NOTES OF NOVEMBER 19, 2013 RYE TOWN HALL COMMITTEE MEETING
Final Revision B – Provided by the Rye Civic League
Present from Town Hall Committee (counterclockwise around table): Peter Kasnet, Victor Azzi, Paul Goldman, Mark Luz (arrived 6:50:00 p.m.) Selectman Priscilla Jenness, Selectman Craig Musselman, Town Clerk Beth Yeaton, Paula Merritt, Peter White. Absent: Lucy Neiman.
Also present from Town: Michael Magnant, Cyndi Gillespie, Lee Arthur.
Present from SMP Architects: Eric Palson, Jason LaCombe
Present from public: Peter Crawford, Cecilia Azzi, Mae Bradshaw.
Editor’s note: For ease in finding particular sections using the archived video and audio on the Town website, the elapsed time is indicated. Use the slider and the elapsed time indicated at the bottom of the video window to fast forward to the desired section. Videos on the Town website may currently be accessed at www.town.rye.nh.us by clicking on “Town Hall Streaming” at the bottom left of the screen. Follow the link for “Town Hall Live Streaming,” then find the meeting by date under “Previous.”
The video begins at 6:41:28 p.m.
Preliminary matters (3:22 elapsed)
Chairman Victor Azzi noted that Lucy Neiman would arrive at approximately 8:00 p.m. if she is able to attend at all. Mark Luz is running late and will arrive around 6:45 p.m.
The minutes of the November 5, 2013 meeting were approved without changes. All were in favor.
The minutes of the November 7, 2013 meeting were then discussed. Mr. Azzi, referring to his comments about the meeting rooms in those minutes, explained that, with regard to the meeting rooms, he envisioned three such rooms: The Great Hall, a medium-sized room for boards, smaller than what was depicted by SMP, and a small room to accommodate 10-12 persons, including small meetings with staff such as those envisioned by Beth Yeaton.
There was another minor change, following which the minutes were unanimously approved.
SMP Presentation (10:36 elapsed)
Eric Palson stated that there were three topics (1) the program, (2) the compact plan, and (3) a refined version of the first plan.
Jason LaCombe displayed the chart that had been presented at the public event indicating space needs by department. Sewer and Finance were missing from what had been displayed at that event, he noted. The program is a “slight iteration” of the 2012 one, and includes a meeting space for 50 persons and a smaller meeting space for 20 persons. Victor Azzi and Peter White stated that both sounded large. Selectman Musselman stated that the courtroom in which the Committee was currently meeting accommodates about 45 persons.
A list was passed out indicating a proposed list of functions to be included in the facility.
The question arose as to a kitchen. Chariman Azzi that there should be a kitchen. Selectman Musselman added that it should include a sink.
Peter Kasnet asked about a fourth meeting room. Mr. LaCombe stated that they had not gone through sharing possibilities. The stage could also be a meeting room, he said. Beth Yeaton stated that a distinction needs to be made between a meeting room for boards and one in which plans can be spread out for planning and zoning.
Selectman Musselman stated that the larger meeting room establishes the size of a meeting which would need to occur in the Great Hall rather than that meeting room. If the meeting room accommodates 30, then groups of more than 30 move to the Great Hall. There is some economy there. The smallest meetings could move into the smaller meeting room. There was more discussion, following which Chairman Azzi stated that a capacity of 50 for the medium-sized meeting room was a good number.
Selectman Jenness asked about the legal capacity of the Great Hall. Mr. LaCombe stated that it was 7 square feet per person plus the chairs. At 7 square feet per person it was 241 people. A very reasonable occupancy would be 125-150 persons.
Peter White noted a redundancy between the small meeting room and building and planning. Priscilla Jenness noted that the auditors come for a week and the room that they are using cannot be used by anyone else.
In response to a question from Paul Goldman, Eric Palson stated that the stage could accommodate 20 people. There could be a folding partition to separate it.
Peter White noted a duplication with both a kitchen and a kitchenette. Beth Yeaton stated that people could not be running down the hall for coffee and lunch.
With regard to Recreation, Lee Arthur stated that there were 2 full-time and one part-time persons in addition to her in the office.
Paul Goldman moved that SMP go forward to the next step based on the functionality and interoperability shown on the list. Peter White added that it was important that it be noted that it should be shrunk into the smallest possible space. All were in favor.
As requested by the Committee at the prior meeting, Erik Palson showed a single building design. It shows a 25 foot addition. The design is very simple, with a corridor down the middle, and public contact areas at the two ends. The elevator and stairway are located at the northeast end.
