Monday’s Town Meeting-at-a-glance: “No Mask, No Entry”; What’s on the Warrant

by beth on October 29, 2021

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On Monday night at 7:00 pm, Southborough will hold a Special Town Meeting. Registered voters will be asked to pass ten Articles.

The meeting will take place at Trottier Middle School. Voters aren’t required to have their ID, but having your license handy helps expedite checking in.

The main hall will be the gymnasium, setup for distanced seating. (Chairs will be 6 feet apart, but couples will be allowed to move them next to each other.) If that fills up, the auditorium will be used for the overflow room. (Those voters will be able to see the moderator and presenters, and the moderator will be able to see them. It will also be staffed with an equity moderator to assist voters who want to comment or ask questions.)

Masks will be required throughout the entire meeting. (On October 21st, the Board of Health voted to revise their earlier decision, based on updated information from the Town Clerk and Town Counsel. They approved a “No Mask, No Entry” policy.)

This week, Town Moderator Paul Cimino told selectmen and Advisory members that he’s unlikely to propose a Consent Agenda. He opined that the time it would take to explain it could be about as long as it would have taken to pass Articles he would have included.

The Warrant and handouts will be especially important this meeting. To simplify the use of the overflow seating, the Town will not project presentations or motions on screens.

To save time, instead of reading aloud the motions, presenters may ask readers to pass some Articles “as written in the Warrant”. For the Warrant and other materials, click here. (But also be sure to lookout for new handouts on site that evening.)

Articles include $140K in funding requests, some administrative items, and the proposed zoning revisions for the Downtown District. It’s the last one that will be the main focus for many of the voters who show up on Monday. Articles 1-9 aren’t hugely controversial, but a few could prompt some discussion/debate. 

Below is my quick summary of each Article, along with context and links for more details on most. 

1. Amend Personnel Bylaw 

Revising the Town’s Salary Administration plan to include the IT Specialist position that voters approved the budget for at Annual Town Meeting in May.

2. Amend Town Code — Select Board 

Simply changing the Board of Selectman’s name to Select Board

3. Amend FY2022 Budget

  • Reduce the MWRA Water assessment in the Water Enterprise Fund budget by $150K (Read about that here.)
  • Voters will be asked to amend the Article to remove the request to increase the Board of Health budget. (Read about that here.)

4. Amend FY2022 Budget — Capital expenses

  • $30K to for the Town’s ongoing work to determine what its long term municipal building needs are.
  • $85K for IT Server replacements.
  • Both expenses would be charged to the Town’s Free Cash, not impacting tax increases to cover the year’s budget.
  • (Read about all of that here. If you read this morning’s story, note that I updated it at 12:13 pm to better explain the tax situation.)

5. Traffic Study for HCV routes 

  • $25K for a study of the routes big trucks (Heavy Commercial Vehicles) take through Town. The intent is to help determine the routes HCV should be encouraged/prevented from taking. It’s a step selectmen want to take before applying to the state for a HCV exclusion for Flagg Road which could require them to request lifting the current HCV exclusion on Main Street. (Read about that here.)
  • As with Article 4, this expense would be funded by Free Cash, not adding to the tax burden for this year. (Read about taxes vs Free Cash here.)

6. Amend Town Code — Advisory membership

  • To amend the charge to lower the number of members to seven (the current number of members) and add a Vice Chair.
  • The language doesn’t include the section that was the most controversial at Annual Town Meeting, intended to allow more overlap with a permanent replacement for the ad hoc Capital Planning Committee. (The Capital Improvement & Planning Committee Article was withdrawn after the Advisory Article failed. Since then, the CPC membership has changed with no overlap between the two.)
  • However, there was also debate at ATM over lowering the number of committee members. (Read about that here.)

7. Amend Town Code — Notice of Town Meetings

At the Request of the Town Clerk, this clarifies the required notice for posting a Special Town Meeting Warrant as 14 days in advance. (It’s the same as the notice for Annual Town Meeting.)

8. Amend Town Code — Location of Town Meeting

At the Request of the Town Clerk, this would allows official to site Town Meetings in a “town contiguous to Southborough”. It is meant to provide options if needed in an emergency situation. (An example given was the ability to hold the meeting at Algonquin Regional High School if there was a problem with the building at Trottier Middle School.)

9. Amend Town Code — Availability of Annual Report

At the Request of the Town Clerk, Correct conflicting language in the Town Code about making the Annual Report available to the public. The list of places the Warrant should be posted was updated by voters in 2017 under Section 41-2 “Notice of Meeting”. It wasn’t updated under 41-26 “Availability of Annual Report and Warrant”.

10. Amend Town Code — Zoning — Downtown District

This is the one sure to spark the most debate.

It’s a proposed zoning bylaw to create a new zone, the Downtown District, encompassing most of the current Downtown Business Village. That zone would have new bylaws on by right and special permitted uses, and building and lot regulations.

It represents years of efforts by the Town to revise zoning to help revitalize the downtown Main Street area. Officials who were at loggerheads over some details banged out a compromise less than two weeks ago. Now, the bylaw which requires 2/3 approval is being hotly debated by readers. Most of the concerns raised relate to provisions allowing multi-family housing. (You can read more about that here.)

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