Although town officials are making headway with the Neighborhood Stablization Program and improving some of the town's homes, Selectmen want to send a strong message to two commercial properties owners who do not appear interested in sprucing up their corners of town.
Following a presentation from Community and Economic Development Director Alison Steinfield, Selectmen would like to see the Nobscot and Mt. Wayte Avenue shopping centers revitalized.
Discussion of these two areas in town sparked conversation as to what means, if any, the town has to take eminent domain, or the seizing of property without the owner's consent.
"Usually we don't take things when they have deep pockets," said Selectman Ginger Esty. Neither property owner owes the town any tax money despite their empty storefronts, she said.
Some selectmen were hopeful that the addition of the proposed library, TD Bank and newly paved roadway will spur the property owner of the Nobscot Shopping Center to reinvest in the property.
"We really need to follow up now," said Selectman Laurie Lee. "I think we really need to jump on the opportunity."
However, Selectman Jason Smith said he needs more than a conversation to convince him that change will come.
"More and more we sit around and twiddle our thumbs. I would like to see some kind of action plan ... a vision," said Smith.
Chair Dennis Giombetti said officials need to look at what conditions legally define "blight" and if either shopping center meets that criteria. If so, he said, officials need to find out how the process of eminent domain works.
"What, if at all, is in the toolbox?" asked Giombetti. "We need to do something."
Despite the lack of development in these two areas of town, Steinfield said her division has worked tirelessly to secure grants and implement other development projects around town.
Last year through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, the town was able to purchase and rehabilitate four properties. The first property, a condo located at 131 Mellen St., was revamped and sold last month. Next month, a buyer is set to close on the sale of a single family home at 71 Alexander St.
Following that, said Steinfield, is the rehabilitation of a single-family home at 204 Arthur St., which was purchased last year and will be converted from an illegal three-family home. Pending the sale of the Alexander Street property renovations will begin on Arthur Street next month.
Steinfield said overall her division is focused on spurring community development throughout the town with revitalization plans. Also, through a marketing strategy, Steinfield hopes to draw potential businesses and homeowners to Framingham. To create a business-friendly environment, Steinfield said her division has partnered with the and worked with the to minimize construction impacts on local businesses. To eliminate blight, Steinfield said the town needs to promote ownership and provide adequate infrastructure.
Selectmen were disappointed to see that the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation, which was established in 1995 as a semi-public entity staffed by professionals with economic planning expertise, remains vastly underutilized. Without a specific project or the necessary funding to actively obtain results, the corporation has little to do.
"Until we find funding for them, their hands are very tied," said Smith. Funding is necessary to "let them do their job," he said.
Steinfield agreed that this extension of her department is in need of a grant to fund their operation and mission.
"We haven't used [the corporation] to its potential," she said.
Selectmen agreed to discuss the matter of eminent domain again at a later meeting.