One great feature of Tewksbury’s Open Town Meeting form of government is that everyone’s voice can be heard. Often, articles pass with no one rising to speak, but there are a few that may stir some debate.
Article 2: Elected Official Salaries
Select Board member Jay Kelly advised the Board that he plans to offer an amendment to redistribute the allocated $40,905 paid to town boards more evenly across the 20 elected officials in town. Under his proposal, the 16 elected board members will each receive $1,945.25. The four chairs will receive an additional $500, for $2,445.25 each.
That’s a win for Board of Health and Planning Board members, who will see raises. But School Committee members and the chair will see pay cuts of $305 and $255, respectively. Select Board pay will drop $2,555 for members and $2,995 for chair Todd Johnson.
Kelly said the impetus for him to examine salaries was the reduction of the terms for newly elected Planning Board members from five years to three, voted on at October Town Meeting.
“So in lieu of that vote, I took a hard look at these numbers, not realizing, wait a minute, the board of health makes $405 a year, the planning board $765,” he said. “So what I’m saying is, there’s a huge discrepancy among dollars across our different boards.”
A YES vote on the amendment will redistribute the budget. A NO vote would leave elected official salaries as they are now.
Article 16: Allocate Funds for New Bleachers
This article authorizes the town to spend $45,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to replace the bleachers at the football field located at Saunders Recreation Complex on Livingston Street.
This article may draw some parents to Town Meeting to ensure passage because of the state of the bleachers. And, the town must spend a percentage of these funds annually.
A YES vote on Article 16 will enable the town to replace the bleachers shown above. A NO vote would leave them as they are now.
Article 24: Overnight Parking Ban
This is a citizen petition seeking to amend the town’s General Bylaws by adding a new section that will prohibit people from parking recreational vehicles — including trailers, RVs, boats and ATVs — on public roadways overnight. It would authorize Tewksbury Police to have these vehicles removed after one warning, within 24 hours.
A YES vote on Article 24 will direct the town to amend the bylaws, pending approval by the AG’s office. A NO vote would make no change and leave parking laws as they are now.
New Zoning Bylaw Returns
These articles will be addressed on Wednesday. All zoning changes, per Tewksbury Bylaw, must be done on the second night of town meeting, so everyone knows when to expect them.
Articles 29 & 30: New Zoning Bylaw and Map
Town Meeting attendees may recall that a previous version of the revised bylaw failed by two votes in October 2021.
Assistant town manager and community development director Steve Sadwick and Zoning Bylaw Committee chair Todd Johnson recently summarized the revisions, highlighting an agreement among the committee that affordable units will be mandatory for multifamily projects and will be provided on site in open space residential design projects until the town hits the 10% affordable housing threshold.
Other changes address billboards, green vehicle sales, native and pollinator plants and sidewalk fees. Retail marijuana was put off until October, Johnson said, because of non-zoning regulations that need to be worked out.
Points of contention with some residents remain, including building height allowed by right in the office research district. Still, the Select Board, Finance Committee and Planning Board all voted unanimously to support the new bylaw.
Residents can learn a lot more on the Zoning Bylaw Committee’s page, and interested residents can take a look at the full proposal and/or watch Sadwick’s informative video series on YouTube before heading to TMHS, because it’s a long and involved article.
It is, however, much more straightforward than the current bylaw, and Johnson says he’s optimistic residents will support this long-needed rewrite.
“The change is designed to bring things up to current standards, to make the document easier to use and to address areas of concern around development raised by residents in recent years,” he told the Carnation. “The committee has worked on it for five years, had numerous meetings and invited extensive resident input. Since last year’s town meeting, we made about a dozen changes based on that feedback, and the committee feels this is a strong work product deserving of support.
“From my perspective, the current bylaw is outdated and problematic in many ways. It’s like driving a twenty-year-old car that is worn out. We are on borrowed time. We need a new car. Tewksbury can achieve an improved zoning approach by passing this proposal. Residents deserve that.”
Both articles require a 2/3 vote to pass versus a simple majority. A YES vote on 29 and 30 will change the Zoning Bylaw, pending approval by the AG’s office. A NO vote would leave the current Zoning Bylaw in place.
Finally, another citizen petition, Article 31, seeking spot zoning to allow multifamily development on a lot zoned for single-family homes, is reportedly going to be withdrawn on Town Meeting floor. If it is not, voters will be asked to change the zoning district classification for a 10.5 acre lot on 108 Maple Street, 118 Maple Street and 55 Memory Lane — near Strongwater Farm — from Residential (R40) to MFD (multi-family dwelling).
Sadwick says that the combined lots could accommodate approximately 77 units versus 10 single-family dwellings.
A YES vote on Article 31, should it come to a vote, will amend the zoning bylaw to allow as many as 77 units. A NO vote would make no change and leave zoning as it is now.
Of course, other articles may turn out to be contentious. The Carnation will live tweet the meeting at #TewksburyTM and will provide as much context as possible.
Finally, take a moment to say hello to new Town Moderator Dustin Weir, who will preside over his first Town Meetings after being elected in April.