Mr. Palson stated that Recreation is missing from this plan. He suggested that Recreation could be located in the Great Hall until another home has been found. Peter White suggested that the Trolley Barn could be used in the short term. Editor’s note: The 1899 Trolley Barn is another name for the Old Police Station which is located across Central Rd. about 100 yards away.
Mr. Palson noted that there are four compromises: (1) Departmental proximities are not as good; (2) Recreation is not accommodated; (3) Storage is squeezed, although there is a vault; and (4) There is not a kitchenette or kitchen upstairs. Selectman Jenness asserted that it was bulky, ugly and not efficient. Mr. Palson also noted that there is a phasing issue. Peter White asked about the square footage. Mr. Palson responded that it was 25 by 41 times two floors. Editor’s note: This apparently refers to the size of the addition. The existing building is about 6000 sq. ft., so this would about 8000 sq. ft. total.
Paul Goldman stated that the design shows the Great Hall at the expense of interoperability. It is a good exercise, but is not efficient.
Peter White asked about the possibility of a basement. Mr. Palson responded that that was a good idea. They need to dig down four feet anyway, a basement could be added by digging down another four feet. An additional elevator stop would be $10,000.
Chairman Azzi stated that the two schematic designs considered needed to be shown to the public. Selectman Musselman stated that he is concerned that they are not functionally equivalent. This design will be lower cost.
Chairman Azzi came to the board, which displayed a sketch of the Town Hall. He asked about the constraint used. He asked whether the constraint was the 26 feet suggested by the warrant article, or whether the constraint was that the addition must be subservient. The two questions could lead to two different answers, he said. Mr. Palson stated that it was a continuum. Two more feet would make it better according to one measure and worse according to the other. Mr. Azzi stated that that was his point. He believes that the single building approach would not lead to an acceptable solution.
Mr. Palson then showed a smaller version of the two building plan displayed at the November 7, 2013 meeting. Five feet was taken off of the north end, and ten feet off the west end, he said. The upstairs is smaller and more straightforward. The sawtooth end has been eliminated and the building is now L-shaped. The stage shows a table and 14 chairs. More seats could be provided with back benches. The new flyby is on YouTube. Editor’s note: See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBy8gq-_hNI.
Mae Bradshaw, Chairman of the Heritage Commission, asked from the audience whether the buildings couldn’t be moved further apart. They look bunched, she said. Beth Yeaton stated that if the mailroom and coffee are on the other side of the connection, there would be delays from people needing to traverse the distance. Mr. Palson added that, if the buildings were 30 feet apart, the standards in the building code would be more relaxed because of less danger of fire jumping from one building to another.
Peter White asked about the aesthetics of the L-shaped building. Mr. Palson stated that the site is skewed. However, he acknowledged that a rectangular building placed askew was a viable option. Mr. LaCombe argued that the L-shaped building keeps the mass down. As the building turns only portions are seen at the same time. Mr. Palson spoke about treatises having been written which argue that 35-40 feet is the appropriate building width to ensure that daylight penetrates to the work spaces. This design is a way to accomplish that.
Paul Goldman and Mark Luz stated that they liked the design. Mr. Luz asked about the building’s lifetime and future trends, including technology. Mr. Palson stated that if the Town grew a lot, say there were five inspectors, there might be a need for a separate facility for them. Selectman Musselman stated that the Town had very little growth potential. Mr. Palson stated that a lot of the space was taken up with paper. In a generation that will be gone, he said.
Selectman Musselman asked about the role for the Trolley Barn. Mr. Palson stated that they had not looked into that. Mr. LaCombe stated that it might be a straightforward financial decision of weighing the cost against what you would get for the expenditure. Mr. Palson stated that it would not make sense due to the expense of redoing the Trolley Barn for Recreation and being no closer to the playing fields.
Selectman Jenness stated that the Recreation Master Plan is very ambitious. A huge factor is that, when Recreation moves out of the Town Hall, there will be room to grow at that facility.
The discussion then turned to whether the building had been reduced sufficiently in size to allay the concerns of the public. Beth Yeaton stated that she feared that a certain part of the public would say that it is too big. She does not want the end result to be the other design shown. Selectman Musselman referred to this as the “big box” alternative. Peter White asked about the footprint of the new building. Mr. Palson responded that he did not know. Peter Kasnet stated that SMP had done what was asked by eliminating portions of the building.
Victor Azzi referred to this design as another step in the iteration. He stated that a Recreation facility with room for administration may provide room for expansion. Rye is a small Town and that will continue, he said.
