The Select Board on Tuesday voted not to support a resident’s Town Meeting request to allocate $500,000 for the purchase of the wooded area behind the former Liberty Mutual property on Frankland Road that is targeted for a commercial solar array.
Resident Ann Karnofsky requested the money for the purchase of the property currently owned by Seaboard Solar.
Karnofsky claimed the land is unbuildable and has been assessed at $700,000 ($10,000 per acre).
“If you do support this article and you do preserve this land, you will be preserving something for prosperity and you will be doing planning in a good way,” Karnofsky said. “The Growth Management Committee recommends that we save this large parcel.”
Karnofsky noted that there already are two solar arrays in East Hopkinton and asked the Select Board to “be brave.”
However, Principal Assessor John Neas checked in via Town Manager Norman Khumalo and indicated there was a misunderstanding. He said he told Karnofsky the land would be valued at about $700,000 if it was unbuildable. Because it can be developed, Neas said the property’s actual value is more than $2 million.
Select Board Member Muriel Kramer said she was not in favor of the article based in part on the limited information available to the board. “I wish we could preserve it as well, but the vehicle [to do so] is not in front of us,” she said.
Added Vice Chair Amy Ritterbusch: “I’m really sorry to see this piece of land go just for solar. I’d much rather see solar on rooftops and parking lots and open lots, not on wooded parcels. But it does seem to be allowable under our current zoning. We were not able to change the zoning last year to restrict this parcel.”
Ritterbusch abstained from the vote, and Chair Irfan Nasrullah was not in attendance. The other three members were in agreement in their decision not to support the article.
Tedstone offers thanks, advice
At his final meeting, outgoing Select Board Member Brendan Tedstone was recognized for his six years of service on the board.
Tedstone thanked former longtime resident Bob Bartlett, former Select Board Member Brian Herr, Town Manager Norman Khumalo and the late Tom McIntyre, who died in 2017.
Tedstone also offered advice to the current board.
“I would just really stay focused on issues that belong in Hopkinton, and don’t try to bring any national stuff,” he said. “Try to stay away from all the minutiae and just focus on stuff that betters Hopkinton. There’s been a lot of votes that I voted against how I felt but I thought was best for the town, and I never, ever brought national politics into my thought process with Hopkinton. Take it for what it’s worth, but that’s how I foresee a board to be very successful moving forward, is focusing more on the local than the national.”
COVID numbers show promise
Health Director Shaun McAuliffe checked in with a COVID update and said the town has had 185 cases in April, for an average of more than eight cases per day.
McAuliffe, who is just recovering from COVID himself, encouraged residents and town employees to remain cautious even through the current variant is not as virulent as past variants. He also indicated that warmer weather should help minimize transmission.
“I think as it gets more humid it will be a little more difficult to transmit, and we’ll start seeing our cases drop down,” he said.
Alcohol violation addressed
Deputy Police Chief John Porter reported that alcohol compliance checks were held recently, and the only establishment in town that failed was Central Public House.
An underage police intern was not asked for identification upon ordering a drink. Porter said the manager was “extremely remorseful” about the situation and was “very disappointed” that his employee failed to follow protocols.
Porter noted that the restaurant has no prior record of non-compliance, and he recommended working with the establishment to avoid future issues.
Manager Mike Thomas appeared before the Select Board and said the employee was fired on the spot.
After some discussion, the board voted unanimously not to hold a public hearing on the matter.
Town Manager Norman Khumalo said the board’s decision comes with a very strong warning.
“I think what you are hearing tonight is that this town takes the use and abuse of alcohol very seriously,” Khumalo said. “We celebrate our relationship with our businesses that hold licenses in this town. But holding a license where you’re serving alcohol comes with a great deal of liability not just for your business but for the community as a whole.”
Board member recognizes Hayward, Kaminsky
During public comment, Select Board Member Brendan Tedstone paid tribute to two longtime residents who passed away recently, Skip Hayward and Carol Kaminsky.
Skip Hayward was an on-call firefighter and drove a snow plow for the town. He was a “longtime friend of the town, longtime friend of our family. Overall just a very wonderful guy,” Tedstone said.
Kaminsky worked in the school cafeteria at Center School and Elmwood School, and Tedstone complimented her cooking skills.
Misc.: New Fire Department personnel introduced
Fire Chief Bill Miller introduced new hires Travis Metcalf and Maxwell Hoadley.
“We’re lucky to have you, but you’re also lucky to have our department,” Tedstone said. …
The board accepted the resignation of Andrea Wilk from the Cultural Council. …
Former Police Officer Stephen Buckley was appointed as a traffic constable.