Special Town Meeting: All Articles passed (though two with amendments)

Above: This Special Town Meeting looked different than usual, but the business of Town legislation got done. (photo by Beth Melo)

Last night, Southborough voters quickly passed 9 Articles on the Special Town Meeting Warrant. They then spent hours discussing, debating, and amending the 10th before finally passing a version of the Downtown District zoning bylaw.

The final vote to pass the bylaw was 73% approval by about 250 voters.

[Editor’s Note: I  have since posted the Downtown District bylaw details with an update on Wednesday morning to include the final language approved. Click here for that coverage.]

In the meantime, I can share that Articles 1-9 were passed as intended by their proponents, including the pre-arranged plan to amend Article 3. A couple of clarification questions were asked, but none prompted debate.

If you hadn’t read about Articles 1-9, here’s my recap: 

1. Amend Personnel Bylaw 

Revised the Town’s Salary Administration plan to include an IT Specialist position that was included in the budget voters approved at Annual Town Meeting in May.

2. Amend Town Code — Select Board 

Simply renamed “Board of Selectman” to “Select Board”

3. Amend FY2022 Budget

  • Voters approved an amendment proposed by the Board of Health to remove their request in the Warrant to increase the budget for BOH staff. (Read about that here.)
  • Reduced the MWRA Water assessment in the Water Enterprise Fund budget by $150K (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 were charged to the Town’s Free Cash, not impacting tax increases to cover the year’s budget.
  • (Read about all of that here.)

5. Traffic Study for HCV routes 

  • $25K was approved 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 was charged to Free Cash, not adding to the tax burden for this year. (Read about taxes vs Free Cash here.)

6. Amend Town Code — Advisory membership

Amended the charge to lower the number of members to seven (the current number of members), add a Vice Chair, and rename “Chairman” as “Chair”.

7. Amend Town Code — Notice of Town Meetings

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

This allows official to site Town Meetings in a “town contiguous to Southborough”. It is meant to provide options if needed in an emergency situation.

9. Amend Town Code — Availability of Annual Report

Corrected conflicting language in the Town Code about making the Town Meeting materials available to the public.

Updated (11/3/21 9:20 am): Initially, I wrote that I was waiting for some details to be confirmed before posting the language approved for the Downtown District bylaw. Since then, I was able to cover those details here.]

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John B
2 years ago

Can someone please explain how the Moderator could ignore multiple requests on the floor to postpone article 10 indefinitely? None of those requests were ever honored on the floor but instead the article was discussed for several hours and taken to a vote. The Town Clerk and Attorney General should review the recording for Article 10 process and determine if rules were followed. Again, this was not just one person but MULTIPLE requests from multiple people which were ignored.

Kelly Roney
2 years ago
Reply to  John B

Southborough’s moderators over the 35 years I’ve attended Town Meetings have always ruled out of order motions such as indefinite postponement when useful debate clearly continues. For one thing, a even a nuisance motion such as, presumably, your to postpone indefinitely is just as debatable as the main motion it attempts to suppress, so moving it prematurely accomplishes nothing but to delay the offering of amendments.

You should have more respect for your fellow citizens than to try to shut us down on all sides with a childish display of anti-democratic impatience.

2 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

Perhaps you believe 35 years attending town meetings gives you some sort of special consideration? It DOES NOT.

Your memory seems to be failing you as in the Sprint 2021 ATM at least two discussions were shut down after roughly 10 minutes of discussion by someone moving to postpone indefinitely those questions. Where was the “moderator” then? Oh – wait – he didn’t want those articles to pass.

The motion to postpone indefinitely is as legitimate as any other motion that may be made by a citizen. It is no more a “nuisance motion” than any other. You are WRONG. Thank Dog you were not the “moderator”!

Last night’s discussion went on for 2+ hours. It seemed to me the gentleman’s motion to postpone indefinitely article 10 was prescient. Again, despite the ad nauseam discussion of the minutae of the article, at least 4 other people moved to postpone indefinitely – and ALL were ignored by the “moderator”.

And, as astutely pointed out by Ms. Shimkus, one of the 4 who noted the article was not ready for prime time, 90%+ of the people at the meeting did not understand the article and/or what they would be voting for or against.

For the final vote, the “moderator” described it as a “vote on the amendment to the article”. When a gentleman repeatedly asked whether the vote was on the article itself or on the (latest) amendment to the article, the “moderator” repeatedly ignored the questions.

QUESTION: Do the voters work for the “moderator” or does the “modertor” work for the voters?

Sean Connelly
2 years ago
Reply to  pompous


You really should consider stopping anonymous posting as, according to you, a “privilege you afford people”. It’s only the same 3 people who post this vitriol and few if any sites allow anonymous posting anymore. If someone is going to make accusations against the town moderator then they should put their name to it, or you shouldn’t be posting them nor should it be considered a privilege to do so.

By continuing to give people cover in anonymity you are only further encouraging this sort of toxic posting behavior. I think you would find, if you were to poll your readers, that the vast majority of people would support some sort of Facebook (as much as I loathe Facebook) login to help limit this. Constructive discourse comes with standing with your comments.

I say this as someone who watched his wife be vilified for months straight specifically as well as a part of greater EDC.

