Yet another moratorium on artificial turf has failed. This time it’s the city of Concord in Massachusetts. The final vote on Article 4, which called for the moratorium on all public lands, was 454 to 302 against.
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Artificial turf moratorium fails
Action at Tuesday’s Special Town Meeting appears to have ended the battle over artificial turf in Concord.
Voters rejected a two-year moratorium on turf, and accepted community preservation money for a renovation project on fields at the high school.
The final vote on Article 4, which called for the moratorium on all public lands, was 454 to 302 against.
Article 4 originally called for a permanent ban on artificial turf, but was recently changed to a two-year moratorium, which did not include land at Concord-Carlisle High School.
“I’m disappointed,” Article 4 supporter Lori Pazaris said. “I think that there are no imminent (turf) fields going in right now, and it is time for the town to sit down and do some wide planning for the future.”
The driving force in support of turf is Concord-Carlisle at Play, a non-profit organization that signed a five-year lease with the School Committee to conduct a $5 million fields renovation project at CCHS, which includes transforming the football field from natural grass to artificial turf.
“I was not in favor of Article 4,” CC at Play’s John Boynton said after Tuesday night’s vote. “I don’t think a moratorium would have benefitted anything.”
Dozens of residents expressed their support and opposition to the moratorium, with most of the comments focused on whether or not artificial turf is connected to dangerous health risks.
“Crumb rubber is toxic,” Bridget Neale Paris said in reference to turf’s crumb rubber infill. “It’s too toxic to go into landfills. Why would we expose our children to it?”
She also compared artificial turf to cigarettes, stating its negative health consequences won’t be known until years later.
“Research scientist have studied this issue for decades,” another resident countered. “No one ever fell ill playing on artificial turf. It’s different from smoking. It’s a false argument.”
The second action by voters that paves the way for turf was the passage of Article 30j, which provides $670,000 in community preservation money for the CC at Play project.
Opponents, including the grass roots environmental organization ConcordCAN, argued that some of the money would be used for a “substructure” underneath the high school football field, essentially paving the way for artificial turf.
Massachusetts’ law prohibits using preservation money for artificial turf.
According to Boynton, the two sides reached agreement minutes before Special Town Meeting that CC at Play would not use any of the $670,000 for a “substructure” in exchange for ConcordCAN withdrawing its opposition to article 30j. That opposition included an amendment that would have asked voters to cut $300,000 from the $670,000, essentially taking away the money for the “substructure.”
Boynton said private donations will now pay for the “substructure,” future maintenance costs will be taken out of the school department’s existing maintenance budgets, and replacement costs will come from an existing fund set up in 2008 to pay for the existing Doug White turf fields at the high school.
Voters also took action on three additional Special Town Meeting articles.
The first gave the Select Board the authority to take by eminent domain 80 acres of contaminated land owned by the chemical company W.R. Grace.
The second gave the Select Board the authority to take 46 acres of contaminated land at 2229 Main St. by eminent domain or forgiving $500,000 in delinquent property taxes.
The third accepted a state law that allows tax exemptions for disabled veterans, blind persons, elderly citizens, and others who meet income and asset limitation requirements.
A new school bus depot is scheduled for the Grace land, but the company could challenge the purchase price in court. A recent appraisal valued the land at $895,000, compared to $1.2 million from an appraisal done three years ago.
Town Manager Chris Whelan said the town is not liable for any future cleanup costs connected to contamination that already exist on the site, pointing to EPA decisions that place liability in the hands of prior owners.
Several residents said the bus depot should be closer to the high school, which would reduce costs and emissions, but Whelan said there would be substantial savings compared to the leases the town currently has to keep buses in Billerica and Acton.
In regards to the 2229 Main St. property, voters passed an article amendment that demands the Environmental Protection Agency achieve a “residential standard” on all environmental clean up.
Some estimate ground water cleanup could take 40 years.
Select Board member Carmin Reiss said there would be no municipal use on the land until the clean up is finished. She added that statues exempt the town from any responsibility regarding future cleanup costs.
Voters also approved $406,000 for Concord’s share of the Minuteman Regional High School Budget.
Articles 25 (Concord Public Schools Bus Replacement), 26 (Concord-Carlisle Regional High School Budget) and 27 (Concord-Carlisle Regional School District School Bus Replacement) will be decided at tonight’s Town Meeting.