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Select Board Sets Deadline to Consider Retail Marijuana License Applications

Plus 12 more takeaways from last night’s meeting, including recommendations for Town Meeting articles

The Select Board met last night with all members present.

First up were easements for the Pringle St. culvert replacement project. Town engineer Andrew Stack told the board that a 42-inch by 21-inch elliptical replacement culvert pipe would replace the current, failing pipe and alleviate flooding. The style would be similar to the current culvert, which will be removed. The order of taking was approved unanimously.

The Lincoln Liquors store at 10 Main St., adjacent to the Market Basket in Stadium Plaza, will now be owned and run by MB Spirits, which is owned by Demoulas. Robert Lambert, a long-time Demoulas employee, will be the manager. MB Spirits currently holds five licenses in Massachusetts.

Member Patrick Holland asked about violations; in fact, there was a hearing on July 28 for underage sales at four local package stores, including Lincoln Liquors. Lincoln was penalized with a three-day suspension. The transfer was approved unanimously.

A National Grid petition for the installation of underground utilities on Foster Lane to serve a proposed new home met with opposition. Foster Lane is a “paper street,” that is, it appears on maps but has not been fully built nor accepted by the town.

Attorney David Plunkett rose to point out that Foster Lane is not a public way, and that the irregular lot cannot be developed per a state appellate court decision. Plunkett also noted that the town’s building commissioner has determined that the lot is not buildable based on its frontage.

Kevin O’Brien, who owns the lot, countered that the court decision Plunket cites “cannot be found” and passed out a copy of a land disturbance permit that he says shows he does have access rights to the lot. O’Brien previously told the Planning Board that he plans to clear approximately 63,000 square feet on the 2.3 acre wooded lot.

Given the legal complexities, James Mackey motioned to table the National Grid petition until there is more complete information available and the board can consult with town counsel. That motion was approved unanimously.

Janelle Wagstaff appeared for Wamesit Entertainment Center requesting a variety of licenses for outside entertainment on the patio, including dueling pianos, movie nights, a comedy show and a magician, all with amplification. Wagstaff is the marketing director for Wamesit and says the request is for the same lineup of entertainment as the past few summers, and that there are no complaints from neighbors. The license requests were approved unanimously.

After approving a routine change of officer request for the 99 Restaurant & Pub, the board appointed Holland as the Select Board designee to the Community Preservation Committee.

The board checked in on retail marijuana applications. Select Board Chair Todd Johnson proposed scheduling three to four additional dates in June to review applications that successfully received site plan approval from the Planning Board.

Jayne Wellman suggested setting a date for a first round of applicants to be heard; Mark Kratman concurred and suggested allowing several additional Planning Board meetings and then closing the slate for the first group of applicants to be considered. Town Manager Richard Montuori recommended 4:30 p.m. on May 11 as a deadline for applicants to get on the Planning Board and Select Board agendas. Any that do not make that deadline may be considered in a second round, though the town’s three licenses may, or may not, be granted during the first round.

The board penciled in meetings beginning at 6 p.m. on June 12, 13 and 20.

Only Sundaze, proposed for 2504 Main St., has had its site plan conditionally approved by the Planning Board.

Retail marijuana application status list

Paige Impink and Jennifer Balch-Kenney appeared on behalf of the Beautification Committee seeking approval of art for an existing switchbox (above) on the corner of East and Chandler St. Students at Shawsheen Tech submitted the design following the theme of “Tewksbury Past, Present and Future.” The previous design on the switchbox, depicting the Tew-Mac Airport, was chipping and peeling, and the original artist has moved out of state. Impink says the project should be completed quickly and that the committee has been in consultation with the DPW.

Balch-Kenney also reminded residents of the Town Cleanup Day on May 6 and noted a new textile donation opportunity this year.

Next, the board considered approval of buy-downs of townhouses at Merrimack Meadows using $215,640 from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The current balance of the trust fund is over $6.3 million. 

