MBLC (Granting Authority) Requirements
The Town signed a contract with the MBLC that included the following assurances:
“An assurance that the project site will remain as described in the application and approved at the time of award or Waiting List placement”
“An assurance that the project will be completed as described in the application and approved by the Board. Any significant reductions in the project’s program require prior approval”
The grant application submitted a schematic design with a gross square footage listed as 25,668. The grant is based on that square footage. Programming spaces may not be reduced, however reductions for efficiency purposes are allowed if approved by the MBLC. An example of efficiency would be: A two story building that was buildable on the lot as a one story building and that change was desired. Efficiencies would then be found in no longer needed elevator or stairway spaces and those square footage reductions may be allowed by the MBLC.
When our architects submitted the gross square footage, they did not submit an exterior to exterior gross square footage. It was calculated by adding up spaces. Spaces were not identified multiple times. For example, the square footage of the elevator was only identified once, not on all three floors, the same with stairways. The exterior to exterior square footage is 26,849 sq ft. This building resulted in a 29% lot coverage. In the opinion of the MBLC building consultants there is not much to be cut from an efficiency standpoint. Therefore, in order to achieve 25% lot coverage, the program would have to be reduced.
The Select Board and ZBA may petition the Board of Library Commissioners to reduce the program. In the opinion of the Trustees, based on previously denied similar requests from towns to reduce programming spaces, discussions with MBLC building consultants, and in light of the precedent setting issue allowing this would cause for the state, we feel that this would be a fool’s errand. If the Town (Select Board and ZBA) wishes to pursue this and is denied by the Commission, any attempts to force the Library to conform with this regulation are in error of the Dover Amendment. Applying the 25% regulation will result in a forfeiture of the grant, thereby constituting an unreasonable regulation. The ZBA does not create zoning regulations. Therefore, per the Dover Amendment, the ZBA may recommend but not require a lot coverage greater than 25% but less than requested on the application. This is important as the ZBA and Select Board have withheld the zoning decision in order to attempt browbeating the library into complying with a request of a not required and different square footage reduction.
The ZBA asked for information from the MBLC regarding a reduction in the square footage of the building to reduce it to conform with 25% lot coverage. Response in a letter dated May 28, 2020 from Andrea Bunker, MBLC Building Specialist:
“There have been two formal decisions by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners regarding a reduction in size of the proposed building: one approval for Shrewsbury and one rejection for Boxford. The town of Shrewsbury acquired additional land after submitting their grant application, allowing them to redesign the building, in which they were able to reduce non-programmatic spaces (mechanicals, stairways, etc.) and increase efficiency by 10%. The program allows for a 5% reduction for efficiency without a Board vote. The town of Boxford sought to reduce the programmatic space of their design, but the Board voted to reject that petition, as it would have resulted in a building that did not adequately serve the community.”
Additionally, in answer to the ZBA’s questions at the July 8 hearing about reduction of the square footage of the building and removing spaces to achieve a reduced lot coverage, Lauren Stara, MBLC Building Specialist said, “It is in state regulation of our program that our grants are based on the library building program as written and accepted by us in 2014. This is 6 years ago and any reduction of programmatic elements from this project would nullify the contract and you’ll be required to pay back the disbursements that you have received so far.” As stated previously, the building program informs the schematic design, on which the grant is based.