Town Meeting dates to be changed (again)
The two planned Town Meetings will be getting new dates, announced Town Administrator Derek Sullivan at the Nov. 17 selectmen’s meeting.
The fall town meeting, originally scheduled for October and then moved to December 28, will need to be moved earlier because there are several financial articles on the warrant. The state Department of Revenue has said that the town can’t formally set the tax rate while those articles are undecided by voters.
Sullivan said he argued that the financial articles on the warrant, which include free cash transfers, would not impact the tax rate, but state officials maintained that Town Meeting voters could theoretically appropriate money.
“I know this is going be very confusing for the residents, but this is the best way for us to continue our operations,” Sullivan said.
He noted that there are at least five other towns in the same situation.
Peter Teitelbaum said the town may want to ask Town Moderator Claire Smith whether the town could address only the financial articles on the warrant at the rescheduled earlier meeting, especially as coronavirus cases continue to increase.
Because the fall town meeting will be moved forward, the selectmen decided to move the special Town Meeting originally planned for Dec. 19 into January.
The board voted to establish a special Town Meeting at their Nov. 10 meeting. The special meeting was initially requested by the Notos Group, the developer behind the proposed Wareham Park racetrack and casino. The developers are looking for approval of a new “Hospitality, Recreation, and Entertainment” zoning district that would encompass the land between Glen Charlie Road and Rte. 25.
The selectmen voted unanimously to put that article on the warrant for the special Town Meeting, saying that voters should be given the choice, regardless of the board’s feelings about the proposal.
The Planning Board will hold a public hearing about the zoning proposal on Monday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m.
The selectmen also added to the warrant an article that would give the board the power to lease land at Westfield for a term of up to thirty years.
Westfield currently hosts the Wareham Girls Softball and Wareham Youth Soccer fields.
The Wareham Tigers youth football and cheerleading program has requested the use of the property for a complex that would include several fields and a gymnasium.
Back in 2010, Town Meeting attendees approved an article that restricted a portion of the Westfield property for senior housing. However, Sullivan said that the town put out two requests for proposals for developers, and there was no interest in senior housing at the site, due in part to the lack of sewer access.
Therefore, Town Meeting voters will need to first vote to override that 2010 article before offering a lease.
The lease would need to be given through a bid process, so it is not guaranteed that the Tigers will secure the land. The Tigers are not currently seeking any town funding through Community Preservation.
The decisions about where and when to hold Town Meetings are ultimately up to Town Moderator Claire Smith, who has been working with Sullivan and the Board of Health to determine the safest plan.