Anita Reeder
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean Connelly

Oh dear, please do not use FB or any other social media platform login to make people identify themselves on your blog! I, also, loathe, and I refuse to join any social platform and think they actually propagate the vitriol in our society now because people can post and say anything they want to…

Personal attacks towards anyone who has volunteered or agreed to serve the public in any way are unconscionable. It is certainly ok to disagree with someone, but please leave the personal attacks out of it. I would like to believe that those persons who serve do try to have everyone’s best interests at heart and you will certainly NEVER please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Those who make personal attacks should try serving in these capacities so that they can understand the very complicated aspects of some of the decisions that have to be made.

Having said that, I do hope that any building forthcoming in the downtown area will be well thought out and present a pleasing aesthetic as befitting a New England town. A prime example of what NOT to build is the present building located at 11 Main Street…so not what a New England village building should look like! Sorry, folks, it is just plain ugly :-( And that is exactly my point…I find it ugly, others may find it perfectly acceptable. But, do let’s hope we don’t get another one like it!! :-)

Marty Gras
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean Connelly

Agree with Anita below. Also, apparently someone used Facebook in an attempt to bring in votes to the hall last minute. While it may happen all the time, sometimes people should use better judgment, particularly since the meeting was well along. BOS knew this had happened. Also, for any presenter on BOS to make negative color commentary on voters into a live microphone should not be allowed by the moderator.

Kelly Roney
2 years ago
Reply to  Sean Connelly

I have still yet to hear a single example from any of the sockpuppets here of something personally offensive that Marty said in this meeting. There are times I’ve heard him go over the line in the past, but I didn’t hear any in this meeting.

If you have the receipts, show them.

Kelly Roney
2 years ago
Reply to  pompous

I have to say that you’ve finally picked an appropriate name for yourself, pompous! Good on ya!

Won’t let the truth get in the way of a good rant would be an apt tag, too, but it’s too long, so good judgement to skip that!

I made no claim to special privilege. Read my comment again if you don’t believe me. I made a claim of some experience (still less than many people have). I was responding to “Can someone please explain…?” I guess that question must’ve been entirely rhetorical, not really seeking an answer but just stirring the pot. My bad!

The Moderator explained in response to the first attempt to stifle debate, he has the discretion to rule against a motion to postpone, in my words to treat it as a nuisance motion. You didn’t want to hear it then, and you don’t want to hear it now. You wanted your way right at that moment and this one, and who doesn’t!

The thing is, in a democracy, we can’t all have our way. You know this, I’m sure. You’re not an idiot. Democracy is how we sort out what to do from among competing proposals, at least for now. That’s what we did on Monday night. My proposal lost out. That’s life.

According to Town Meeting Time (yes, I have a copy), a motion to indefinitely postpone is the least privileged subsidiary motion. If other voters are lined up at the microphones – since we’re not a mob and can’t all just shout out our thoughts – they should, in my opinion and more importantly in the Moderator’s opinion, be accorded the right to debate and make motions without the dilatory tactics of a small few who want them to just shut up.

I’m surprised you didn’t rant about my typo, but thanks for not being petty about that.

John B
2 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

Ms. Roney, I actually voted FOR the downtown housing plan so my vote has nothing to do with my concerns. Had the moderator chosen to address the multiple request to postpone indefinitely those proposals would most likely have gone down in defeat. My issue is purely a process one and even people I disagree with deserve to be heard and recognized. I would suggest YOU have more RESPECT for process – interesting how quick you labeled me anti-democratic based on your conclusions when you know nothing about me and my vote. It’s pretty amusing if it wasn’t so annoyingly hypocritical.

Kelly Roney
2 years ago
Reply to  John B

People have been telling me that Kelly is a girl’s name since kindergarten.

If you voted for the mixed use zoning plan, it’s odd you’d want to postpone it, but ok.

It’s odd you think the right to shut down debate is on a par with the right to debate.

Did I hear that right?
2 years ago

While we are at it, let’s have them review the inappropriate and snarky comments from BOS member Mr. Healey, while on the podium and at the microphone, toward voters speaking with an opposing opinion. I caught at least four times this happened. Totally unacceptable behavior from an official elected to represent all voters in Southborough. He should apologize and change his ways.

Kelly Roney
2 years ago

Hmm, was one of those outrageous snarky remarks when Marty responded to my amendment, saying he didn’t support it and hoped I’d be ok seeing him around our shared neighborhood?

‘Cause I’m a big boy, and his comments amused me. I wasn’t offended at all, just as he wasn’t offended by my (failed) amendments to the delicate compromise between the Select Board and the Planning Board.

So, are we down to three offending remarks? What were the others? Marty, no doubt, can throw some snark. I want to hear what I missed.

You Did Hear Right
2 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

You did hear right. The weirdly snarky comments offered by Mr. Healey are unprofessional and highly inappropriate for a person who is supposed to be upholding standards of BOS. The commentary into the live microphone was actually disturbing.

The cringeworthy moments were embarrassing. That behavior is something one would expect from an immature adolescent. He should apologize or move on. If any voter spoke in the same manner, the moderator would not allow it. But this BOS member does it regularly. His diatribes about “false narratives” are overly sensitive, overblown, and off base.

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