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7 Takeaways from the March 21 Select Board Meeting

New event space on the way; town manager’s contract extended one year

The Select Board met last night without member Jay Kelly, who had a conflict. It was Kelly’s last meeting after serving two terms. Chair Todd Johnson said the board would invite Kelly back for a recognition but did offer some thoughts.

“I want to thank him for his service, and I think we, all those of us past and present who served with him, would agree that Mr. Kelly made the board better,” said Johnson. “He asked a lot of questions. He challenged us to be very deliberate and diligent and consider the impacts of our decisions on all of the different stakeholders in Tewksbury. And I think at the end of the day, that’s all any of us can do. But he did that exceptionally well.”

The Select Board unanimously approved an alteration of premises and liquor license transfer to reflect the change in ownership of the hotel at 4 Highwood Dr. and rebranding from a Holiday Inn to a Hilton Garden Inn. The 148,959 square foot, 227 room, five-story hotel is in the process of an extensive renovation and will gain patio seating as part of that effort. 

“We’re investing $18 million dollars,” said the new manager, James Tourtillotte. “The swimming pool’s getting redone, the kitchen’s getting redone … it’s quite a project.”

Tourtillotte expects to start offering guest rooms the second week of May and says the hotel will employ more than 60 people.

“Will you be renting out function facilities?” asked member Jayne Wellman, stating that the community has a need for event space. 

Tourtillotte said he has had eight or 10 such requests in the last week alone, and that there will be a grand ballroom able to accommodate sit-down dinners for up to 220 people. Eventually several other event rooms will be brought online.

“We anticipate having a great deal of function space,” he said, adding that he also expects to keep the New York bus service that departs from the hotel parking lot.

Next up, on a recommendation from Town Manager Richard Montuori, the board unanimously accepted the donation of 2347 Main St., a seven-acre wooded lot near the South Fire Station, as conservation land.

The parcel is about 90% wetlands and landlocked, and it was recommended for acceptance by the Open Space and Recreation Committee. No environmental issues were identified. The Conservation Commission has also accepted the donation.

After some recent confusion around the town’s entertainment licensing process, Montuori brought the board an updated draft application, with a guide for businesses. Montuori said staff examined what neighboring communities are doing to issue licenses and made some clarifications.

A frequent point of confusion when business owners come before the board is amplification.

“Even someone that’s playing acoustic has some type of an amplification system,” said Montuori. “So it’s just a matter of how the board wants to handle that.”

Johnson thanked the town manager for the effort and asked him to add a field to request from applicants clarification as to the type of amplification to be used.

Vice-chair James Mackey asked whether this form would be available in the town’s new Open Gov licensing system. Montuori said not yet, but that this is on the roadmap.

Noise from outdoor performances has been a source of resident complaints. 

“I know we’ve sent the police department down to check the decibel of different things,” said member Mark Kratman, who asked Montuori to provide in advance a list of businesses to be renewed. Kratman also clarified that the town has a staff member who does regular inspections.

“We have somebody that would go and review what if any amusement devices and those type of things?” he asked. 

Montuori agreed that the down does have an inspector, and a list of those visits can be supplied. 

The fee will remain at $25. 

“I think this goes a long way to reduce confusion,” said Wellman.

Johnson welcomed resident Susan Young and DPW Director Kevin Hardiman back to revisit a tree removal order. 

At the last meeting, Johnson made a motion to temporarily grant an appeal for a stay in cutting down a tree in front of Young’s home until she and Hardiman could meet and discuss the matter. 

“Were you able to come to an agreement on the fate of this one tree?” asked Johnson. Hardiman stated that the tree would be removed but that the town will look for opportunities to plant trees to replace those lost over time.

Young thanked the board and staff for their consideration, and while she is unhappy about the removal, she appreciates the effort to plant trees around town.

The action of removal will be delayed until Friday to allow for any additional resident comment.

“You certainly got our attention, and hopefully, we’ll continue to safeguard the environment that’s so precious in Tewksbury,” said Johnson.

The board unanimously recommended payment of $3,570 to town counsel.

In member reports, Kratman said he is working with Tewksbury’s delegation to request several million in funds for the town to pay for sidewalks, first-responder needs and other items. 

“So we work together as a board, and we all sent recommendations to the town manager asking that our delegation get us some funding for this town,” said Kratman.

Mackey reiterated that: “We’re pushing and making it known that we need these funds.“

Mackey also congratulated Eco Auto on its grand opening, which he attended along with other members of the board.

“They’ve had quite the journey — they’ve been in front of us quite a few times,” he said. “They finally got there. So congratulations to them, and I’m looking forward to them being successful in our community.”

The Carnation attended the grand opening as well and received a tour — watch for a writeup and photos soon.

Wellman reported that the Tewksbury DEI Advisory Committee held several listening sessions last week and had some great feedback.

“The purpose of these meetings were to develop smart goals for a Winchester Hospital grant that the Frontline Initiative secured,” she said. “We’ll be working on developing smart goals to build resiliency and sustainability for the LGBTQ community in Tewksbury.”

Wellman also thanked the community for good participation in a recent housing production workshop.

She closed by thanking Kelly.

“Thank you for your service, your consistency, and your solid and equitable leadership through one of the hardest times in our nation,” she said. “Your voice for responsibility, for the residents, for our seniors was well heard and respected across the community.”

Kratman reclaimed the floor and also called out Kelly’s service.

“He had a difficult job. He had many different things going on in his personal life, but he always put this board first,” he said. “His voice will be sorely missed on this board.”

Finally, Johnson brought up the results of a recent executive session that covered a contractual matter pertaining to the town manager.

In that session the board, including Kelly, voted unanimously to put forward in the budget going to Town Meeting an increase of 2.25% to Montuori’s annual base pay. 

“We also agreed — at our initiation, not his request, I might add — to add one additional year to his contract term so that there would be a period of further stability for the community,” said Johnson. “And I want to thank Mr. Montuori for his collaboration, cooperation and most importantly, the good work that he does every day of the week for the community as a whole and for this board.”

The Select Board meets next on April 4 for a reorganization.

Please remember to VOTE on April 1! A sample ballot and much more information is available here.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 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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