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Town Meeting Day 2 recap: Residents vote down South Street rezoning, gun club restriction

by | May 3, 2023 | Featured: News, News

Town Meeting

Residents line up to speak about the short-term rental bylaw article Tuesday. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

A citizens’ petition generated loud and unanimous opposition during the second night of Town Meeting on Tuesday, as residents of the Lake Maspenock area spoke out against the rezoning of a residential parcel in their neighborhood.

Article 29, proposed by engineer Peter Bemis as a private citizen, requested changing the zoning at South Street/Hayward Street/Pine Grove Lane from residential lakefront to rural business. Citing time constraints following discussions with town officials, Bemis last month requested to withdraw the article, but it was past the deadline. Bemis did not attend Town Meeting to speak on it or his request for no action.

The proposed zoning change would have benefited Hopkinton resident Jim Marguerite, who wanted to relocate the headquarters of Marguerite Concrete to that parcel of currently forested land. The property includes seven lots, five of which were proposed for development and two that were proposed to be preserved as open space.

While the Planning Board had recommended no action, many attendees were adamant that the article be voted down that evening.

Resident Mary Arnaut asked that a vote be taken, saying that it was her belief that residents would prefer that the area remain zoned as a lakefront residential district.

“I am encouraging all the people here tonight who came out to vote to please vote on this article,” she said, noting that it would be likely to resurface in the future.

“Let’s get it done with tonight,” said resident Ken Weismantel, who moved that the article be discussed.

In the absence of the petitioner, Town Moderator Ellen Rutter asked members of a group of concerned residents who emailed her in advance with a five-slide presentation to make a presentation in opposition to the zoning change. The slide presentation was not able to be uploaded.

Parker Happ opened the presentation by saying that 40% of the current commercial property currently on Hayward and South streets was unoccupied. He lamented that the slide presentation “will live and myth and memory.” In the end, the slides turned out not to be necessary to convince the audience.

Jamie Goncalvez, president of the Lake Maspenock Preservation Association, stressed that the group’s board voted “overwhelmingly” to oppose the zoning change. He said the LMPA members wanted to “keep the lake the way it is.”

“There were environmental concerns that were an issue,” he explained, noting that an increase in traffic and in impervious surfaces were raised. Another was that a three-story building would block residents’ current scenic views.

Resident Xavier Pennell cited the need for more housing in Hopkinton in his opposition to the article.

A two-thirds vote was required for approval because it was an article on a zoning change. Moderator Ellen Rutter declared the vote to be unanimous after the resounding shouts of “Nay!” echoed around her.

Said Rutter: “I don’t know if unanimous opposition is a thing — but we just proved it is.”

Gun club restriction fails

Article 34 failed to pass after drawing fire from several opponents. This citizens’ petition, proposed by resident Seetharaman Ganesan, proposed prohibiting outdoor shooting at gun clubs such as the Hopkinton Sportsmen’s Association off Lumber Street.

Ganesan described how the gun shots disturbed him and motivated him to put forth the article, which cited the goal of protecting “we the people, babies, animals and birds” from noise pollution.

“Noise pollution is detrimental for people’s mental and physical health, besides harming the environment,” he said, saying it sounded like a “war zone.” “We should be a livable town for all people as well as our precious wildlife.”

Former Select Board chair Brendan Tedstone spoke as a representative for the Hopkinton Sportsmen’s Association, citing its history in Hopkinton since it was founded in 1931. He explained that six police departments practice shooting there for about 70 hours a year, and the club offers the use of its pond for the Hopkinton Police Department’s annual fishing derby. Boy Scouts also have activities there.

“They are a good neighbor, to say the least,” he said.

Tedstone also cited state law, which allows gun clubs to open at 8 a.m. and shoot until 10 p.m. This club is more restrictive, with shooting allowed starting at 9 a.m. and finishing a half an hour before sunset, he said.

He added that notice had been sent to abutters and was presented to the Planning Board and developers to make them aware of the proximity of an active shooting club to their property. Even if the article passed, Tedstone said that it would likely be overturned by the state’s Attorney General’s Office, noting that existing gun ranges are exempt from noise restrictions.

Town Counsel Bryan Bertram confirmed that the law exempts existing gun ranges from regulations that govern noise, which would make the proposed bylaw unenforceable.

Peggy Barton spoke in favor of the article, saying that the gun club has “dominated my life and undermined my health.” She described the sound of a shot as “a unique, sharp report that makes every cell in your body flinch.”

While many speakers appeared somewhat sympathetic to the abutters, they stressed that they knew that they would be hearing gunfire when they moved into the neighborhood because of the facility’s long history.

Resident Andomo Woody said that while he understood both sides, the ones to blame are the realtors who may not have informed people moving in about the gun club. He described the gunfire as “a necessary noise,” noting that the training of police officers ultimately benefits all residents. There also was no provision for funding the move of a gun club to an indoor facility, which he said potentially could impact taxpayers.

