Memorial guidelines to be revisited

Friday June 8, 2012

LENOX -- In an effort to avoid disputes over memorials, such as the Kennedy Park Belvedere that triggered a lawsuit against the town by opponents of the project, the Select Board is reviewing proposed guidelines on donations for memorials, benches, plantings and other installations on town land.

"We don’t want to go through something like that again," Select Board Chairman Kenneth Fowler told The Eagle on Thursday, referring to the nearly year-long imbroglio over the installation honoring Dr. Jordan Fieldman.

Proposed standards examined by Selectmen on Wednesday night include a checklist on whether the installation would be "in keeping with the intended use of the area" and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

As first drafted, the guidelines ask whether the installation commemorates a place or historical event of national or local significance or a community association, business or group that has contributed significantly to Lenox.

The standards also ask whether a donated project commemorates "a deceased individual who is widely recognized and acclaimed by Lenox residents as having made an especially significant contribution to Lenox."

During the discussion, Selectman David Roche pointed out that "there’s no provision for somebody who’s living. I think if somebody wants to give us a couple of million dollars for a new sewer plant or something, I have no problem naming it after that person, alive or dead. If somebody wants to donate serious money to one of our many needed projects, we ought to consider it."

Roche also questioned a proposed guideline, asking whether an installation is "unoffensive to the average person. Does it avoid promoting a particular political cause or conveying a religious message?"

Roche asked, "How in the hell do we determine what’s ‘unoffensive’ to an ordinary person? I think that needs to be reworked a little bit."

Fowler suggested striking the provision, saying "the concept is too problematic." He stressed that "two publicly noted meetings" should be trusted to make the determination.

Members agreed to delete the reference to "unoffensive to an ordinary person."

The guidelines would also require that approved installations must be completed according to the plans presented, augmented by details on the cost and oversight over the designated contractors.

Selectman Channing Gibson voiced concern over a "quid pro quo for somebody putting money into something in order to get something else. I’ll fix your sewer plant if you give me half of Lilac Park." He explained that his issue "is paying to get something, that wealth alone will get you what you want."

Gibson called for a provision that would eliminate "the ability to buy your way in with a favor to the town of some other kind that’s not related to the specific installation or memorial."

Roche suggested that it should be up to the Select Board when projects are brought in for review.

"I want to take a look at what’s proposed and then make a determination on whether it’s appropriate or not," he said.

"My feeling is that the Select Board and the public would have access to opinion on these projects as they come forward," said Fowler.

The Selectmen will revisit the document at their next meeting on Wednesday, June 20, at 7 p.m.


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