Last week, William Marsh, owner of Eastward Companies, generously offered to donate the two lots at 1610 Main St. in West Chatham that officials have identified as a possible location for a new senior center. In talks leading up to Saturday's special town meeting, selectmen reportedly appealed to the long-time developer's sense of legacy; in a statement issued the day before the meeting, Marsh said the donation, in honor of his parents, was “a meaningful way to give back to a town that has given so much to us.” It is certainly welcome and appreciated, potentially saving taxpayers $750,000.
And the donation no doubt contributed to the success of the special town meeting article asking voters to accept the land. Had Marsh not made the offer and had the original article to purchase the property gone forward, it would not have received the two-thirds vote necessary to pass. Indeed, Saturday's 409-228 vote, which only needed a majority, was 1 percent short of the two-thirds goal.
Officials now have roughly four months to complete a feasibility study to determine, once and for all, if the 1610 Main St. property is suitable for a senior center and to develop construction cost estimates. We agree with several speakers Saturday who said that the study is the only way to definitively answer many of the questions and concerns about the property, including parking, the slope issues and the cost of site development, including the extent and cost of a retaining wall. Many of the comments offered by opponents are observations and opinions lacking substantiation, and were often tangled with fear and misconceptions expressed previously—and again mostly without substantiation—about the West Chatham Roadway Project, which in reality will only make the area safer for both pedestrians and vehicles.
It is possible that some of the concerns may indeed be borne out by the feasibility study. If that's the case and the site ultimately isn't suitable for a senior center, then it's back to square one and consideration of other potentially more expensive or problematic locations. But let's rule out, or affirm, the one that's in front of us first.