Town Meeting delays vote on solar, supports taking of Legacy Farms Road North

386
Town Meeting
Residents cast their votes during Saturday’s Town Meeting outside Hopkinton High School. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

At Saturday’s Town Meeting residents elected to delay a vote on the Planning Board’s commercial solar map, support the taking of Legacy Farms Road North as a public street, and approve the Fiscal Year 2021 operating budget.

Sunny skies and cool temperatures greeted the approximately 225 residents who turned out for the two-hour morning meeting, held under a tent outside Hopkinton High School, with social distancing rules in effect.

“Isn’t it a spectacular morning?” town moderator Tom Garabedian asked. “How would you like to conduct Town Meeting like this every year?”

It wasn’t so spectacular for a group of residents who oppose commercial solar arrays in residential areas and were hoping for immediate action to limit development. The citizens group Save the Forest pushed for a vote to support the Planning Board’s solar overlay map (Article 19), despite the Planning Board suggesting residents take no action, a recommendation made in an effort to limit attendance and discussion at the meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Save the Forest supporters expressed a concern that if no action was taken developers could continue to push forward their solar plans under the current town bylaws, which are not very restrictive.

Ted Barker-Hook, a member of the Conservation Commission, said he supported the move to limit commercial solar, but he preferred waiting to debate the issue until the next Town Meeting in May 2021 so that there could be more community input.

By a vote of 114-96, Town Meeting voted to take no action on Article 19.

However, Article 20, resident Ann Karnofsky’s request to explore the purchase of the forested land off 71 Frankland Road — currently permitted for a solar array — did get the support of Town Meeting. This means if a purchase price can be established for the property, currently owned by Seaboard Solar, it would return to Town Meeting to decide if the town should allocate funds to purchase it.

The Legacy Farms Road North street acceptance had widespread support when it was introduced last year, and it received a positive vote at a Special Town Meeting in December. Residents of the development requested the town take the road — an action that originally was not planned to occur until the development was completed — so that it would be safer for children living there, as school buses won’t drive on private roads.

Concerns were raised by town officials recently about the possible existence of pesticides in the ground along the roadway and if that might eventually expose the town to potential large expenses for removal of contaminated soil.

In an interview with the Independent prior to the meeting, town manager Norman Khumalo said an agreement was struck with Legacy Farms developer Roy MacDowell that will indemnify the town for 10 years — with financial limitations — related to the pesticide issue.

The budget discussion was brief, with only one resident rising to express concern about the increase during uncertain economic times.

“How do you justify increasing the budget 7.1 percent with an unemployment rate of 16.1 percent?” a West Main Street resident asked.

Khumalo responded that the goal was to “maintain the levels of service, preserve our excellent education system, protect public safety.” He added that the town was “very frugal.”

“We are able to sustain this higher growth because number one, we are a growing community,” he said. “Number two, we’re using other sources other than taxation to fund the budget.”

Health director Shaun McAuliffe wipes down the microphone following a speaker. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

The meeting began just after 9:30 a.m. with guidance regarding social distancing. Health director Shaun McAuliffe wiped down the microphone after each speaker.

Scout Troops 1, 4 and 11 presenting the flags of the United States and Massachusetts. The ensuing discussion on the articles lasted approximately two hours, and the meeting broke up shortly before noon.

Following are the results of all the articles in the order they were voted.

Article 19, Commercial solar photovoltaic installations, head count vote to take no action (simple majority required).

Article 20, Land acquisition, [former] Liberty Mutual property, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 1, FY 2020 supplemental appropriations and transfers, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 2, Unpaid bills from previous fiscal years, passed by voice vote (four-fifths majority required).

Article 3, Excess bond premium, voice vote to take no action (two-thirds majority required).

Article 4, Personal property, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 5, Set the salary of elected officials, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 6, Fiscal 2021 operating budget, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 7, FY 2021 revolving funds spending limits, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 8, Chapter 90 highway funds, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 9, Transfer to other post-employment benefits liability trust fund, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 10, Lease East Main Street parcel for International Marathon Center, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 11, Community Preservation funds, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Article 12, Community Preservation recommendations, passed by head count vote (two-thirds majority required).

Article 13, Car washes, downtown business district, voice vote to take no action (simple majority required).

Article 14, Industrial B District housekeeping, voice vote to take no action (simple majority required).

Article 15, Wireless communities facilities, voice vote to take no action (simple majority required).

Article 16, Accessory dwelling unity, voice vote to take no action (simple majority required).

Article 17, Nonconforming lots, uses and structures, voice vote to take no action (simple majority required).

Article 18, Temporary signs, voice vote to take no action (simple majority required).

(Articles 19 and 20 are at the top of this list, as they were taken out of order.)

Article 21, Street acceptance, Legacy Farms North, passed by head count vote (two-thirds majority required).

Article 22, Amend charter to change [name of] Board of Selectmen to Select Board, passed by voice vote (simple majority required).

Hopkinton Independent house ad