The Select Board opened with a presentation from town engineer Kevin Hardiman about vehicles speeding on N. Billerica Rd.
A study was requested by Select Board members Jay Kelly and Jayne Wellman in response to resident complaints. Hardiman said that, while the speed limit is 30 mph, the study, which spanned two months, showed many drivers travel closer to 40 mph. The maximum speed observed was 78 mph.
See more in the Select Board packet, downloadable below.
“There are some areas where, you know, speed is greater than it needs to be for safe travel,” said Hardiman. “We’ve really crunched the numbers; we’re seeing most [speeding occuring] during the morning or evening commutes, which leads me to believe that it’s travelers who make that commute every day and are familiar with the road.”
He said there are not an anomalous number of accidents on that stretch and, while the Select Board has the authority to impose a 25 mph speed limit, he did not recommend that action at this time.
Board member Mark Kratman said that during Covid, fatalities on highways tripled or quadrupled because of excessive speed. For now, the town has installed signs to warn motorists that the road is going to curve, and Kratman suggested that the Tewksbury police increase their presence in the area.
“If the word got out that they were doing enforcement, maybe people would slow down a little bit,” he said. Chair Todd Johnson echoed the request that TPD chief Ryan Columbus step up patrols.
Next up, retail marijuana.
Johnson reminded residents that when the new Zoning Bylaw was passed in May, the committee informed voters that they would bring the matter of retail marijuana back in October. Assistant town manager Steve Sadwick pointed out that the Zoning Bylaw allows for cultivation, manufacturing, testing and research in four different zoning districts.
“We also allowed for medical marijuana treatment centers in the general business district, which is pretty much from 495 down to 623 Main St., where the old Nissan dealership is,” said Sadwick. He explained that most communities are operating in one of three models: license-only, zoning-only or a combination. All three scenarios, outlined in the packet, would involve a Massachusetts Host Community Agreement, and proposed retail stores would go through the Planning Board for site plan review.
“Where it gets a little bit different is when we start talking about special permits, license-only,” he said. “We’d look at either the Select Board or the Planning Board serving as the special permit granting authority.”
Sadwick’s recommendation is to treat these outlets similarly to retail liquor stores. The town can issue retail marijuana licenses equal to 20% of the number of liquor licenses available in town.
“There would be three different articles for town meeting,” he said. “One would be to implement this general bylaw, which would put the licensing in place. There would need to be some minor changes to the Zoning Bylaw in the use table, and then passing the sales tax would have to be an additional article.”
Sadwick says the town can impose up to a 3% tax on retail marijuana sales; all income would go to the town’s general fund.
Kratman questioned the revenue potential given that many surrounding towns have dispensaries up and running.
“Revenues in some towns were great,” he said. “And I hear also that the revenues from these type of establishments weren’t what they expected in some communities.”
He also referenced the need to spend more on enforcement and education.
“One of the concerns I’ve always had is, you know, the tobacco and things that happen in this community,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be anybody really overseeing some of these, you know, pipe stores, smoke shops, things like that. … I just want to make the residents understand that this isn’t a done deal.”
Sadwick said most communities are seeing good results.
“As Mr. Kelly had referenced, a revenue stream’s a revenue stream,” Sadwick said. “We may or may not hit a projection that we were expecting, but it’s still something more than what we have today.”
Next steps would be to have the police chief, Planning Board and Board of Health weigh in prior to bringing a proposal back to the Select Board in early August, in time to get the articles on the October Town Meeting warrant.
The board thanked Sadwick for his efforts and asked him to move in an expedited fashion to gather input from those individuals and boards.
Johnson reminded the board that these are formal hearings and said he would ask each party two questions: Do they stipulate, or agree to, the violation, and will they agree to waive the reading of the show cause hearing notices.
Chief Columbus gave a brief timeline of the enforcement effort.
“On March 24, letters were hand delivered to all establishments, indicating that we will be conducting underage drinking compliance checks,” said Columbus. “Owners and managers were invited to a virtual meeting with me to discuss those checks. We also posted this on social media. On March 31, I hosted a virtual meeting about underage drinking compliance checks for all of our alcohol-compliant establishments.”
During that meeting, Columbus told those in attendance that TPD would have a person between the ages of 18 and 20 go into their establishments and attempt to purchase alcohol.
“If they were asked for an ID, they would leave,” he said. “If they were not asked for an ID, they would purchase the alcohol and bring it out to an awaiting officer. It was that simple. No tricks.”
On April 7, compliance checks were conducted on 10 establishments, with follow-ups later that month. Four failed the first check; only Main St. Liquors also failed the second compliance check. Columbus recommended that the Board follow previous policy, which prescribes from a warning to a seven-day license suspensions for first violations. Second offenses typically receive seven- to 14-day suspensions.
First up was AJ’s Beer, Wine and Convenience. The owner both stipulated and waived the reading and said he would look to purchase an electronic ID reader.
Wellman asked whether the owner had attended Columbus’ training and whether there had been any violations in the past 36 month. The response was no to both.
“I’m not naive enough to think that mistakes don’t happen; they do, and we need to consider that,” said Johnson. “But this is a serious issue. We’ve had issues in the past with youth having problems in our community.”