Robert Pierce, a member of the Hopkinton Sportsmen’s Club, pointed out that the club has been operating under the provisions of the town’s noise ordinances. He noted that a sport such as trap and skeet, an Olympic sport, could not be moved indoors, as well as long-distance targeting.

Donald Jordan, who said he formerly served as a legislative director for the Massachusetts House of Representatives for 31 years, said that the article was written so broadly that it appeared to be like a “bill of attainder,” which would punish a specific group and would not meet a constitutional challenge.

“We all, as human beings, have activities which create harm to animals and birds,” he said.

A small number of people voted in favor, falling far short of a simple majority.

Misc: West Elm rezoning, short-term rental bylaw fail

Voters denied a zoning district change for 0 and 2 West Elm Street, on which the Community Covenant Church sits. The church is closing and the property is going up for sale. The sellers sought a change from residential to business zoning. All but one resident who spoke were opposed, saying they hoped another church would take over or perhaps an affordable housing unit could be built there. …

The town voted down a proposal to create a short-term rental bylaw. A number of residents who rent their homes via websites such as Airbnb or VRBO opposed the proposal, which sought to create regulations and a licensing process. The article was prompted after an issue with a short-term rental on Pike Street. …

After some discussion, the town approved Article 26, which calls for a limited number of electric vehicle (EV) parking spaces in all new parking lots with five or more spaces. The EV spaces don’t have to be set up with chargers but must be EV ready, with conduits. …

In a close vote, residents did not support an article seeking to amend the leash law and require dogs who are off their premises to be leashed 24 hours a day. The current law does not require a leash between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. In the vote, 185 supported the change, while 208 opposed it.

Following is a list of all articles with the results of the voting.

Article 1, Acceptance of town reports
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 2, Fiscal year 2023 supplemental appropriations and transfers
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 3, Unpaid bills from prior fiscal years
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 4, Set the salary of elected officials
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 5, Fiscal year 2024 operating budget
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 6, Fiscal year 2024 revolving funds spending limits
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 7, PEG access and cable related fund revolving account funding
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 8, Chapter 90 highway funds
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 9, Transfer to Other Post-Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 10, Transfer to the General Stabilization Fund
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 11, Transfer to the School Special Education Reserve Fund
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 12, Establish Capital Stabilization Account for South Middlesex Regional Vocational Technical School District
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 13, PILOT agreement, Wilson Street solar farm
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 14, Pay-as-you-go capital expenses
Passed by voice vote (simply majority needed)

Article 15, Chestnut Street sidewalk
Passed by head count, 375-6 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 16, Sidewalk from EMC Park to Blueberry Lane
Passed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 17, Fire Station 2 architectural and engineering design
Passed by head count, 355-16 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 18, Hopkinton Public Schools HVAC renewal work
Passed by head count, 323-10 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 19, Hopkins School addition
Passed by head count, 275-65 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 20, Roadway paving, Pratt Way and cemeteries
Passed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 21, Water Department vehicle replacement
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 22, School curriculum, equipment and services contracts
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 23, Community Preservation funds
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 24, Community Preservation recommendations
Motion 1, passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)
Motion 2, passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 25, Inclusionary development bylaw
Passed by head count, 287-9 (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 26, Electric vehicle parking spaces
Passed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 27, Site plan review rooftop solar exemption
Passed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 28, Zoning district change, 2 West Elm Street and 0 West Elm Street
Failed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 29, Zoning district change, South Street and Hayward Street
Failed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 30, Housekeeping, delete definition
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 31, Amend meeting minutes bylaw
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 32, Amend leash law
Failed by head count, 185-208 (simple majority needed)

Article 33, Short-term rental bylaw
Failed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 34, Gun club indoor shooting
Failed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 35, Street acceptance, Foxhollow Road
Passed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 36, Street acceptance, Box Mill Road
Passed by voice vote (two-thirds majority needed)

Article 37, Accept gift of land, Turkey Ridge subdivision
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 38, Solar canopy leases, middle school and high school
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 39, Fruit Street lease
Passed by voice vote as part of consent agenda (simply majority needed)

Article 40, Drainage easement, 14 Hazel Road
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 41, Drainage easement, 77 South Street
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 42, Drainage easement, 20 Downey Place
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 43, Home rule petition for special state legislation to authorize taking of easements in Milford for Lake Maspenock dam repairs
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 44, Easements for Lake Maspenock dam repairs
Passed by head count, 336-77 (simple majority needed)

Article 45, Temporary easement for Lake Maspenock dam repairs
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 46, Net zero resolution
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

Article 47, Abolish Upper Charles Trail Committee and establish subcommittee
Passed by head count, 158-61 (simple majority needed)

Article 48, Upper Charles Trail Committee spending, Segment 7
Passed by voice vote (simple majority needed)

1 Comment

  1. Linda Connelly

    Curious about how many incidents with dog bites have been reported before 7:00 A.M. and after 8 P.M. Also how many attacks from off leash dogs have occurred between 7:00 A.M. and 8:00 P.M.? Certainly some people do not like dogs, many are afraid of them and perhaps this vocal but small number of people wanted to change the bylaw.

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