Marlborough City Council members approved a controversial siting of a new senior center on a portion of Ward Park Monday, disappointing about two-thirds of a standing-room only crowd that had gathered in the council chambers.
The vote was 10-1, with only Ward 4 Councilor Robert Tunnera opposed. He had argued that the senior center was being placed in a location that it would soon outgrow.
About a third of the audience broke into applause when the council approved the new senior center bond, which would provide $6.5 million for the senior center building and $3 million for park improvements.
Councilor Edward Clancy, among the members who approved the plan, noted that he'd been on the council for 12 years, and in that time, four mayors had promised to do something significant for the elderly. "We're finally there," he said. "We have that last step."
The senior population is a segment of the city that shouldn't be forgotten, he said. "We have to take care of a segment of our community. They've been paying their taxes for many, many years."
Outside the council chambers, following the vote, some residents said they were disappointed not in the decision to build a center for seniors, but to locate it in the park. Over the past year, the issue had helped spur a community movement, and an organization: the Ward Park Association. In a written statement, neighborhood organizer Michael Nickolas said he was "embarrassed to be from Marlborough."
"The city council has ignored a petition of over 925 signatures," he wrote. "They've ignored lawyer's letters explaining to them why it is illegal to build on park land. They've ignored the city's own Open Space and Recreation Plan. They are approving a building that has had NO formal site study or traffic/parking study."