Town Meeting: Barn Hollow Open Space accepted; more controversial items up for vote tonight

Town Meeting had an estimated over 400 in attendance last night. (No official count yet.) Voters easily approved most articles addressed, including a controversial open space acceptance.

13 Articles still need to be addressed at the continued meeting, beginning  7:30 pm tonight at the Trottier Middle School auditorium.

The one motion to fail last night was the request to indefinitely postpone the acceptance of Barn Hollow Open Space. Planning Board Chair Don Morris requested pulling the item in order to continue working on a compromise.

According to Morris, the developer, Brendan Homes, recently filed papers on the issue. The developer blamed the delay on needing to wait for snow to melt before land could be surveyed. No details were provided as to what the developer proposed, just that there was progress.

Two members of the neighborhood asked voters to give them more time to resolve the issues. Other residents echoed the recommendations of the Advisory Board and Open Space Preservation Commission to stop dragging the issue out. (For more background on the issue, click here.) After the motion to postpone the decision failed, more than the required 2/3 of voters chose to accept the land.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the other of the first 17 Articles 1-17  including a $46.8 million budget (a 3.64% increase), but not without discussion. Here are some of the highlights: 

  • Fire Department – Louis Fazen asked to lower the budget to eliminate two new hires. He questioned whether budgeted salaries included covering their future benefit expenses to the town. The answer was no. Advisory Board member John Butler explained that they considered eliminating the positions for that reason. They were convinced to support the budget by firefighters advocating the extra help at personal financial cost. The firefighters will make less in over-time as a result of the new hires. But they said that they need the staff as the extra over-time is causing burnout. Fazen withdrew his motion to reduce the budget, but pointed out the importance of letting the town know about benefits expenses that will be incurred whenever new hires are made.
  • Capital Budgets – Some residents were concerned about the over $500,00 to be spent on unspecified capital expenses. Selectmen explained that the intent was to streamline budgeting and allow Town Administrator authority to adjust expenditures if specific items. An amendment was passed adding the itemized list of expenditures, but without tying them to their estimated expenses.
  • Medical Marijuana dispensary zoning – Some residents were uncomfortable with the zoned area. A couple made it clear that they didn’t want dispensaries in town. Planning Board member Paul Cimino explained that the town has to allow a facility by voter-supported state law. Therefore the choice was between limiting the zoning or leaving it open so that a dispensary could potentially be anywhere in town that passed the state standards (including residential neighborhoods). Voters supported the zoning restrictions.

The meeting wrapped up at close to 11:00 pm with the vote to continue to tonight. Articles still unaddressed are:

Planning Board member Kathy Bartolini addressed the voters under the first article of Town Reports. She previewed the board’s decision to withdraw the Site Plan Review. The board wants time to check the plan against court rulings. She assured voters it would be ready for the next annual or special Town Meeting.

One last highlight from Wednesday night wasn’t a vote or debate. As moderator David Coombs attempted to announce Gobron’s retirement, the audience made their knowledge clear by cutting him off with a standing ovation. Coombs did finish his laudatory speech after the applause. He painted Gobron as being a passionate defender of the schools, while still keeping perspective and humor.

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Jim Hegarty
8 years ago

Hello,

Please contact everyone you can and ask them to attend tonight’s Town Meeting so they can support article #29 which will allow the Selectmen to borrow funds to resurface the 91/1 Memorial Field. The proposal I submitted would raise user fees so the user fees would pay 100% of the cost of the bond and all future maintenance expenses. This would also allow the Selectmen to work with Rep. Carolyn Dykema to negotiate with DCR to obtain a long term lease and change other conditions of the current lease.

Tonight’s meeting will start at 7:30 pm so this article will not be heard until 8:00 pm at the earliest. Sometimes these meetings run until 11:00 pm. I wish I could give you a more precise time, but I cannot.

It is very important that we get a LOT of people to attend to demonstrate how deep the support for retaining the 911 Memorial Field.

Keep in mind that we will be voting to keep this living memorial to the Massachusetts victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we are also preparing to celebrate the Boston Marathon and remember the victims of that terrorist attack last year!

Please pass this information to everyone you know who will support youth sports in Southborough.

The kids of Southborough thank you for your support!

Jim Hegarty

Paul Cimino
8 years ago

Taking off from Beth’s very last paragraph above regarding Site Plan Review, I want to generally stress the need for some measure of zoning reform in our Town (the nature and extent of which will certainly be subject to future TM debate). I also want to commend my colleague Mrs. Bartolini for her tireless efforts on this issue going back to 2008 at the start of the ZAC process. Coincident with the arrival of our Town’s new Town Planner in the fall, the Planning Board has decided to bring zoning reform to TM in more manageable pieces (versus redoing the entire bylaw at once as the ZAC had envisioned). While some proposed changes are small and some are large, they are all part of an update to our Town’s zoning code that has remained largely unchanged for decades. I urge you to give careful attention and consideration to these items as they are presented at future public hearings and TMs, beginning with the Site Plan Review changes that Mrs. Bartolini so ably previewed last night. Thank you.

Paul Cimino

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