Just barely making the required 175 registered voters necessary for quorum, Monday night's annual Town Meeting at the Westwood High School auditorium voted in favor of all 29 articles on the Warrant, and with little controversy from the crowd.
Originally expected to start at 7:30 p.m., things didn't kick off until closer to 8 p.m., when Town Administrator Mike Jaillet gave the thumbs up that at least 176 voters had arrived.
There was little contention in Monday's meeting, and officials had predicted beforehand that it there wasn't much on the warrant this year that would pose as controversial.
The Westwood Finance Commission voted in favor of all but one article on the Warrant prior to Town Meeting, the one article being Article 22 (see article list below), which FinCom voted indefinite postponment for. The Westwood Planning Board agreed to the postponement, and the article was voted in favor as such Monday night. Voting in favor of this article was the equivalent of not acting on it; it will be postponed for future discussion.
All in all, it was smooth sailing this year, and officials like Westwood Town Clerk Dottie Powers agreed that it was one of the most rapidly-moving Town Meetings the Town has been a part of in recent memory.
"This was definitely a record," Powers said in response to the meeting, which finished in under two hours. "We've never gotten out this early as long as I've been here."
Jaillet agreed, saying in his 23 years of serving in Westwood, he's never seen such a quick Town Meeting; his biggest concern for a while was whether or not the meeting would actually make quorum of 175 voters.
"Because it's an Open Town Meeting process, we never know who's going to be here," he said. "The problem with that process that I expected was the difficulty, or delay, in achieving a quorum."
With Town Moderator Anthony Antonellis at the helm of the podium Monday night, the majority of the 29 articles passed without question from the audience.
Powers said she felt that the presentations given, and the preparation of those involved, attributed to quickness of the meeting. However, she said she was surprised that there weren't more questions about .
She also expected discussion regarding the pre-petition process involved in the revisions of the Town Charter (Article 15), but the subject was never even brought up.
That article, however, saw more of a speed bump than any other during the evening, however small. After some questions from residents, the article was approved, but only briefly, as a motion for reconsideration was quickly made, and then seconded. That motion, however, inevitably lost, and the article was finally granted approval.
High Street resident Kevin Becker questioned a portion of the revised charter that stated two Town Meetings now be the norm in Westwood, as opposed to one each year.
"The way I read this - it looks as though a second Town Meeting will be held unless the (Board of) Selectmen take action to not hold it," he said. "Is that correct?"
Paul Fitzgerald, a member of the Westwood Government and Charter Study Task Force, which made the recommended revisions, confirmed Becker's concern, and said the two Town Meetings would help ease the process each year.
"There's nothing in this charter that prevents Town Meeting being called," Fitzgerald said. "It is the intent from everyone we heard from that there would be value added from having a second Town Meeting. The intent is that there would be one unless the Selectmen deem there's nothing of significance."
Town Meeting in the spring, Fitzgerald added, would focus on financial matters, while policy issues would be addressed at Town Meeting in the fall.
"We have a fall Town Meeting, we can come back and adjust counts," Fitzgerald said. "It just gives us more flexibility and a better opportunity to consider the business of the town."
The charter revisions will now go to the State level for approval before being placed on the ballot for November 2011 or 2012.
Jaillet said he was happy to see the Charter had passed, as the Task Force had been working on updating the document for nearly two years.
"I was relieved the Town Charter passed, because I think a lot of hard work went into what I thought was a very balanced charter, reflecting the way we govern ourselves," Jaillet said.
Meanwhile, Jaillet said having the two articles revolving around the Colburn School's sale and reuse pass was noteworthy. One of those articles (Article 16), focused on the sale of the Colburn School to an entity that is looking at using the first floor of the building for a business, such as a bank, with the second and third floors being used for residential space.
The second of the two articels (Article 17), looked at the zoning end of that proposal, so that the building could be used for residential space.
"I think another important one was the funding, or the approval of the borrowing to replace the culvert on Brook Street," he said in relation to an appropration of $450,000 for the project. "That's in dire need of repair."
