CHELMSFORD — The tennis courts at McCarthy Middle School will remain for now, with a debate over their future, including possible use as a parking space.
Town Meeting representatives have backed changes to a measure to rehabilitate Chelmsford High School’s tennis and basketball courts – and convert the McCarthy tennis courts into a car park.
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Representatives voted on April 25 to approve changes to Article 11 on the term of office of the municipal assembly. The amendment proposed to reduce the $1.4 million listed in the warrant article to $1.2 million — covering work for the high school courts, but leaving the McCarthy courts as they are.
City Assembly Representative Joe Ready of Precinct 8 moved the amendment.
Ready said, “My intention is for the city to come back with a more specific plan as to what it wants to do…it doesn’t conflict with the resurfacing of the high school courts, which I think is much needed. .”
For the first time in recent memory, the Town Meeting ended in a single session — including approval of city and school budgets for fiscal year 2023, and a list of capital projects. Only a few articles sparked debate.
The McCarthy School tennis courts are located behind the police station.
state of disrepair
Introducing the article, City Manager Paul Cohen said removing the McCarthy School’s tennis courts would allow for necessary parking, both for school functions and for functions at the nearby police station.
“It’s at the point where they’re at the end of their useful life,” Cohen said. “The McCarthy tennis courts are in poor condition.” Cohen said $200,000 would be used to extend the parking lot behind the school to the gate, so the area is not used as a bypass for the Drum Hill roundabout.
Cohen noted that in recent municipal elections, a parking shortage occurred when voting in school-located precincts coincided with the unscheduled relocation of a school track event.
More votes for the municipal assembly
The article and amendment sparked debate, including from representatives who expressed concern for the schools’ tennis program.
Superintendent of Schools Jay Lang, both a former tennis player and tennis coach, said, “The McCarthy courts are unplayable. They haven’t been a venue for the high school team in some time.”
Lang said that with boys’ and girls’ teams taking turns, “You usually don’t need more than six courts.”
Ready said, “When I first saw the article, I became completely conflicted.”
Describing himself as an avid tennis player and fan, Ready said the biggest concern was to explore all options, including rehabilitation or other possible uses for the courts.
City Assembly Rep. Scott Davidson of Precinct 3 said: ‘I speak out against this amendment.’
Davidson said: “Residents in my neighborhood are voting at McCarthy – it started with a lack of parking. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a parking lot that could handle multiple events at the same time?”
At games or other events, Davidson said: “Cars are parked everywhere…I don’t think people are going to miss McCarthy’s tennis courts when there’s a desperate need for more of parking spaces.”
The future at the center of concerns
With a two-thirds majority vote required, the amendment received a vote of 118 to 6, with five abstentions, and a vote of 121 to 9 to adopt the amended article as a whole.
However, City Assembly Representative Johanna Shaw of Precinct 9, a supporter of the amendment, said: ‘I would also like the whole clause not to pass.’
Shaw suggested holding a special town meeting, with time to formulate a comprehensive plan for the future of the courts.
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