The following letter was originally sent to the School Building Committee and the Town Council:
The architectural firm working on behalf of the Watertown High School project provided the recommendation to build a temporary high school on PFC Richard Stephen Memorial Playground on Westminster Avenue. It is dedicated to our fallen hero who gave his life in Vietnam. Richie played on this field.
The proposal means the field will be bulldozed and cement laid for a parking lot for 119 cars and 33 modular two-story buildings for approximately 5-8 years.
As a participant and supporter of the PFC Richard Stephen Moxley petition letter of 4/20/21, I am requesting a written response to this letter, as well as the 4/20/21 Moxley petition correspondence — prior to any further disposition is made on this proposal.
I had made a request to the Town Manager to send a town-wide notification mailing with specific suggestions in having the Assessor Department send out to all residents paying real estate taxes and all residents paying excise taxes on their vehicles.
I am waiting for a written response from the manager.
As a former elected Watertown Councilor at-large, I served nearly three decades.
I tried and worked tirelessly to protect the interests of children, adults and the best for the community — including lobbying for the rehab of Moxley Memorial playground and irrigation system.
I believe you are continuing this tradition of looking out for the best interest of the people of Watertown. It is in this spirit that I am contacting you. We want the same children who will attend the new high school to also have a healthier future that includes access to green recreational open space and all its benefits.
First, it is requested that the City known as the Town of Watertown prepare and send mailing to all Watertown residents informing them of the proposal to site the temporary school on Moxley field and solicit resident feedback.
This park and field are an asset that means so much to the entire Watertown community particularly since the Moxley Memorial playground and field is owned by the Town of Watertown NOT the School Department.
In addition, zoning/assessor database assigns Moxley to open space conservation and as such should be protected from repurposing the field and land; under Article 97 of Commonwealth of Massachusetts Constitution. A review of online boards and committees show correspondence, including federal grants, clearly demonstrating he town’s intention to preserve Moxley Memorial playground as open recreational space — that is until the architectural firm the Town hired made the ill-advised proposal. (That designation connects it to town intention to preserve as open space.)
There has been no consideration of the People and their families who rely on the Moxley field for recreation. It is the most used field. Hundreds of players will be displaced. As a lifelong resident and nearly three decades as a town councilor at large, I know firsthand there is no other available playing field in all of Watertown.
In addition to the above, the PFC Richard Stephen Moxley field is 500 ft. from two liquor stores — on the Westminster side, and on the other side of the field another liquor store in same proximity.
I have included an illustration of the proposed high school footprint in the neighborhood, we well as the diagram the architects created depicting children walking past one liquor store to go to the site of the proposed temporary high school.
MGL outlines the legal framework establishing selling and serving alcohol being licensed under the rules and regulations of c138 12 & 15 — not within 500 ft. of a school as mentioned. This is not a petition for a liquor license. It is the decision to site a high school next to two liquor stores.
I represent thirty-two cities and towns in Massachusetts in my Governor’s Council district. I have seen many schools built in twenty-one years. Not one school has ever been built in proximity to a liquor store. I believe that due diligence requires the City known as the Town of Watertown officials to solicit community feedback about siting a high school so close to an existing liquor store.
Parents and members of the community must be included in the deliberative process
This decision should not be the sole responsibility of the volunteer members of the Watertown School Building committee acting on behalf of the parents. There is too much at stake and at risk to not have a more inclusive process for the community. The building Committee and town of Watertown must continue their due diligence — look at all the options of available classrooms in the Hosmer, Cunniff, St Jude’s and Phillips school with other available sites to be revisited and to investigate the many Catholic schools that are closing.
Town officials need to meet with business leaders to ask for suggestions on the possibility of purposing vacant building (with less impact on resources and environment) — determine if there are privately owned parcels of land that may be available.
There is no need to spend $24 million-plus the additional costs — including Electricity, heating, water, plumbing, ventilation, air conditioning, wiring etc. — and to pave over a much loved and much used field for this proposal.
Consider the situation that will be imposed on this small area
Presently Middle School teachers drive in from Main Street and park along Westminster Avenue along with buses. The high school teachers will drive their individual 119 cars-entering from Main Street to drive onto Westminster Avenue to the parking lot on the former playing field.
This temporary high school with its parking lot in this small area will be adjacent to a gymnasium, Middle School, Tot lot with all its play equipment, basketball court and tennis court.
This little area does not have a neighborhood school like the Cunniff, Hosmer and Lowell.
The Middle school is a Junior high School whose students include every 6-7-8 grade student throughout Watertown. Now they will add 9-10-11-12 high school grade students. Small Linden Street adjacent to the Middle School is closed 7-4 pm.
Middle School Parents are gridlocked when dropping off their children. They are prohibited to exit Westminster Avenue to Main Street. There will be approximately 1,270 middle school and high school students coming into this area.
In addition to the hundreds of Middle School students dropped off, it is estimated additionally there will be up to 500 twice a day drop-offs of high school students from parents coming from Main Street to Westminster Avenue, along with buses.
As a former elected Watertown Councilor at large, I served nearly three decades. I worked to protect the interests of children, adults and the best for the community — including lobbying for the rehab and irrigation system at the Moxley Memorial playground — protecting the little green space left.
I proudly attended the dedication of the PFC Richard Stephen Moxley Memorial playground in honor of our own fallen hero who gave his life in Vietnam. Richie played on this playground.
I believe we share the same goals. We want the same children who will attend the new high school to also have a healthier future that includes access to open space and all its benefits.
The fact is that much of the open space land in Watertown is privately held with limited access to the public. Taking this resource is a community-wide issue that impacts each and every Watertown resident.
This is an identifiable community need.
Due to these reasons, the City known as the Town of Watertown should explore other options for development of the high school. The people of Watertown deserve more. I look forward to your written response.
Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney