The New England town meeting is a unique form of local government that can inspire and/or confound participants and observers. I’ll confess that 10 years ago when I moved here from New York, my knowledge of town meetings did not extend beyond a Norman Rockwell painting and several episodes of The Simpsons! Since then, I’ve been involved with town meetings all over Massachusetts, as a newspaper reporter, as town counsel, and on behalf of private clients.
In many towns, all local legislative activity for the entire year takes place at the annual town meeting in the spring. Other towns may have multiple annual or special town meetings throughout the year. The decisions made by town meeting voters can have a significant impact on the local real estate market and business climate.
Westborough – March 17:
Westborough is holding its annual town meeting (along with a special town meeting) on Saturday, March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day – starting at 1 p.m. The annual town meeting warrant (posted here) contains several articles of note:
- Sidewalk Snow Removal: Article 22 would enact a new town bylaw requiring property owners to clear the snow from abutting public sidewalks within 24 hours after a storm, or face $10 daily fines.
- Increased Fines for Zoning Violations: Article 25 would increase fines for violations of the zoning bylaw to $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for third and subsequent offences. Currently, the fine is a flat $50 per violation.
- Sewer Cost Apportionment: Article 26 would revamp the town bylaw governing the apportionment of sewer costs and connection fees for new sewer users.
- Expanded Downtown Overlay District: Article 29 would add several properties to the Downtown Planning Overlay District. This rezoning would give property owners the option of seeking a special permit from the Westborough Planning Board allowing for mixed-uses, higher densities, and flexibly with regard to signage.
Westborough has an open town meeting, which means that any town resident registered to vote as of February 15 (see Town Clerk’s Election Calendar) can spend part of St. Patrick’s Day as a citizen legislator.