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10 Takeaways From the Feb. 15 Select Board Meeting

The Select Board met last night and signed off on two new businesses looking to locate in Tewksbury.

1. A new boutique fine wine, craft beer and artisanal spirits store is planned for Wamesit Plaza, outside Walmart. The applicant, Dan Newcomb, also plans to operate three additional Wine & Market locations in Cambridge, Quincy and Lexington and promises an upscale experience.

Newcomb says he hopes to open by July 1 — September at the latest — and expects to have a staff of six to eight employees at peak times. 

“A big part of our business plan is being approachable, being able to help people,” said Newcomb. 

Select Board member Todd Johnson’s motion to approve the application was seconded by vice-chair Jayne Wellman and passed unanimously.

2. Just down the street, the Ira Toyota location is being sold to TY of Tewksbury LLC, doing business as Auto Fair Toyota. The company previously had a Nissan dealership in Tewksbury that was moved to Chelmsford. The applicants told board member Anne Marie Stronach that there were no comments from abutters.

The license transfer was unanimously approved, again on a motion from Johnson.

3. Neither sewer nor water rates will increase for FY23. Town Manager Richard Montuori gave an extensive presentation on the FY23 budgets for the town’s four enterprise funds — sewer and water, the telemedia department and stormwater.

An enterprise fund is a separate accounting and financial reporting mechanism for municipal services for which a fee is charged in exchange for goods or services. These funds ensure that residents who use more of a service pay accordingly and that income is available for improvements as needed. 

All four funds are in good shape, with retained earnings ranging from $6,699,211 for sewer to $132,686 for stormwater. For the telemedia enterprise fund, salaries went up 2.25% plus step increases, on par with other town employees, while the operating budget went down by $5,800.

Plans for FY23 include an upgrade and replacement of town hall meeting room cameras and audio equipment to improve sound quality. Wellman asked the town manager to investigate the purchase of a portable audio system to use at outdoor events, such as the annual tree lighting. 

Montuori stated that federal ARPA funds will be used to improve the town’s water distribution system, and residents can also expect to see town water meters being replaced next year on a gradual basis. Seventy-four percent of potential sewer users are connected.

4. Funding for a new DPW facility is on track, with $25 million already funded within the FY23 budget. Once the town finalizes the design, the town manager will have a better idea of cost. 

Also in the budget is a full restoration of the skateboard park at Livingston St.

Looking further ahead, attendees at the October Special Town Meeting can expect to see requests for $100,000 for new library carpeting, $250,000 for sidewalks and $25,000 for upgrades to Town Hall Annex.

Montuori promises to have a detailed budget breakdown as well as narratives behind the town’s priorities posted on the new website later today. Check the TM’s Budget Page for updates.

5. Retail marijuana may come to Tewksbury, but not this spring. Johnson and Select Board clerk James Mackey represent the Select Board on the Zoning Bylaw Committee. Johnson said that committee has developed a “very solid” bylaw revision.

“We have the absolute intention of putting the article before town meeting in May,” he said. “We’re hopeful that residents who attend town meeting will find their way to be supportive.”

To that end, expect to see educational efforts over the coming months. 

What won’t be in the new zoning bylaw is a plan for retail marijuana facilities in Tewksbury. Given a lack of clarity around regulatory components, Johnson asked the town manager to investigate issues, such as who approves licenses, before the matter goes before town meeting.

“Is it going to be locally controlled or are we going to defer to the state? What are the rules of the road?” asked Johnson. “There was tremendous risk of confusion and a lack of clarity.”

Mackey points out that this is over a $1 billion industry in Massachusetts, and the town would not be an early adopter at this point. 

Wellman asked where the facilities might be located; Johnson said the idea is the general business district, from the Lowell town line up to Walmart. Montuori assured the board that there would be a proposal ready for October Town Meeting.

6. Chair Jay Kelly brought up the issue of potholes, which seem to have overtaken taxes and coyotes as the hot topic on local social media sites. Montuori said surrounding communities are also dealing with the problem, which was exacerbated by recent wet weather. Four crews are working daily applying patches. Residents who have potholes on their streets are asked to fill out the online request form or call the DPW directly.

7. NMCOG rep Wellman says the agency is prepared to offer technical assistance to towns, including Tewksbury, that are affected by the new Massachusetts Zoning Act. She also requested that, in advance of paving on Rt. 38, the town manager ask Mass. DOT to hold a public information session for businesses and residents in the affected area. She asked for a firm date for that session by the next Select Board meeting on March 8. Paving work is due to begin in April.

8. In further committee reports, Stronach relayed that, on March 2, the Select Board and School Committee are invited to view the new elementary school, which is now 63% complete and still on budget.

9. Mackey reports that the nine-member Economic Development Committee is looking to get back on track.

“There’s been a significant amount of outreach to the committee members trying to align as well as working with Alex Lowder,” he said, referring to the town’s new community and economic development manager. Lowder has been staying on top of the progress of new businesses, reporting recently on the Starbucks and La Vida Dolce bakery.

10. Kelly pointed out that the 21-day appeal process in regard to the cease-and-desist order imposed on the unpermitted contractor yard at the end of South St. is about to expire. He asked Montuori to check in with Andover building inspector Chris Clemente on the status of the appeal.

Residents may remember that the Andover Zoning Board of Appeals called the yard a “50 year problem” and ordered the owner, Matthew Strong of Forever Endeavor, an LLC registered at 4 Rennie Dr., Andover, to remove all equipment, vehicles, construction and earth materials. Strong immediately filed an appeal. 

Lorna is a 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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