from some extreme or fringe-element agenda.
The Farmington River Watershed Association salutes Canton’s long-standing intent to promote the river’s health, scenic quality, economic value, and accessibility, as shown in its planning documents and many day-to-day actions. The upcoming referendum will test Canton’s determination to follow through on the original, well-considered plan to re-locate the garage. The vote will give Canton residents their opportunity to avoid a re-build on-site, and say instead, “Don’t give up!”
Excerpts from a letter to the Canton Board of Finance, 8/15/16:
…We applaud the town’s long-running and diligent effort to find a way to get the town garage off the riverbank. We also understand the town’s frustration, after several attempts to re-locate the garage have failed. Under the circumstances, it’s tempting to choose a simple and relatively low-cost proposal that could be resolved soon in a referendum. But we encourage a larger and longer-term perspective rather than just getting this done. A protected, healthy river is not only a valuable natural resource, it’s a huge economic asset that should not be squandered.
Many town residents have already articulated strong arguments against keeping the garage at its present riverbank site, regardless of site design. We agree that from a public safety point of view, it’s unwise to site a vital town facility where it’s subject to inaccessibility in conditions of high water or flood. Also, we urge you to weigh the value of making Canton’s town waterfront a focal point for recreation, at the same time you weigh the relative costs of siting the garage in various places. Public pressure to access the river is growing rapidly. In the past few years, we have seen it expand to the point where state-owned access points and private property access points are becoming crowded. Can this problem be turned into an opportunity for Canton? Other towns along the river… are actively pursuing projects that will bring more people to the river’s edge—explicitly for purposes of economic development.
… Converting the town garage site to a park-like water access point would solve the problem of keeping garage vehicles and chemicals next to the river… at the same time, it would enhance the town’s recreational amenities for both visitors and residents…. We strongly encourage the town to stand by its original enlightened objective of getting the town garage off the river altogether.