Public transportation now available to library; La Vita Dolce receives entertainment license
The Select Board met last night with all members present.
After exiting executive session, the board approved the annual Town Election warrant. This year, the election for open seats is on April 1, and Town Meeting is May 1. Find more information on candidates here. Residents may also check their registration status and poll locations.
The deadline to register to vote in the April 1 election is March 22. See below for a sample ballot.
The police union donated funds to purchase a refrigerator for the department. The Select Board accepted the gift and expressed appreciation.
At the request of Town Planner Alex Lowder, member Jayne Wellman invited elected officials and all residents to a virtual meeting hosted by NMCOG on Thursday, March 16 at 5:30 p.m. to learn about the town’s Housing Production Plan for 2023-2027. The discussion will focus on how to support affordable housing, what kinds of housing the town hopes to create and how to ensure all kinds of families and people can afford homes that meet their needs. Findings from a recent housing survey and proposed action items to address local housing plans will be presented. Learn more and register here.
Member Mark Kratman reported that the Lowell Regional Transportation Authority is looking to roll out more electric vehicles and add additional trips along Rt. 38. One route was reconfigured so that, rather than turn right at Livingston, left on East St. and continue to the town center, the bus will now take a left on Chandler near the Senior Center and make a stop at the Library. This will add more flexibility for State Hospital employees as well, according to Kratman.
Town Manager Richard Montuori reported on the new Open Gov online permitting system that launched on Monday for building, health, DPW/engineering and conservation permits. It’s expected to be more efficient for both residents and staff.
“OpenGov offers more opportunities to apply online and pay online,” said Montuori. Residents may apply for and check the status of a permit 24/7, beginning on the town website, and there are kiosks set up in Town Hall and at the DPW that residents can use. The effort was led by Assistant Town Manager Steve Sadwick.
“OpenGov is used by many towns,” said Montuori. “We can grow with it and build on it, which we intend to do.”
The board next considered an entertainment license for La Vita Dolce. Owners Todd and Rebecca Arsenault appeared to request a license for live, acoustic and recorded music and televised programming, including a marching band for the grand opening on Saturday, March 25.
The hours for entertainment on the outdoor patio, once the weather cooperates, would be from noon to 9:00 p.m., without amplification. Indoors, patrons could enjoy music and other entertainment from 6:00 a.m. to midnight daily.
The board unanimously approved the request.
Members of the group working on Tewksbury’s Tree City designation objected to removal of 21 trees deemed hazardous by an arborist. Per town bylaw, the DPW must publish a list of trees to be removed, the reasons for removal and information on tree species and age. Residents may object to the removal order, in which case the matter comes before the Select Board.
Residents Al Mancini and Susan Young spoke against cutting down pines and oaks on Birchwood Rd., Pike St., Shawsheen St. and Whipple Rd.
DPW Director Kevin Hardiman stated that the oaks on Pike St. would be removed to widen the road and make it easier to resurface and plow and safer for pedestrians. Hardiman added that white pines often cause damage and that many of the trees in question are extremely tall and susceptible to wind. White pines do better in groupings; when only one or two remain, they’re prone to falling. Most of the trees on the list are within six or seven feet of the road.
“When we go out for tree calls and tree removals and trees on power lines and things like that, most are white pine related,” said Hardiman. “White pines are the dominant tree that we have to deal with in town.”
To select trees to be removed, a certified arborist surveys the roadways and makes a list of hazards, said Hardiman. Trees deemed an imminent hazard do not require a hearing, but those with moderate or mild risk do.
Wellman asked whether abutters had been notified. Under Chapter 87, which governs public shade trees, notification is not required, said Hardiman. The list is published in the newspaper and on the town website. Wellman also noted that if a tree that was deemed a hazard is not removed and falls, injuring someone or causing property damage, the town may be liable.
Kratman asked whether, as trees are removed, the town will plant new trees to compensate. National Grid does offer a replacement program, and there is flexibility in placement.
“The way Chapter 87 is written, the [new] trees don’t have to be replaced exactly where they were,” said Hardiman. “They can be located as far as 20 feet off the edge of the right of way and still deemed a public shade tree and protected by Chapter 87.”
Young stated that one of the trees to be removed for having excessive limbs falling is in front of her home.
“Having lived with that tree for 22 years, it really isn’t,” said Young, of the limbs. She added that the reason cited at the hearing for taking down the trees was that, in addition to dropping a lot of branches, the pines are susceptible to wind. But as individual trees are removed, those remaining become more vulnerable.
“When you start taking down more trees and more trees and more trees, I’m really curious about where it ends,” she said.
Mancini asked for clarification of the town’s policy for removing trees that may then make neighboring trees weaker.
“I really don’t like taking healthy trees down,” he said. “Twenty-one trees is a lot.”
The board sympathized with the desire to keep mature trees, and Chair Todd Johnson made a motion to grant the appeal for the tree in front of Young’s home, a suggestion met with questions by Kratman on whether the tree can be made safe.
Montuori suggested acting on all the trees with the exception of the one in question. Hardiman will inspect the pine and revisited it at the next meeting.
That suggestion was approved unanimously, with Johnson thanking Mancini and Young for their passion and Kratman asking Hardiman to also report on plans to plant replacement trees at the next meeting.
In November, then Governor Charlie Baker signed an act to give localities the option of granting a one-time increase, from 3% to 5%, in the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for FY23 for municipal retirees, for $16,000 of earnings only. The Middlesex County Retirement Board is now requesting cities and towns to vote for the payment to take effect.
Approval of Chapter 269 would cost Tewksbury $125,000 in FY26 and would affect 335 Tewksbury retirees. It would pay out about $800 per person.
Kelly pointed out that most affected individuals are seniors. The board accepted the request unanimously.
At the most recent Planning Board meeting, member Vinny Fratalia called out a problem in the town’s updated retail marijuana regulations. The new bylaw stated that host agreements granted by the Select Board are valid for six months, by which time the applicant was expected to have approval by the Cannabis Control Commission. However, one site plan review applicant stated that it takes at least a year to receive CCC approval.
In response, the board adjusted the language to start the six month clock for exercising the license after an applicant gains that CCC signoff. The board also retained the ability to grant more than one extension “on a case by case basis.”
The change was approved unanimously.
Given that the Planning Board site plan review process is just getting underway, it’s not unreasonable to assume that it will be close to two years before Tewksbury sees its first retail marijuana dispensary.
The next Select Board meeting will be March 28.