Wellman and Kelly moved that the board suspend the liquor license for three days, with one day to be served within 30 days and two days held in abeyance for a period of 24 months. A second offense within two years will trigger those days, along with other punishments. That motion passed unanimously.
Oakdale Liquors and Lincoln Liquors also agreed to stipulate and waive and received the same penalty. At Oakdale, each transaction now requires a license scan.
“We can’t blame ‘the new guy,’” said Kelly, referring to several managers pinning the underage sale on newly hired employees. “People make mistakes, but ultimately, when you’re the license holder, you’re responsible and accountable.”
Pathik Patel, co-owner manager of Main Street Liquors, appeared for the establishment that failed two compliance checks.
“Going forward, the policy now is basically, if somebody looks under 35, if you don’t have an ID, we do not serve,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
Patel said he attended the chief’s meeting — the only one of the four that did.
“I actually took a picture of the chief and sent it to all my partners and employees,” he said. “I’m like, ‘They’re coming for you. Just be aware. They’re coming.’ Still, they made mistakes, but I own it. We own it as owners and we accept, you know, whatever penalty we get.”
The Board could have offered a penalty for each violation separately, or take them one at a time. Kelly made a motion to suspend the license for three days, with two days held in abeyance, for the first violation. That passed unanimously.
For the second offense, Wellman motioned to suspend for seven days together with the two days held in abeyance for a total of nine days, commencing July 29. That also passed unanimously.
Chopsticks Cafe at 910 Andover St. will change owners and become Mei Wei Kitchen, serving Chinese and Vietnamese Cuisine, with new signage and some additional menu items.
Given the timing of this hearing, the Board asked about plans for serving alcohol. The petitioner said the restaurant will implement Serv-Safe/TIPS Alcohol Certificate training for staff. There were no comments from residents, and the Board unanimously approved a transfer of the all-alcohol liquor license on a motion by Kelly, seconded by Wellman.
After hearing support for the retail marijuana articles from a Cardigan Rd. resident, the board took up a draft policy governing flagpoles on town property that had been considered and tabled at the start of the pandemic.
With no discussion, Kelly made a motion to accept the policy, seconded by Kratman. The Board voted 4 – 1 to accept, with Wellman dissenting.
The policy states that the only flags expressly authorized to be flown on town property are the American flag, the Massachusetts state flag, the POW/MIA flag and the Town of Tewksbury flag. Department heads may petition the town manager for other flags to be flown for “exceptional occasions and for a limited period of time.”
Reached after the meeting, Wellman said her no vote was based on concern over the Board ceding its authority.
“While we do need a policy, considering the recent Supreme Court decision, I felt a policy that limits the power of the Select Board deserved some discussion,” she said.
Town manager Richard Montuori kept his report brief.
“As the board knows, we’re closing the fiscal year this week,” said Montuori. “Things are looking good as we end Fiscal Year 22 and make our way into Fiscal Year 23.”
He stated that he is hoping to have the LRTA reroute a bus that now goes by a section of East St. with few riders to instead serve a portion of Main St. and the Library. He also discussed adjusting the timing of a popular route to align better with the Wilmington Station commuter rail. He said there may be a grant opportunity to provide additional services.
Kratman also invited residents to attend the town’s all-volunteer July 4 celebration, which commences on Sunday, July 3 at 8:30 a.m. There will be a DJ and band in the evening and, weather permitting, fireworks at 9:30.
Kelly brought up the ongoing situation with the unpermitted contractor yard at the end of South St. that continues to negatively affect residents and mentioned that Montuori is connecting with Andover officials.
“It’s tough because we don’t have jurisdiction, and sometimes we don’t have the answers because a lot depends on Andover,” he said. “I know you’re going to try to have a meeting with Andover officials and can hopefully get some residents in, because they still have a lot of questions.”
Wellman reported that two TMHS students, Kimsan and Maisan Nguyen, pictured above volunteering at the Front Line Initiative table, are joining the town’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, which will meet next on July 7.
“Last Thursday … we were at the Farmers Market with the Front Line Initiative,” she said. “It was very, very popular, and a great, great effort on the part of Mr. [Robert] Hayes and Ms. [Alex] Lowder, and the community and all the vendors that come in.”
The Front Line Initiative will be at this week’s market, again handing out Pride swag bags.
Member James Mackey, who sits on the Economic Development Committee, also congratulated Hayes and Lowder on impressive growth in the Community Market.
Mackey reported that he’s working with the town manager and IT director to improve cybersecurity, including bringing in a top technology and services provider at no cost to the town.
“We’re in the process of working with Dragos, an operational technology industry leader in cybersecurity,” he said.
The town is waiting for a statement of work for a number of services, worth a significant amount of money, that the company will be donating to the town.
“As that matures, I will keep you all updated,” said Mackey. “But we’re at the point now where we have draft approvals.”
Editor’s note: Dragos specializes in protecting critical infrastructure. Its focus is ICS/OT, or industrial control system/operational technology, security. The services provided to the town will help protect our power, water and other systems.
Finally, Johnson asked that any matters for October Town Meeting be brought before the Board at its next meeting on July 19.
“I know that we’ve talked about this in meetings past, but the warrant for the Fall Town Meeting closes in August,” he said.
That also means that any citizen who wishes to place an article on that warrant has less than two months to turn in a draft and 100 signatures. Learn more about citizen articles.