TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, for a virtual meeting.
The board reviewed a billboard special permit application for 1900 Andover St. Proponents David Modica and Edward Doherty were represented by attorney Jamey Cutelis. The proposed electronic billboard will be erected behind LongHorn Steakhouse on the Andover line.
There are no residents within the required 1,000 foot buffer zone; Cutelis said that the nearest resident lives “half a mile away.” The Town of Andover has also been notified of the project, according to Cutelis.
The billboard will be available for community use under the host agreement which must be negotiated with the town, providing “free time and access so that all kinds of community-based messages can be publicized,” said Cutelis.
Board member Jayne Wellman proposed doing a balloon test to allow residents to see how high the billboard would actually be.
Member Mark Kratman noted that the billboard might be visible from nearby hotels, but shouldn’t be impacted by it, and should not be distracting to motorists.
He also added that “if this [project] was to be denied by the Town of Tewksbury, there’s no saying that this couldn’t move up to the next intersection... we’d still see the billboard, and we’d be giving up two and a half million dollars in revenue.”
With the economy struggling, he added, the revenue generated from the billboard would help fill some budgetary gaps without any impact to residents.
“I think this is something the residents have asked us to look at, find different ways to get revenue,” he said. “I think this is an innovative way of getting it.”
Chairman Jay Kelly raised concerns over the potential for what he called “risque” content, but noted that the host agreement, along with state and federal regulations, will dictate what is displayed. He said the project was a “no-brainer” to generate a new revenue stream.
Resident Irene Benson called in to the meeting to ask whether the billboard will be visible from Ames Hill and Catamount Road, raising concerns over reduced home values.
Kelly said the billboard points to the highway, away from the neighborhoods.
Cutelis echoed this, saying, “I really think it’d be a reach to see if a house on Catamount could even see the faces, the way they’ll be angled toward 495 and away from Catamount... I think Catamount is probably a mile away... and the illumination drops precipitously, the [Department of Transportation] regulates that, and after 250 feet it’s almost immeasurable,” adding that it would be hard to imagine that Ames Hill could see the sign either.
The board voted to approved the application to move forward; Kelly and Town Manager Richard Montuori will now work out a host agreement with the applicant to outline the conditions of the project, which will be brought back to the board.
The board approved a change of manager application for Long Meadow Golf Club; the old bar manager is semi-retired and the club is planning to bring on a new manager.
The board heard a presentation from members of the Open Space and Recreation Committee about their 2019 plan update. The committee will also be presenting to the Planning Board and Conservation Commission.
The board approved a special municipal employee request for Stephen Powers; Powers applied to plow for the town this winter.
The board voted to approve their 2021 meeting dates.
The board reviewed Governor Charlie Baker’s new COVID-19 executive orders, effective Nov. 6.
Montuori explained the new orders require several types of facilities to close between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m., including indoor and outdoor recreation, theaters, youth and adult sports, including golf facilities and boating, gyms, fitness centers, and health clubs, and more. Restaurants must also abide by the restrictions; however, take out is still permissible after 9:30 p.m.
The new orders also prohibit the sale of alcohol or recreational cannabis after 9:30 p.m. at bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores.
The new orders also stipulate that all gatherings regulated under the order must end by 9:30 p.m. At a private residence, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people (except where a single household includes more than 10 people —members of the same household do not constitute a gathering), and outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people.
In public spaces and event venues, indoor gatherings can have no more than 25 people. Limitations for outdoor settings are different depending on a community’s risk designation as determined by the Department of Public Health. Low risk communities may allow gatherings of no more than 100 people, and high risk communities may allow gatherings of no more than 50 people.
The order applies to areas open to the public (such as parks) as well as private facilities for rent or lease. Places of worship are not subject to the order’s gathering limit, but must follow other guidelines and capacity limits specific to churches.
Outdoor gatherings for protests or rallies are not subject to size limitations, but indoor gatherings are subject to limits. The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission or local licensing authorities may revoke liquor licenses if the licensee violates nay part of the order.
The order also outlines new face covering requirements. Everyone over the age of five must wear a face covering indoors and outdoors at all times, even when social distancing can be maintained. The order does not apply to persons with medical conditions, when a face covering would impede the communication of persons with hearing impairments or other disabilities, or when rules provide otherwise (in a restaurant, at the dentist, etc).
A face covering is not required when a person is alone or with household members at home or in their vehicle.
Businesses can deny access to a customer who refuses to wear a face covering for non-medical reasons.
The governor also issued a stay-at-home advisory between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Residents should only leave their homes for essential needs during these times. Provisions for Phase III reopening are revised in the new orders, instructing communities that went into a higher risk category to reduce capacity and close certain facilities.
Montuori explained that risk metrics for cities and towns were recently changed; Tewksbury used to be red, but a change of designation shifted it to yellow, determined by the number of cases per 100,000 residents based on each town’s population.
“That doesn’t mean at some point we couldn’t move into the red,” he added.
Tewksbury Hospital and nursing home cases are included in the town’s numbers unless they make up more than 10 percent of cases; Montuori noted that as of Nov. 10 Tewksbury Hospital has no cases.
Montuori updated the board on the fire chief hiring process. He will be interviewing three candidates for the position in the coming weeks and plans to make a decision soon; the candidates were the highest scorers in a recent assessment center that puts applicants through a series of exercises and is run by an independent firm that also conducted the police chief hiring assessments for the town.
Current chief Mike Hazel is planning to retire in January 2021.
In committee reports, Wellman took time to acknowledge Tewksbury veterans. She also notified the board that the Beautification Committee is looking to take on a project to design guidelines and beautification elements for South Tewksbury, and is looking to ask the Planning Board to consider appointing a consultant to the project to strategically plan to be ready for development in the future.
“It’s an important economic development area for our community,” she said. “We have some amazing businesses in that area. We also have some amazing opportunities in that area that are open for development or redevelopment.”
Board members indicated that they would be supportive of the project.
The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 24, 2020. Residents wishing to comment may find the call-in number on their screen and on the meeting agenda on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 99 and Verizon channel 33.