WINCHESTER - Paul Manganaro spent 40 years building relationships in Winchester and Stephanie Zaremba is a lawyer by training who has worked with task forces and working groups. Both will officially join the Waterfield Task Force along with Patrick Fortin, Bill Cummings and Soumya Ganapathy.

All five members will meet regularly over the next several weeks with a financial consultant to offer recommendations to the negotiating team as they work to sell or lease the land known as the Waterfield lot in downtown Winchester (adjacent to the Winchester Center Commuter Rail Station) to Civico (or another developer if a deal with Civico can’t be reached).

It’s a strange position the town finds itself in, after a town-wide vote overturned a Town Meeting vote. In fact, this (probably) only happened once before in the past 85 years.

In 1935, according to town archivist Ellen Knight, Town Meeting rejected the idea of allowing Albert J. Locatelli to convert an existing building into a movie theater (or movie house as it was known back then).

From the town’s history (the whole thing is available here: https://www.winchester.us/DocumentCenter/View/3506/Movie-Theater-war?bidId=):

“When Town Meeting shot the idea down, the pro-movie group went the route of a referendum. On April 16, 1935, Winchester voters overturned the negative Town Meeting vote and recommended that the Selectmen grant Locatelli the license. Locatelli applied for a license six days later – but he did not get it.

“The selectmen decided ‘it would be unwise to act hastily upon a subject of such vital interest to the town as its first moving picture theater.’ They turned to the Planning Board for advice. The Planning Board, considering issues of traffic, the grade crossing question, and development of the center, preferred a north Main Street site. Locatelli gave up and built his building without a theater.

“The selectmen did not want for other suggestions. In addition to Locatelli’s, the selectmen received eight other applications for a moving picture license, beginning two days after the referendum vote through the next January. All were denied or withdrawn.

“Later in 1936, the Winchester Theatre Company, under the aegis of the E. M. Loew chain, stepped in. Choosing a site agreeable to the Planning Board, it applied for a license. The selectmen finally gave permission on Oct 13, 1936.”

This means the vote that took place back in June was somewhat historical. While overturning a Town Meeting vote may have occurred more than once, it absolutely hasn’t happened in the 15 plus years Town Clerk MaryEllen Lannon worked for the town.

But what makes this situation different from the 1935 incident, the current Select Board did not brush off the vote of the town; rather, they used it as an opportunity to convene a task force and dive back into negotiations in the hopes of landing a better (and what some voters would argue) and fairer deal.

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