Town Meeting Wrap-Up: Controversy in Unexpected Places
The afternoon of Saturday, May 15 was cloudy at 1:30 pm when the Owl checked in for Town Meeting. A few droplets of rain on the trip from the far northside seemed foreboding, though the rain never materialized in the three-ish hours of Town Meeting. Set up in folding chairs on Proctor Field, it appeared that at one point the numbers of the crowd exceeded seats and more had to be procured. All were well-behaved sitting in their zones.
Some of the articles that seemed to have potential for long debate and possible defeat (budget, recreation master plan for middle/school high school, zoning change at Riverside) actually had little debate (except for budget) and none of these failed to pass (it is really difficult for the Owl not to make football analogies given the meeting location…yet she resisted). Two “lesser” articles did fail to get the votes needed: the Ash Street sidewalk and the conveyance of Louisa’s Wall. Knock me over with a feather (I make no promise on bird references).
In no priority order, but in actual numerical order, here are the results of the Annual Town Meeting:
Article 1: annual election and vote acceptance. PASS. (has this ever failed? How would it?)
Article 2: Year 2022 Operating Budget. Discussion of this article took more than 45 minutes. The budget was presented by the Select Board, and commented on by the Finance Committee and the School Committee. Two members of the group Focus on Weston also commented. The summary is that the school system continues to take the lion’s share of the town budget, but there are reasons for this, and some of us don’t like that. There, done. For accurate reporting, see the town website, the Town Crier or Weston Media’s video when posted. PASS
Articles 3-21: Consent Agenda. All articles were passed after a read-out by the Select Board. Not one was pulled out. We shall have a new pumper and a rehabbed water main, and hopefully, the high school roof will stop leaking now. For more information on this, please see the appropriate sources, as stated above in Article 2. PASS
Article 22: High School/Middle School Campus Master Plan Study. The Owl was expecting some strong pushback on this one, and gives major credit to Alex Cobb of the School Committee/Rep of the Master Plan steering committee for a clear and full explanation that there is no intention of building a master-blaster Olympic pool and field house. (full disclosure: the Owl has all the feels for this article as a former member of the rec master plan committee–and the mother of Owlets who brave middle school parking safety craziness). There was finance committee pushback and comments about not needing a diving well at the pool, but those comments did not carry the day. PASS
Article 23: Affordable housing at 8-10 Birch Lane. To summarize, Weston needs it and yes, it’s expensive. The Owl wrote a post on this one and suffered a negative shout-out. No one cares. PASS
Article 24: Walkway on Ash Street. In this case, a lot of people cared and the Owl believes that the Select Board was a bit surprised by the number of speakers against the Article (full disclosure again: one of those speakers was the Owl). Presented by the Traffic & Sidewalk Committee, the Finance Committee was opposed based on pricing, and everyone else, including the always eloquent-in-defense-of-nature Nina Danforth, spoke of the overkill of pavement connecting packed dirt with stone dust. One resident asked if the article could be amended to change for a permeable surfacing (answer: no). Another resident said that there’s already a path from Ash Street to the sidewalk at Wellesley Street so this was unneeded. Two Select Board members spoke in favor of it comparing it with the Merriam sidewalk in one case. Merriam Street is not Ash Street–happy to discuss that some other time (only 1 private house, does not connect with town, etc). Oops sorry, bias showing. FAIL.
Article 25: Burchard Park Rehabilitation. Little League has been maintaining this treasure for years but it’s just too much to ask. This article had no opposition from anywhere. Go ‘cats. PASS
Article 26: Memorial Pool Rehabilitation Design Fees. Here’s another Weston treasure that is suffering “end of useful life” for many of its components (filters), and needs accessibility and amenities. The Owl covered this in a prior post. This article had no opposition. PASS
Article 27: Parcel boundaries for Case Estates. This article began with a Select Board shout-out to Michael Harrity who has worked long and hard to make Case Estates a reality for the town. Well-deserved. There was no controversy for this article, though the Owl feels some sadness as this is the beginning of the sell-off of the marvelous Case Barn. Some of this is covered in a prior post. PASS
Article 28: Conveyance of Louisa’s Wall. This was an article about a large 10ish foot stone wall behind a house on Wellesley Street and hidden by rhododendrons for anyone attempting to see it from the Legacy Trail. It has historical significance and a happy story of one sister giving a pretty unusual birthday gift to the other in 1911. Recent damage to the wall was paid by the private resident, and this article would have moved the wall into private hands, as well as paid for half of the repairs. Unfortunately, it appears that our town has communication issues as both the Planning Board and the Historical Commission spoke against the article citing various concerns (watch the video) while the Select Board was in favor of approving the article and figuring out details of a preservation agreement later. There were numerous speakers on this article. There was a not insignificant amount of angst also on display between committees. FAIL
Article 29: Conveyance of Two Parcels at Case Estates. Sale of two small municipally-owned parcels without any historical wall on them (it’s on the Ash Street side of Case) to the abutter. The money involved is in the town’s favor. PASS
Article 30: Zoning By-Law at Riverside Road. PASSED OVER
Article 31: Zoning By-Law – Science Life Center at Riverside Road. The Owl nicknames this one “Men in Suits”. No, actually I don’t but after 2 1/2 hours in the hot sun, one was a bit impressed by anyone who could carry off a dark suit. Greatland’s developer spoke about plans for the Science Life Center at Riverside Road (the former Liberty Mutual location). The Owl has posted about this at least twice. This was expected to be somewhat controversial as it required building height changes and use changes. And yet…the residents of Blake Estates had a surprise up their collective sleeves and two representative residents from the area spoke about the neighborhood in fact being in favor. Good stuff. PASS
Article 32: Amend Zoning Map for Tranist Oriented Multiple Dwelling Overlay. PASSED OVER
Article 33: Amend Zoning Map for Research and Development. This is associated with Article 31. PASS
Article 34: Fur Ban By-Law. This was a citizen’s petition to ban the sale of new fur products in the town of Weston. The Owl admits that she left for this Article. Owlet soccer beckoned. Reporting from reliable sources says that this was relatively discussion-free with one resident dissenting saying that fur hasn’t been sold in Weston for quite some time . PASS
The Owl thanks all those who volunteer to make the Town of Weston a better place. Volunteers are those at the podium, in the committee meetings, the zoom calls, the site visits, and those waving yellow cards on the field at Proctor. We will not always agree, but the Owl feels confident that we all have the best interests of our unique and beautiful town at heart.
If there are clarifications or changes needed to this summary, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or save it up for next Town Meeting.