Other Town Meeting Highlights

I’m recapping highlights from the Town sponsored articles during the lesser attended evening session of Annual Town Meeting. (Stay tuned for coverage of the Citizen Petition Articles.)

Engineering Audit of proposed Hopkinton Water Connection to MWRA

Article 25 was a zero cost proposition (since funds will be reimbursed by Hopkinton). The project is driven by our neighbors’ need for a new water supply since Town wells were discovered to have too high levels of hazardous PFAs. The peer review is to confirm that the Hopkinton’s proposal to get its Town water supply makes sense and doesn’t pose problems for Southborough. If the project moves forward, Hopkinton officials have agreed to pay for the full project costs, full repaving of impacted roads, and $1M worth of unrelated water infrastructure improvements in Southborough. 

In the fall the Select Board heard complaints from wary residents about potential impacts of the project. Presenter John Butler spent 25 minutes going through the dire need for Hopkinton and the benefits for Southborough. He told voters that we can help our neighbors and help ourselves in the process. He also stressed that we can’t allow Hopkinton to become another “Flint, Michigan”. He followed that if we don’t step up, the state legislature might force a solution that involves our Town against its will, under less desirable terms. Following the presentation there was another 25 minutes of discussion. There were a couple of criticisms. But most of the discussion was a combination of Q&A on the details and comments of support.

The Article passed overwhelmingly.

Protecting Public Shade Trees, Tree Inventory, and Scenic Roads

Planning Board Meme Luttrell tried again to convince the hall to pass Planning Board’s bylaw to protect trees in the right of way. The bylaw is to clarify state laws and the Town’s process for complying. When asked about what the bylaw entails, she answered that it is just following the state law. However, Advisory Committee Chair Andrew Pfaff said language in the bylaw went beyond what is in the state laws, and seems to overstep. His committee voted 3-1 to not support.

In the fall, the board had made a similar pitch about the bylaw. At that time, voters objected to a requirement to get a permit from the Tree Warden for excavating within a tree’s dripline on private property. That may have added to wariness in the hall on Saturday when the specifics of the difference in process and restrictions if the bylaw passed weren’t made clear. The vote tied 79-79. Without a majority, it failed.

The following Article was to transfer $30K from this year’s budget to next year’s in order to finish work to inventory shade trees in town and determine where new ones can be planted. Although some voters expressed skepticism, the Article passed.

For the third meeting in a row, the Scenic Roads bylaw was indefinitely postponed. (Unlike in the fall, when she made the motion to postpone) on Saturday, Planning member Marnie Hoolahan tried to convince the hall to pass the Article. The intent was to add 68 roads to the existing list of 98 scenic roads in town. That would have made all Town roads fall under the same laws for handling the removal of public shade trees and stone walls. Planning argued that having all roads under the same process would streamline and simplify management.

Under the state scenic roads laws, a hearing is required to remove a stone wall, regardless of when it was built. Some commenters argued that the protection level didn’t make sense in a modern subdivision and/or that the designation should be for a smaller list of significant roads, not modern subdivisions.

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David Parry
1 year ago

Yet AGAIN we witnessed an ignorant critic misleading Town Meeting. It is a pity he isn’t up for re-electoon, so voters could clean house.

I refer to the proposed Scenic Roads Bylaw and continuing efforts by Select Board member Andrew Dennington to mislead voters. Let’s learn from the excellent COMMENT BY PLG BD CHAIR MEME LUTTTRELL …

” (Dennington) ERRONEOUSLY claimed that the tree hearing process for scenic and non-scenic roads are a vastly different. That claim is INCORRECT. The … requirements for both types of hearings are the SAME -– the only difference being that tree hearings for NON-scenic roads are held at Select Board meetings … and for scenic roads the Planning Board joins (the Sel Bd in a joint hearing). . So — having the procedure laid out in the (PROPOSED SCENIC ROADS BYLAW ) would ALLEVIATE SUCH CONFUSION …”

At next Town Meeting, let’s support our Planning Board … let’s recognize that Dennington was FACTUALLY INCORRECT, once again. He doesn’t like Scenic Roads.

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