Ashland’s Community Center MUST Be a “Community Center” Not a Private Project

I am writing to oppose Alan Sandler’s proposal to repair and then have a 20 year lease of the Community Center.  Out of the blue, he  reportedly approached only two Councillors with no community involvement or process, which would give him virtually unchecked authority over its use …. determining activities and setting rates and fees etc..for 20 years.     His ideas of the uses for the building have not come from the community. If we want to adopt his ideas, the whole community should be approached.  We might be in agreement.

He is a well known landlord, who I believe is 87, and would be turning over control to an unnamed team at some point as well. We do not know how much a desire for profit motivates him or his team.

I have lived in Ashland since the mid 1970s and know the special uses and meaning of this Center for Ashland and the valley for decades.  It has been part of the fabric of this town and not for private profit. It is a building we taxpayers  already paid for, own and benefit from, with deep historical roots.  It is akin to the concept of the Commons in England…..truly a Community Center in every sense of the word.   

Sandler reportedly approached two Councillors: Seffinger and Hyatt. Why just them?  Why not introduce this in public to the entire town?  He could put this proposal in the paper or send out a flyer in a heartbeat….or he could easily donate money to cover the repairs to the Community Center.   What a nice legacy that would be ….a donation to Ashland from one of its big landowners!

However, if we want to consider his proposal, let’s have zoom meetings, send out flyers and engage the town itself.  That would give the public time to talk about ALL of our options and decide as a big group what we want.  Do we really want to turn over one of our most beloved buildings to one person or team?  Should a lease like that be for 20 years????  How much profit would he or his team be making in that 20 years?  Any process should take its time and not be rushed through as the holidays are upon us.

I do not support turning over our Community Center in such a way.  It has been ours for a very long time and served us in a way that maximized access to it ….for weddings and anniversaries, dances, classes, workshops etc.  It did not require lots of money to rent….and we have always had the use our own building we paid for from our taxes. 

I want our Community Center to remain just that.  Please, turn this proposal down.    If Sandler wants to get public approval, let him approach the community first…or donate as a gesture of gratitude to the town that gave him the opportunity to prosper.

Gwen Davies, Ashland