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HarvestBall
jwg

Good news on the save the dance hall front

In an earlier post I described the status of our attempts to preserve contra dancing as well as Swing and Tango dancing at the VFW Hall in West Cambridge.

Tonight was an important City Council meeting because it had the friendly eminent domain taking order and action on the report from the city manager explaining why it would cost too much too build, too much to operate, and had zoning problems if the facility included the youth center, the VFW post space and the dance hall. He does not want to do the project this way. A large number of dancers showed up for public comment period which occurs before the council does its work. We didn't coordinate who would speak, but there was a good mix of speakers (3 minute limit per person).

In preparation for this meeting I talked to 5 of the 9 councillors today and one yesterday (I guess I am a lobbyist).

My approach was to say to the council this is a great opportunity to have a youth center, have the dance hall which the youth center could use to expand its program, that the dancers could use, and that other community use was possible. Even if it cost an additional $1.5 million (on top of the 7mill allocated) this was a good investment of city money. I am sure that with resource sharing and other creativity the operational cost would be considerably less than (the inflated) $250k the city manager proposed and there would be revenue to offset some of the costs.

The end result was that the council approved the eminent domain and pretty strongly said that they wanted this expanded use taken very seriously. There were 5 pretty definite supporters there (the council is 9 and one person who will also support was absent). Also, the november election ousted one councillor who was pretty lukewarm and the replacement I think will support this. It will eventually need 6 votes to approve the additional money (the 7 mill is already approved).

VFW buildingSo we are alive and well for the moment with pretty good promise for the future; the VFW deal is going forth, and the Youth Center will be built. It is a pretty ugly building (note the missile in front) but the dance floor is excellent - springy and more-or-less square so it keeps the contra dance lines short. Only two more Thursday night Contras there before they move temporarily (we hope) to SpringStep a dance space in Medford.


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I don't understand "the friendly eminent domain taking order and action" and thus pretty much the whole rest of it, but it sounds good. Congratulations!

Friendly eminent domain means that the city and the VFW post agreed on the deal instead of going to a court and having the court decide on the price. I think they used ED instead of just a purchase because of the nature of the deal - buy, renovate and charge back the renovation cost, and then rent them the renovated space. Also if I understand state law that if a Municipality spends more than some percentage over the assessed value it must be done by eminent domain. The city is paying 2.9 million (eventually less because of the renovation costs) and the assessed value was 1.1 million (odd since Mass is supposed to be 100% valuation but it is hard to value a wierdo.) They did hire a certified appraiser to get the amount.

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