TEWKSBURY — This month, the Town of Tewksbury convened a Special Town Meeting at Tewksbury Memorial High School.
Article 1, which transfers funds from accounts with a projected surplus to accounts with a projected deficit or to accounts to allow for the purchase of needed items or services, was adopted.
Article 2, which utilizes free cash certified as July 1, 2018 to fund the Department of Public Works snow and ice budget due to the amount of snow and ice during the winter which exceeded the amounted budget, was adopted.
Article 3, which authorizes the town to pay outstanding bills from the previous year, was adopted.
Special Town Meeting was adjourned.
At 7:30 a.m., annual Town Meeting was reopened to address the remaining articles on the warrant from the previous Monday night.
Article 24, which would sell a parcel of land to be used for building and selling of market rate or affordable homes at 286 Pleasant St. through a public procurement process, was adopted.
Article 25, which amends the Finance Committee general bylaw to eliminate the mailing requirement for actions taken by the committee to be considered valid, was adopted.
Article 26 amends the Town Meeting General Bylaw to allow amendments to general and zoning bylaw articles in excess of three pages to only require a summary of the article for the printing of the Town Meeting warrants that are to be mailed. Town Manager Richard Montuori stated that the article was being posted in anticipation of “a complete rewrite of the zoning bylaw... close to 200 pages.”
Montuori noted that full copies of such articles will be available for viewing at the Tewksbury Public Library, Senior Center, and the Town Clerk’s Office. An amendment was made to change three pages to 10 pages.
Resident Bruce Panilaitis spoke against the amendment: “The whole point of the article was to reduce the costs, so if we’re going to change three pages to 10, we’re seeing a very large mailing... frankly, we shouldn’t be mailing them at all... they’re available at Town Hall, they’re available at the library, and you can download them.”
The amendment failed. The article was adopted.
Article 27, the purpose of which is to accept Winterberry Lane as a public way, or town street, was adopted.
Article 28 is a citizen petition to repeal a bylaw that was adopted at the October Town Meeting prohibiting single-use handled plastic bags in Tewksbury at places such as supermarkets, retail stores, and restaurants. The Finance Committee made a motion to indefinitely postpone Article 28.
Proponent Joe Dunn stated that “a better solution is education of our residents…. no ban is necessary... what is the next thing some will deem unacceptable that they will seek to ban?”
Town Manager Richard Montuori spoke against the article, citing the financial impact plastic bags have on the town and the taxpayers, as well as the environmental impact.
“Keep in mind your responsibility to be stewards of the environment in this town, in this state, and in this country. We have to teach our children by our actions tonight to carry on that commitment. We can no longer ignore the environmental impacts that face us, and if this repeal is approved tonight, that is exactly what we will be doing.”
One resident attempted to make an amendment to the bylaw; however, resident Panilaitis contended that the amendment was out of order because the article did not relate to the text of the bylaw. After a five minute discussion with Town Counsel, the resident withdrew the amendment.
More than 10 residents spoke both for and against repeal of the article; two residents, both runners, spoke about the bags they see in the woods and on the roads of the town, and several residents shared their experiences at townwide clean-up day on May 4. Parents shared the importance of raising environmentally conscious children.
State Representative David Robertson spoke about initiatives and hearings he has participated in at the State House as part of the joint committee on environment, natural resources, and agriculture regarding alternatives to plastic bags.
Resident Ken Michaud asked for data on how much litter was collected before the ban, and what percentage by weight was plastic bags; Montuori replied that the data is too difficult to collect. Michaud raised concerns over increased use of resources necessary to produce reusable bags.
Teacher Patty Sockey was the last resident to speak on the article: “The reason that I’m here is the pride that I feel in my hometown today… it’s my job to help produce and shape educated, informed, productive citizens who will make educated decisions both locally and globally… I like to lead by example, so here I stand... we’re already on the map because of this issue; let’s make the news for a good reason and do the right thing tonight.”
217 residents voted to indefinitely postpone the article, and 36 voted for adoption. The article was defeated.
Article 29 was a citizen resolution to “reaffirm that voting in all Federal, State, and Municipal elections is the exclusive right and privilege of United States citizens.” The proponent was not in the hall and so no action was taken.
Article 34 would allow for off-premise electronic message boards and billboards along interstate highways. The Finance Committee and Planning Board recommended adoption.
“This article was presented in the fall, it did not pass, because there was mass confusion,” said selectman Jay Kelly. “Folks in Tewksbury thought we were going to have billboards on Route 38; that is not the case... we do believe this is a significant revenue stream… this is an absolute no-brainer for the town to approve.”
Selectman Mark Kratman pointed out an example of a billboard that might have been put in Tewksbury but was put in Lowell that is visible from Tewksbury, but Lowell receives the revenue stream.
“We have to look at it every day... but Lowell gets the money.”
Kratman cited several regulations placed on billboards that support his argument that billboards do not affect driver safety. One resident questioned how the town would gain revenue from the stream. Kratman explained the host-agreements with billboard companies, which can average $50,000 a year.
Nancy Reed proposed an amendment to restrict billboards from being placed within 1,000 feet of the residential or multi-family district. The amendment was adopted.
“If we pass on this opportunity, rest assured that communities like Lowell, communities like Andover, communities like Wilmington will not pass on this opportunity,” said resident Jerry Selissen.
He also mentioned that every nonprofit in town is allowed up to five hours per month per the town’s bylaw to promote their activities on electronic messaging boards.
A motion for indefinite postponement failed. With a required two-thirds majority, the article was adopted as amended with 181 yays, 32 nays.
Article 35 is a petition by developer James Andella to change the zoning district classification for the property located at 50 Kittredge Ave. from Heavy Industrial to Heavy Industrial 1. The Planning Board unanimously recommended adoption of the article. 97 residents voted in favor of the article, and 51 voted against it. However, having not achieved the required 99 votes to achieve a two-thirds majority, the article was not adopted.
Article 36, which re-zones land currently zoned Heavy Industry to Heavy Industry 1, was adopted.
Article 37, which allows automotive sales and service in an HI-1 zone by special permit of the Planning Board, was adopted.
Article 38 was withdrawn by the proponent.
Article 39, which changes the zoning classification for the property located at 1600 Main St. from Multiple Family to Commercial to make the classification consistent with other parcels abutting Main Street, was adopted unanimously.
Article 40 was withdrawn by the proponent without prejudice.
Annual Town Meeting adjourned at 10:50 pm. Special Town Meeting is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1, 2019.