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Making Use of an Old School Residents will get to a chance Monday to review a proposal to turn the former Ballard School into “Ballard Gardens”

ballard school
The old Ballard School

  Town officials are considering the run-down site of the former Ballard School as an ideal spot for a dog walk area and also a community garden.

  “‘Ballard Gardens’ would be a passive, non-recreational, greenspace that would have topographical landscaping, walkways, plantings and benches,” Precinct 10 Town Meeting member Peter Manoogian said of the proposal he’s been developing in consultation with Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree and his staff.

  “Several neighbors have suggested that portions be reserved for a dog walk area and a community garden,” Manoogian wrote in an announcement that was recently hand-delivered to some 80 homes that abut the Ballard School.

  Manoogian, one of the members of the five-person study committee to investigate the potential use for the Ballard School, has scheduled an open meeting at the Ballard School site for next Monday (July 12) at 4 p.m. so people who live near the former school can learn more about the proposal and offer public feedback. “Please know that nothing will move forward without neighborhood input and more importantly, neighborhood support,” Manoogian wrote in his notice, which he said was presented to residents of Greenwood Avenue and Richard, Dudley, Wolcott and Bates Streets.

  The notice was also posted on the Facebook page of the Ballard School Study Committee.

Crabtree supports proposal

  Manoogian said he had approached the Town Manager’s Office about the proposal and Crabtree expressed support for it. “He doesn’t want to sell the building and he doesn’t want to lease it either,” Manoogian said.

  “I got a letter of support from him,” he said.

  “The neighbors are going to have a strong voice here, and I’d like to make sure they are on board. If the people lead, the leaders will follow. Here’s an opportunity to do something that would enhance the property values and bring the people together,” he said.

  Laura Eisener of the Saugus Garden Club said she likes the idea of converting part of the Ballard School property into a community garden. “The Ballard School site is a nice location in the middle of a neighborhood to provide a peaceful and relaxing spot for people to walk to for relaxation and enjoyment of nature,” Eisener said.

  “The school’s symbol was a bee, presumably for the first letter of its name, but it might be nice to perpetuate that by including a pollinator garden on part of the site, with beautiful native plants for people as well as pollinators to enjoy,” she said.

  A survey for Saugus United 2035, the town’s ongoing Master Plan project, raised the question “What features do you feel are most important for the future of Saugus?” Sixteen percent of the town residents responding to the survey answered, “Well-maintained open spaces, parks and other natural assets.” That was among the highest-rated topics.

  “This dovetails nicely with the proposals in the Master Plan,” Manoogian said.

  “This is consistent with the feedback from the public-at-large as well as the recommendations that will be in the Master Plan,” he said.

  The Ballard School Study Committee consists of Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano, Board of Selectmen Vice-Chair Corinne Riley, Precinct 10 Town Meeting Members Martin Costello and Manoogian and Greenwood Avenue resident Wayne Carter. Town Manager Crabtree is ultimately responsible for any decision to demolish or sell the building, with the involvement of Town Meeting. The town manager, working with selectmen, would be involved in any lease arrangement.

  The results of a survey released last fall by the Ballard School Study Committee show that neighborhood and people who live outside the neighborhood agree on their top choice: reuse as a preschool or day care center. On a scale of 1 to 3, the Pre-School / Day Care option was rated at 2.5, making it the most popular among the 222 residents who responded to the survey. The East Saugus neighbors, who represent about 45 percent of those being surveyed, agreed with the rest of the town that the school site should be used for child care.

  The survey results revealed these top use preferences:

The Neighbors

  Pre-School / Day Care 2.5

  Tear Down for a Playground 2.3

  Tear Down for Community Gardens 2.2

  Re-Use for Youth and Rec 2.1

  Re-Use for a Charter School 1.9

  Tear Down for Single Family Home Lot 1.9

  Re-Use for Elderly Housing 1.9

  Tear Down and Create a Dog Park 1.8

  Re-Use for a Govt. Building 1.7

  Re-Use for Veterans’ Housing 1.6

  Re-Use for Medical Offices 1.5

  Re-Use for Commercial Offices 1.4

  Re-Use for Market Rate Apartments 1.2

  Re-Use for Public Housing 1.2

The Rest of Town

  Pre-School / Day Care 2.5

  Tear Down for a Playground 2.1

  Re-Use for Youth and Rec 2.4

  Re-Use for Veterans’ Housing 2.2

  Re-Use for Elderly Housing 2.1

  Tear Down for Community Gardens 2.0

  Re-Use for a Charter School 1.8

  Tear Down and Create a Dog Park 1.8

  Tear Down for Single Family Home Lot 1.7

  Re-Use for a Govt. Building 1.8

  Re-Use for Medical Offices 1.7

  Re-Use for Public Housing 1.6

  Re-Use for Commercial Offices 1.4

  Re-Use for Market Rate Apartments 1.2

  “As you may be aware a committee of the Saugus Town Meeting delivered a report to the Saugus Town Meeting on the potential reuse of the Ballard School site,” Manoogian wrote in his recent notice to Saugus residents.

  “That report, available for viewing on the Town of Saugus website https://www.saugus-ma.gov/…/ballard_school_study_com…, indicated that the neighborhood strongly preferred a use that would present the least impact,” Manoogian said.

  “That finding, along with the Town’s intent to NOT dispose of the property to private or semi-private interests has resulted in a proposal known [as] ‘Ballard Gardens’ developed by myself in consultation with the Town Manager and his staff,” he said.

  Monday night’s meeting will be open to anyone wishing to attend. But resident abutters to the school will be heard from first, according to Manoogian.

PHOTO:

 

WHAT’S NEXT? The old Ballard School is being considered for a dog walk area and a community garden.(Saugus Advocate photo by Mark E. Vogler)

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