The Future of the Thomaston Green is Green (or should be)
Jon Eaton’s recent letter notes “the town has followed the old maxim of ‘first, do no harm.’” Were that only so. For the past 18 years, the advocates for building on the Thomaston Green (i.e. commercial and private development) have failed to find takers.
One major developer who looked closely at private development on the Green walked away telling us what many already knew — that the Green really should become a park. It has remained Thomaston’s only large, open space and informal park since the prison was demolished.
The upcoming votes at the June 14 Town meeting are an attempt to permanently develop the Route 1 frontage on the Green through a series of Warrant Articles (5 in total) that can only be voted on in person.
This is an intentional, underhanded maneuver by the Select Board and Mr. Eaton’s Economic Development Committee to wrest the fate of the Green away from its own residents. This antiquated and, frankly, undemocratic process purposely excludes many potential voters—those without transportation, parents on a school night, conflicting work schedules, the home-bound, etc. It at the heart of why many people are outraged at this most recent attempt find something—anything—to build on the Green and open the floodgate to future private development. As one resident recently remarked, “it’s sneaky.”
Once parts of the Green are covered by buildings and pavement, the Green as a potential multi-use, multi-generational park space is gone forever. Wording that “reserves” parts of the Green does not permanently protect it. “Reserve” contains no legal commitment against future development. Residents no long trust their own government to keep its promises due to exactly this kind of backdoor and disingenuous deception.
If our own Select Board and their puppet masters on the Economic Development Committee were at all forward looking, they would know that parks and open space in communities throughout Maine and the nation are drivers of significant and importantly, long term, economic benefit, along with recreational and health (mental and physical) and environmental benefits.
Look at Rockport’s proposed park at the intersections of Route 1 and Route 90. Even South Thomaston is looking to create a community park.
Mr. Eaton believes “any development on the Route 1 frontage should be required to enhance the public good and public enjoyment of the Green…” Most folks would agree. No development on Route 1 frontage can also be viewed as a way to not only “enhance” but preserve and increase the public good and public enjoyment of the Green.
Health care can find another home—even one more centrally located for the needs of their clients; open space on the historic Green cannot be moved elsewhere.
The future of the Green should be made by democratic choice not arrogant dismissiveness and certainly not by legalistic “plays” to hide the ball and sweep aside public sentiment and the public’s right to vote on measures that will permanently change and affect each of our lives in Thomaston. Forever.
Christopher Crosman lives in Thomaston