Assistant Town Manager Steve Sadwick explained why some older affordable deeds are not in perpetuity; going forward, units being bought down will remain affordable going forward.

Currently, the total buy-down for the unit at 211 Merrimack Meadows Lane is $110,360 with the State Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) contributing $10,000, and the total buy-down for the unit at 86 Merrimack Meadows Lane is $125,280, with DHCD contributing $10,000. 

That expenditure was approved unanimously. The Tewksbury Housing Authority will participate in setting income qualifications of potential buyers. 

The Select Board, like the Finance Committee, voted almost unanimously to recommend adoption of most Town Meeting articles.

Montuori provided a number of insights into the budget, including that the Shawsheen Tech assessment went up 9%, higher than the 6% expected, mainly to cover student transportation and facility improvements. There are nine fewer Tewksbury students attending the Tech this year than last.

“It was a surprise to me, it was a surprise to other managers,” said Montuori, based on questioning by Kratman. Montuori said he brought some items to the Shawsheen Tech administration’s attention and hopes he can work with them on savings by, for example, having them use free cash once it’s certified.

Exceptions to the unanimous votes to approve: 

The board voted 4 – 1 to table Articles 16, 17, 18 and 19 until after the Community Preservation Committee meeting, with Wellman voting no.

Those articles authorize spending Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to install new lights and poles and do associated electrical work at Obdens baseball field; put in new home-side bleachers at the football field at the Saunders Recreation Complex; treat Long Pond to improve water quality over a five-year period; and remove hazardous materials at the Ella Flemings School.

The town’s CPA funds help preserve open space, including adding recreational opportunities, and pay for affordable housing programs. Later, in Article 21, voters can elect to spend $122,615 on open space and the same amount on community housing, leaving a CPA balance of $919,000, which could be devoted to, for example, a new recreation program.

The board voted 3 – 2 to recommend adoption of Article 24, with Kratman and Wellman voting no. Article 24 would eliminate secret ballots as the required method of voting at Town Meeting for personnel bylaw articles. Montuori previously noted that we don’t use secret ballots for any other budget appropriations or collective bargaining agreements.  

“The better question is, Why disrupt Town Meeting with a required secret ballot?” said Montuori. “If someone wants a secret ballot, they can ask the moderator.”

Articles 27, 28 and 29 ask Town Meeting to accept easements and street acceptances and were tabled until May 1.

For Article 30, the board voted 4 – 1 to recommend indefinite postponement, with James Mackey abstaining. Mackey told the Carnation that he does not believe the board should take action on citizen petitions unless there is an extenuating circumstance.

The Finance Committee voted unanimously to oppose this article.

The board voted 3 – 2 to recommend adoption of Article 36, with Kratman and Holland voting no. Wellman notes that the vote is to support, not usurp, the authority of the Planning Board. Article 36 will allow some smaller unused commercial units to be converted to affordable housing. Other Planning Board articles were tabled.

All articles for Special Town Meeting were unanimously recommended for approval.

In board member reports, Holland called DPW workers “the unsung heroes” and requested that Montuori draft a letter recognizing several employees who were commended by a resident.

Wellman reminded residents of the upcoming Town Cleanup Day on Saturday, May 6. She congratulated residents Susan Young and Al Mancini on achieving the Tree City designation for Tewksbury, which will be officially announced on Arbor Day.

“I know that they have worked hard with staff to make that happen, and I appreciate all their dedicated effort,” she said.

Wellman also noted that there will be an evening of poetry on Wednesday to recognize National Library Week, and a cornhole tournament will be held this Saturday at the Bunting Club to benefit Dana Farber Pediatric Brain Cancer Research, in memory of Meghan McCarthy of Tewksbury.

Finally, Johnson commended the Tewksbury Police Department on pursuing the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Program.

“Not many communities get to that level,” said Johnson. “It’s a testament to the dedication of a force that has grown and has faced enormous challenges over the last few years.”

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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