Selectmen put some town business on ice

Mar 18, 2020

Town Moderator Claire Smith talked with the Board of Selectmen and Town Counsel Richard Bowen on Tuesday night about delaying both Town Meeting and the Town Elections, which are currently scheduled for April 27 and May 5, respectively.

Smith said that she would like to postpone Town Meeting until June 15, which would be before the end of this fiscal year but hopefully far enough in the future that it would be safe.

Currently, she can only legally postpone Town Meeting until 30 days after the scheduled date, but there is legislation at the state level that would allow towns to reschedule Town Meetings for more than thirty days, and, potentially decide to postpone the meeting a second time -- even into the new fiscal year, which begins in July.

Smith said that she and Bowen have been working with other towns through the Massachusetts Moderators Association on the legislation, and she expects the state legislature to act on it promptly. 

The same bill that could allow postponement of Town Meetings would allow town elections to be postponed, as well. Currently, the only way for a town election to be postponed is through a court order by a Massachusetts Supreme Court Judge. Bowen said he would be happy to obtain that order from a judge, if the board gives him permission. 

Because officials serve until their successor has been sworn in, postponing the election would not mean that any positions would be left unfilled.

Bowen also discussed the matter of “constructive approval” for various land use projects that are awaiting the approval of the Conservation Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, or Planning Board. 

These boards likely will not meet for some time as they are deemed inessential in an emergency. “Constructive approval” is a provision of the law that says if these boards don’t vote on a project within a certain period of time, it is approved by default.

The town is asking those with projects awaiting approval to sign a form to extend that deadline. Those who do not sign the form will see their projects turned down without prejudice.

“Play fair and we’ll play fair with you,” Chair of the Board of Selectmen Patrick Tropeano said, adding that applicants shouldn’t expect to skirt scrutiny by boards during this time.