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Select Board Pushes Retail Marijuana a Step Closer to Reality, Plus More Takeaways

There was a fairly full house for last night’s Select Board meeting, with a number of Eagle’s Landing residents seeking clarity on the particulars of Tree House Brewing’s operating plans and how they might affect traffic and parking, given that the facilities share an entrance.

Executive director Maria Antonioni appeared for Strongwater Farm to request a one-day liquor and entertainment license for its annual Hoedown family day on Oct. 2 from noon to 4 p.m. Mill River Winery and Essex Brewery will be on site selling wine and beer, and Corey Malm will provide music. 

The licenses were approved unanimously. 

Broadway Village Foods dba The Village Inn of Dracut also received a one-day liquor license to run the Council on Aging’s Murder Mystery Co. 1920’s dinner party at the Tewksbury Senior Center on Friday, Sept. 30 from 4 to 8 p.m. Tickets are available now for $65 per person.

That license was also approved unanimously.

Tree House Brewing submitted three separate requests for Farmer-Brewery Pouring License/Farmer-Distillery Pouring Licenses and Alteration of Premises Applications.

Mark Borenstein of Bowditch & Dewey and Sarah Maggi Morin, chief of staff for Tree House Brewing, explained that the reason for multiple applications is that they wish to begin a small brewing and distilling operation in the TCC basement, with very limited service, while the country club continues to hold functions through the end of the year. 

Maggi Morin reiterated that the company will continue to operate the golf course, including serving alcohol on the course. Requested operating hours will be 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days per week. In response to a question from resident Sherry Dottin of 12 Eagle Dr., Maggi Morin said there are no plans to host food trucks or to serve wine or hard cider, and that well water operations will continue. There will not be a “grand opening.”

Resident George Taylor of 25 Eagle Drive expressed concern over the 7 a.m. construction start on the 2,700 s.f. refrigerated addition to the existing outbuilding as well as the possibility of Tree House customers parking in the Eagle Landing lot. Maggi Morin said there are designated parking spots for customers picking up beverages. Bob McQuire from Fairway Drive asked about retiming of the light at Livingston St. and Main St.; town manager Richard Montuori said he would monitor the situation and seek to make adjustments if needed.

“We are obsessed with customer service, and it’s in no one’s interest to be chaotic,” said Sarah. “We strive for excellence in everything we do, including a relaxed, enjoyable environment for ourselves, our staff, customers and neighbors. So we’d have the ability to throttle.”

All three permits were approved unanimously. And, once the final licenses are in place, the town will actually receive two full liquor licenses back.

Blisspoint LLC d/b/a Blisspoint Meadery also received two one-day liquor licenses to sell at the Tewksbury Community Market on Sept. 15 and Sept. 29. 

DPW director Brian Gilbert spoke on a tree removal request for a new development at Pond St., based on an objection from resident Al Mancini to the removal of three trees. A National Grid spokesman reiterated that the company sees the removal as the least obtrusive option.

“It’s another new development with more trees — healthy trees — coming down,” said Mancini. “When money comes in contact with nature, nature loses. I get that, but I feel compelled to say something, because I don’t like what I see.” 

Gilbert recommended that the two white pines and single red oak be removed and that the developer, Ginsberg Realty Group, be required to plant new shade trees, such as a maples, along the boundary of the development, every 50 feet, for six trees total. The board unanimously accepted that recommendation.

Gilbert also spoke as the town’s arborist about the balance of retaining shade trees with rooftop solar. 

“Should healthy public shade trees be put on the chopping block for the benefit of a single resident or more importantly a third-party leasing company?” he asked, adding that he is opting to refuse to consider these removals without permission by the Select Board. As Tree Warden, Gilbert may establish rules and regulations that, if accepted by the Select Board, become bylaws.

Expect to hear more on this topic.

The Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank donated $500 to the Tewksbury Police Department to support the Annual Public Safety Night. The Board unanimously accepted the donation, with thanks.

Resident Patricia Stratis, a current member of the Historic Commission, was appointed to both the Mass. Cultural Council and Local Historic District Study.

Two open resident seats on the Tewksbury Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee will not be filled, on request by Select Board member Jayne Wellman, who sits on the TDEIAC. Wellman asked that town staff appointees be allowed to vote, to alleviate quorum issues. The committee will now be eight resident seats versus 10. Three staff seats will now be voting members. That was unanimously approved,

Retail marijuana sales took another step forward as assistant town manager Steve Sadwick presented draft retail marijuana regulations. The goal, said Sadwick, is to stay as close to the Cannabis Control Commission’s regulations as possible.

“That way, when an applicant would come before you, they will be providing the same information that they will be providing to Cannabis Control,” Sadwick said.

Clerk Mark Kratman asked Sadwick to research the application fee charged by other communities versus replicating the town’s liquor license fee. The Select Board then approved the draft regulations, contingent on passage of the associated warrant articles at the fall Special Town Meeting on Monday, Oct. 3.

One proposal is already in the works to place a retail outlet at the former Sal’s Pizza site.

Speaking of Special Town Meeting, the Board voted (albeit not unanimously) to recommend adoption of all articles, with Article 6 tabled until final numbers come in. Some highlights: The town manager proposes hiring four additional patrol officers for the Tewksbury Police Department as well as budgeting for an assessment center for promotion exams. There will also be four additional TFD firefighters hired, mainly to run the second ambulance, which is now staffed via overtime. 

Select Board chair Todd Johnson pushed back on votes by Kratman and member Jay Kelly to not recommend passage of articles funding the DPW project.

“Our bond rating is predicated at least in part on our investing in our community,” said Johnson. “And if we fail to do that, eventually, the bond rating agencies will hurt the town from a financial perspective for the lack of commitment.”

Vice-chair James Mackey also pointed out that DPW employees are the last of our first responders to receive a new workspace. 

“Police and fire do a great job,” said Mackey. “They get lots of love. The DPW does not get the same level, so as far as our first responders go, I think this is the last need for a big project like that.”

Johnson, Mackey and Wellman voted in the majority to recommend approval.

The Carnation will cover the Special Town Meeting warrant articles in a special report later this month.

In Board member reports, Wellman had a number of updates: 

> World Suicide Prevention Day was earlier this week. Anyone who’s struggling or has a loved one struggling with mental illness can call 988 for a trained crisis counselor, visit the National Alliance of Mental Illness at nami.org or text the helpline at 262640.

> NMCOG is working on a regional long-range transportation plan, which will be completed in June. Business leaders and community members may weigh in on priorities by contacting her or Jim Duffy on the Planning Board. 

> The Elementary School Building Committee met last week and viewed photos and a drone video of the exterior of the building. The stormwater retention structures seem to be working well. The project is 45 days until substantial completion and 90 days until final completion. The committee had some discussion around pedestrian safety driven by resident concerns. 

> Fall Town Cleanup Day is coming up Saturday, Sept. 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Residents can pick up supplies at Town Hall, and Mass Mosquito will collect tires off rims at the DPW. Learn more.

> Hidden Battles will hold its 6th annual Pitch for Prevention Cornhole Tournament and Family Day, also on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the US Bunting & Cricket Club. Individuals or teams can sign up for the cornhole tournament at the organization’s website.

Mackey extended kudos to the Town Manager and staff for their professional behavior during a recent visit by YouTubers, while Kratman reminded residents that the Trahan and North School Reuse Committee survey is out to the public. 

He also thanked everyone who helped out with and attended the 9/11 ceremony and thanked the DPW employees who worked on needed repairs to the memorial.

“It’s 21 years old and needs some loving care,” he said. “But the town stepped up and for that ceremony, it looked beautiful.”

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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