Selectmen Clerk Phil Shapiro said he was happy that the articles all pasted, most notably in regards to the Town Wide Contingency Fund.
"It gives us a lot more flexibility," Shapiro said. "If something breaks - a boiler, roofs, snow and ice, whatever - we've got some place to go to. If we hadn't protected that money, after July 1, (The Massachusetts Department of Revenue) would't have let us spend it until we went back to a positive free cash situation."
All in all, though, Shapiro agreed with the notion that the Town Meeting ran smoothly, and there was little reason for controversy this year.
"I think that people showed a lot of confidence in the Finance Commission and the boards, and I think the documents reflected pretty well what people had to decide on," he said. "Most of these things are not things that hit people really hard in their pocket book or otherwise. Once we got that 175th person in the room, things went pretty smoothly."
The 29 articles that were presented as part of the 2011 Westwood Town Warrant, all of which passed, are as follows:
- Article 1: Supplemental Appropriations - FY11
- Article 2: Supplemental Appropriations - FY11
- Article 3: Supplemental Appropriations - FY11
- Article 4: Rescind Debt for Cemetery Garage
- Article 5: Unpaid Prior Year's Bills
- Article 6: FY12 Town Salary and Expense Budgets
- Article 7: Appropriation - Municipal Capital Improvements
- Article 8. Appropriation - School Capital Improvements
- Article 9: Appropriation - Sewer Capital Improvements
- Article 10: Appropriation - DPW Capital Improvements
- Article 11: Appropriation - Brook Street Culvert/Flood Prevention Projects
- Article 12: Stabilization Fund
- Article 13: Appropriation - Town Wide Emergency Contingency Fund
- Article 14: Road Improvement
- Article 15: Home Rule Petition - Adopt New Charter
- Article 16: Article Related to the Sale of the Colburn School
- Article 17: Proposed Amendments to the Westwood Zoning Bylaw Establishing an Upper Story Residential Overlay District (USROD) on High Street
- Article 18: Proposed Amendments to the Westwood Zoning Bylaw and Official Zoning Map Related to a New Bylaw Section Entitled Flexible Multiple Use Overlay District (FMUOD) to Replace the Existing Bylaw Section 9.5, Entitled Planned Development Area Overlay District (PDAOD)
- Article 19: Amendment to the Zoning Bylaw and Official Zoning Map Related to a New Bylaw Section Entitled Open Space Residential Development (OSRD)
- Article 20: Amendment to the Zoning Bylaw and Official Zoning Map Related to Substantial Revisions to the Existing Bylaw Section 8.5 Entitled Senior Residential Development (SRD)
- Article 21: Proposed Amendment to the List of Designated Scenic Roads in Westwood to Include Fox Hill Street and Thatcher Street
- Article 22: Proposed Amendments to the Westwood Zoning Bylaw and Official Zoning Map Related to Existing Bylaw Section 5.5 Entitled Special Dimensional Regulations to Add a Lot Shape Requirement
- Article 23: Proposed Amendments to the Westwood Zoning Bylaw and Official Zoning Map Related to Existing Bylaw Section 2.0 Entitled Definitions.
- Article 24: Proposed Amendments to the Westwood Zoning Bylaw and Official Zoning Map Considered Housekeeping Items
- Article 25: Annual Town Bylaw, Section 30-19, Local Licenses and Permits, to Reflect the Correct References to MGL of Chapter 40, Section 57, to be consistent with the New State Law
- Article 26: Home Rule Petition for Authority to Grant Special Liquor Licenses
- Article 27: Accept Easement for Hoover Avenue
- Article 28: Adopt MGL Chapter 41 Section 19K Providing Additional Compensation for Town Clerk Upon Certification for Completion of Necessary Courses of Study and Training
- Article 29: Proposed Bylaw to Authorize the Board of Selectmen to Declare a Storm Emergency and Authorize the Police Department to Enforce a Storm Emergency Parking Ban
For more information on this year's articles, see , or download a PDF copy of the Westwood Finance Commission's Town Meeting Report.