Paula Merritt suggested that the buildings be pulled further apart. She is not sure that they should be concerned about the lack of public attendance at the prior meeting. In the long run the voting will be based on whichever group has the best campaign. That does not mean that the people knew what they were voting for. It is a very frustrating system. The issue of the cost will come up. Opinions based on no evidence will be passed from neighbor to neighbor.
Cecilia Azzi spoke about Rye having approved a warrant article for school buildings on the first vote. She believes that the best way to market the plan is to go where the voters are, such as the Lions Club. People need to be educated that something needs to be done. Selectman Jenness stated that, with the school warrant article it was the older people that carried the day despite concerns that they would not support the schools. In this case, it is the younger people that need to be informed of the historical importance of the building to the Town.
Recreation Director Lee Arthur stated that she still had concerns about the design for the Recreation Department. There is a need for preparation space. Victor Azzi stated that that level of detail is not appropriate at this point. The design of the building and the size are the important issues to resolve first.
Peter Crawford stated that he liked what he saw. There had been really good progress. He agrees with Mae Bradshaw that the buildings should be further apart. A simpler rectangular building at an angle could fit within the setback and provide more distance between the buildings. A distance of thirty feet might save some money due to the fire code. Thirty feet represents about five seconds of walking time. It would not add that much to anybody’s day, he said.
Mr. Crawford echoed the concerns expressed by the Committee on the building being approved by the voters. The warrant article that authorized the currently ongoing project passed with 64.5 percent of the vote. If the building is to be financed by a bond, a 60 percent vote would be required. So there’s only a 4.5 percent margin, which is about 40 votes, or 20 people changing their minds relative to what was decided before.
Mr. Crawford stated that his concerns had been addressed, but he had concerns about the public as a whole. One individual that had been at the November 7th presentation expressed surprise that a new building was being driven by the need to open up the Great Hall. She also had a misconception about how many people from Recreation Department actually worked at Town Hall. The discussion then turned to how to demonstrate to the public all of the new uses for the Great Hall.
Lee Arthur stated that people tell her all of the time that there had been a promise to construct a senior center at the Public Safety Building. Although that had not been promised, there is mistrust there.
Victor Azzi talked about the difficulty of reaching the people who do not go to the presentations or the Deliberative Session. Selectman Musselman stated that, if there is consensus among those involved in the process there will not be as much controversy as might be expected. The Town does only what it has to do, and sparingly.
Mae Bradshaw again expressed a desire to have the buildings be further apart. She also stated that the single building design should not be emphasized.
Victor Azzi then summarized the upcoming meetings:
December 3 Public discussion at Rye Public Library
December 5, Thursday Committee meeting
December 17, Tuesday Committee meeting
January 9, Thursday Committee meeting
January 28, Tuesday Public discussion at Rye Public Library
February 1, Saturday Deliberative session
The December 3 meeting would be largely the substance that we heard tonight, Mr. Azzi stated. He asked about changes prior to then.
Mr. Palson stated that there would be a demonstration regarding the Great Hall and clarification of things discussed tonight.
Peter White asked whether the square footage calculation would be presented on December 3. Mr. Palson stated that they could do this. Mr. Azzi stated that this was an honest question that deserves an honest answer. He stated that the answer may not be the final one, however.
Paul Goldman stated that, if everyone buys into the concepts and the basics of the functionality, the square footage is almost an outcome.
Peter White interrupted, stating that the people in Rye want numbers. Peter Kasnet stated that it was one of the first questions at the last public meeting and it would be one of the first questions at the next one.
Selectman Musselman stated that there had been discussion about moving the building further away. He asked whether it would it be architecturally unwise to angle the building given the angling of the building behind it in the other direction. Mr. Palson responded that there was no architectural reason not to. It is a question of taste. It seems more harmonious to have the buildings in the same orientation. It does not affect the cost.
Mark Luz stated that the Achilles heel may be the Great Hall. There is a need for more historical information. People may prefer a functional, as opposed to ceremonial, facility. Mr. Palson responded that the experiment over the last few decades of using the Great Hall for offices did not work. There was discussion regarding how the Great Hall would be referred to, given that it might sound too grand. The Committee agreed to call it the Meeting Hall.
Beth Yeaton commented that they could not hear the public comments at the last public session due to the format. Editor’s note: After a brief presentation, the public had been invited to come up and interact one on one with the architects. She suggested that the questions be posed and answered so that everyone can hear. Mr. Palson stated that he had expected 75 attendees last time. If there is a similar turnout, the suggested format would be used.
Whereupon the meeting adjourned at 8:53 p.m.