After lengthy debate, Tewksbury town meeting shortens planning council term to 3 years

TEWKSBURY – After half an hour of debate and two votes, residents have chosen to shorten the terms of elected members of the city’s planning council from five to three years.

The change is the result of a citizens ‘petition presented at Tuesday night’s special municipal assembly at the high school, which supporters say will encourage greater residents’ participation in council.

“The move to a three-year term means more seats will become available in each electoral cycle, creating more opportunities for residents to run,” said Paige Impink, one of the article’s petitioners, who added that she and other supporters have researched the issue and spoke with planning board members from other communities to see how the change would affect Tewksbury.

The vote brings the town planning council closer to other town councils and committees. The current members of the Board of Directors will complete their full five-year term.

Several current and former planning board members have expressed disagreement with the change, including current board chairman Stephen Johnson, who said most towns and villages in Massachusetts with three-year terms on the planning board are much smaller than Tewksbury.

“This city is growing. To reach these cities, we are going in the wrong direction, ”Johnson said. “The city is at risk of unintended consequences if the current process is changed. “

Others who spoke in opposition expressed fears that a shortened tenure would bring new board members in the midst of big planning projects or without the training and experience to get the job done. a member of the planning board. Many Planning Council votes require a qualified majority of four out of five, and some opponents of the article have said bringing in new candidates more frequently would jeopardize that process.

Fans, however, disagreed and said the benefit of making the race easier outweighed the risk.

“In any elected council, at your first meeting you are expected to be ready to vote on what to expect,” said resident Erin Wortman, who said she worked as a city planner. “I expect you to vote because you were elected to decide things that are within your purview.”

In addition, voters chose to change the name of the Selection Board to a Gender-neutral Selection Board.

“Two hundred and eighty-six years ago, the first five elected were elected at the first municipal assembly. They were all men, of course, so the term selectmen was appropriate and timely, ”said Jayne Wellman, vice chairman of the board of Select. “It’s time to update and use inclusive language. “

The measure was adopted almost unanimously, with only one voter in opposition.

Another citizens’ petition that was approved at the meeting will create a “no-fail registry” of Tewksbury residents who do not wish to be visited by lawyers.

Christine Chesbrough, the article’s petitioner, said she was inspired by stories she heard from neighbors and on social media that rude and arrogant lawyers visited her, which she said said that she herself had lived. She said she even had her husband’s signature forged by an internet company, registering her family with their service after refusing it.

“It makes sense to have the option for residents to say no to lawyers,” Chesbrough said, earning applause from other residents.

The new regulation will allow residents to register on the list, which will be provided to potential lawyers. Violations will result in a fine of $ 1,000 (instead of the $ 300 proposed by NAME, which was changed during the meeting).

Other items approved at Tuesday’s meeting will provide funds for improved drainage on the grounds of the Saunders Recreation Area on Livingston Street and renovations to the police station and public library and will create an area groundwater protection buffer on the city zoning map around the Sutton Creek Disposal Area, also known as the Rocco Landfill.

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