Select Board approves Special Town Meeting for Dec. 9
Those who oppose the Main Street Corridor project will get their chance to take their case back to the town, as the Select Board unanimously approved a Special Town Meeting for Dec. 9.
Members of the Main Street Alliance, a group of residents and property owners primarily in the downtown area, submitted a petition to the town clerk in early November calling for a new vote on Article 47, which deals with major improvements and alterations along Main Street. At its Nov. 5 meeting, the Select Board unanimously supported the Special Town Meeting, although all five board members expressed frustration and concern about it.
“I think this is a really bad practice for the Town of Hopkinton,” Select Board member Brian Herr said. “I’ve been serving in Hopkinton for 20 years now as a volunteer. We have never, in my 20 years, recalled an article following a Town Meeting vote. This can open up a whole can of worms.”
Added Herr: “To go back and recall votes, it’s like we’re impeaching Town Meeting in Hopkinton. I just really struggle with that concept. I think it’s a bad situation for our community. And I hope we can get through this with cooler heads prevailing and we understand the serious nature of this process and how disruptive this could possibly be for us, not only for this situation but for months and years to come in Hopkinton.”
Select Board chair Brendan Tedstone said had he been aware of this process 15 years ago he would have petitioned to revote the Town Meeting decision to allow Weston Nurseries land to be sold to a developer for what is now Legacy Farms.
“It’s a slippery slope. I think it sets a bad example. It takes a lot of power away from Town Meeting,” Tedstone said. “I think that it’s going to open up doors down the road that every year we’re going to have Special Town Meeting after Special Town Meeting if it doesn’t serve each people’s particular needs or desires or that they were satisfied at Town Meeting.”
Abutter Jackie Potenzone addressed the board during the public forum portion of the meeting and said the main issue with the 2018 Town Meeting vote was that some abutters were not aware at that time that their property might be affected, so they did not raise any objections.
“With regards to the town’s response that it is the will of the people at the May 2018 Town Meeting, well, it was not,” she insisted. “I never had my voice spoken at the Town Meeting. And since I did not know my property was on Article 47, why would we at this point trust anything you have told us?”
Potenzone’s property is not currently slated for an easement, but because it is listed on Article 47, she is concerned that it might be added — as it was at one point.
“The town’s mistake is they tried to do this plan but they did not partner with the corridor residents,” she said. “Anyone who spoke against this plan was disregarded and ignored. I know I was treated very poorly through the process. I’m a resident and a woman-owned small business and I had to file Freedom of Information Acts to get information. The town has not been honest and forthright from the start of this project.”
Herr said discussion about the project has been going on for more than 20 years, and it’s time to get it done.
“I stand with the project. I think the project is excellent for Hopkinton,” he said. “I think there’s an awful lot of misinformation out today circulating around the community that we need to clean up and have a healthy dialogue at the Special Town Meeting about what all this means. But I, as one member of the Board of Selectmen, stand with this project and think we absolutely should continue to move forward. It’s for the best of Hopkinton. Albeit it’s going to be a difficult couple of years, it’s still for the best of Hopkinton and I hope that folks that come out to Special Town Meeting support the project.”
Added Select Board member Irfan Nasrullah: “I am a downtown business. I have my [law] practice downtown. It is going to be difficult. But you get through it. You figure out ways [to get] through it. I understand the concerns of the [downtown] community, but I also understand the concerns of the community of Hopkinton as a whole. … I think this is an amazing opportunity where the state is providing so much funding. The town’s share is such a fraction. I would hate to see us lose this opportunity.”
Tedstone questioned whether the opposition was acting in the best interest of the town.
“I’m all for due process, and I’m all for everybody being able to do what’s within the parameters of the law,” he said. “But this issue right here, this Special Town Meeting, is kind of indicative of how if it doesn’t positively affect me personally, I’m going to rally my few friends in town and get a petition and take my ball and go home. And it really bothers me.”
According to a release from the town manager’s office, all articles or petitions proposed to be included in the Dec. 9 Special Town Meeting warrant must be received at Town Hall no later than 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 21.