HomeNewsOn Trails, Voters sent a Clear Message. The Select Board Disagrees.

On Trails, Voters sent a Clear Message. The Select Board Disagrees.

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At Annual Town Meeting (ATM) on May 2, voters were asked to consider Article 47, a Citizens Petition that sought to abolish the Upper Charles Trail Committee (UCTC). Even before Town Meeting, the legality of the petition was challenged by town counsel, who advised the Select Board on April 28 that “Town Meeting doesn’t have the authority to direct the Town Manager’s actions in this regard.” Rather, the town’s lawyers recommended the Select Board treat it as an advisory vote.

Hotly contested in the pages of HopNews and the Hopkinton Independent, the agenda item finally arrived deep into the second night of ATM. With the audience dwindling, the debate began with Peter LaGoy, the current chair of the Trails Coordination and Management Committee (TCMC), moving to introduce the article as written in the warrant. LaGoy made a presentation in which he outlined the reasons for the petition, with he and others feeling that the UCTC had not listened to safety concerns, was not responsive to public input, and was too reliant on their selected engineering firm, which encouraged them to develop the trail in an urban environment.

TCMC Chair Peter LaGoy presents at Annual Town Meeting on May 2.

Jane Moran, chair of the UCTC spoke in dissent. She pointed out that the UCTC reports to the Select Board and that their remit is to submit 2-3 options for trail segments for Select Board approval. “This work should be directly overseen by the Select Board,” said Moran.

Linda Chuss, a School Street resident, said “I’m voting Yes on Article 47 to send a strong message to town officials.”

Muriel Kramer, current chair of the Select Board, spoke as a private citizen. “I am opposed to this article,” said Kramer. “It is personally divisive and affrontive to pursue (disbanding the UCTC) this way.”

After nearly an hour of discussion a motion was introduced to end the debate and it carried. The results from the voice vote were not clear and a standing vote was called for. Ultimately the motion carried overwhelmingly, with 72% of attendees voting to disband the UCTC.

At their May 23 meeting, the Select Board discussed the town vote and the fate of the UCTC. “We have to listen to what the Town Meeting vote said,” said Select Board member Irfan Nasrullah. “We can’t ignore it.” 

“It is our duty to listen to (the town’s) voice,” said Shahidul Mannan. “(Delaying) may send a mixed message. I would be in favor of dissolving or suspending the UCTC’s operation.”

But there was no motion introduced to disband the committee. Instead, after more discussion, the Select Board voted 3-2 to suspend the UCTC, setting a date of July 11 to reconsider. They further agreed to convene a subcommittee to develop a survey for residents to offer their opinion on the UCTC. 

The Select Board met again on June 6 and continued the discussion. By then Nasrullah seemed less certain. “What we’re looking for is public input,” he said, “because to me the articles at Town Meeting were not specific as to what the issues exactly are.”

“As far as abolishing the committee and making it a subcommittee of the Trails committee, I don’t think anyone mentioned that in their comments, except the presenter,” said Board Member Amy Ritterbusch.

The survey produced was notable in that it didn’t contemplate the existence of the UCTC at all. Rather it asked detailed questions about the structure of the committee, the voting rights of members, and the qualifications of membership. The survey was distributed online and in printed form, although discrepancies existed between the versions. On July 6, the results of the survey were published, with approximately 135 respondents out of the more than 11,500 registered voters in Hopkinton. 

Many of the respondents answered affirmatively, but others were less impressed. 

Stop stalling!!! Voters sent clear messages that you are avoiding again,” wrote one.

I find it odd that the questions presume a level of familiarity with Town organization/procedures that most residents (myself included) are not too familiar with,” wrote another.

Start over. Drain the swamp. Get rid of the members who are only on the committee to sabotage progress in the name of self-interest,” one respondent replied.

In an interview this week, Town Clerk Conor Degan offered his thoughts. “I think the intent by Town Meeting voters was not to get rid of the Upper Charles Trails Committee,” he said. “I believe the intent was to repurpose of the UCTC as it exists subservient to the Select Board, and to have one instead that is a subcommittee of the Trails committee.”

“It seems like the Select Board doesn’t want to make a tough call,” said LaGoy. “Maybe they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

When reached for comment, Select Board member Shahidul Mannan said “At the May 23 and June 6 Select Board meetings, I expressed concern that we may be sending the wrong message. However, I respected my colleagues’ opinions and agreed to give it time. Generally I do believe that once the town voted the people had spoken, and if there is a reason to change that in the future then we have a democratic process for that.”

On Tuesday, July 11, the Select Board meets and will be joined by the TCMC to discuss the survey results. Residents can join in person at Town Hall, by Zoom, or streaming on HCAM.

10 COMMENTS

  1. “Thinking”
    In this ”Great Republic”, we have Elections, so at ‘Town Elections’ we can either Vote to ‘Retain’, or ‘Vote Out’
    Politicians that may not understand the Will of the Registered Voters, & Citizens. The only Caveat may be that the Registered Voters have an ‘alternative’ to Vote for?

  2. I was aware of this survey because I have been following the Upper Charles Trail Committee. How were other residents to know about the survey?
    I tried to complete this survey online. Questions 4 and 16 did not offer responses that were acceptable so I left them blank. Thus I was unable to submit the form. The paper copy of the survey that I obtained at the Senior Center did not match the online version.
    Amy Ritterbush kindly sent me a corrected version which I have completed and will deliver to the Select board office.
    I question the validity of this survey. It was designed with the misconception that there was something wrong with the current UCTC.
    158 residents voted at midnight at the town meeting in favor of article 47. 135 residents have completed the survey. This is a small slice of our town.

  3. Like so many articles on this website, Hopnews seems to exaggerate the goings on about town for marketing reasons, click bait.
    Hopkinton Independent seems more concerned with true journalism IMO

    • Seriously? If it weren’t for Hopnews, this town would still be run by people that are falsifying identities to destroy the reputation of others. We are incredibly fortunate to have such honesty and integrity in journalism, which is so rare in today’s world.

    • Clickbait, really?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clickbait

      “Clickbait headlines often add an element of dishonesty, using enticements that do not accurately reflect the content being delivered.”

      What is dishonest about this headline or article? It’s all basically as it happened with links to the source material.

  4. I thought the surveys would be mailed to all residents, but they were not. After reading this, I contacted the select board yesterday to ask about it, and Muriel Kramer confirmed this, and kindly sent me a copy which needs to be submitted by tomorrow.

  5. I appreciate the fact based reporting in HopNews. An informed public is essential for a democracy to survive and thrive.

  6. The Trail Coordination and Management Committee’s proposed “western alternative” is an option that the Upper Charles Trail Committee has already explored. At that time, no route connecting the Hughes property trails to the Center Trail was viable.

    Acquisition of or easements on all four private properties needed to build a trail around the Charlesview neighborhood was not possible. The on;y other option of going through the Charlesview neighborhood was overwhelmingly opposed by neighborhood residents. For those reasons, the UCTC moved on to explore the viability of other route options.

    Now, the TCMC proposes the same route around the Charlesview neighborhood that requires acquisition or easements on the same four private properties. As an alternative, the TCMC proposes using a portion of Joseph, Daniel and or Alexander Road.

    The UCTC and TCMC have already been told by residents of those roads that they strongly oppose any trail through the neighborhood. Private property acquisition(s) or easements for all properties needed is still highly unlikely, leaving TCMC with the opposed route through Charlesview. How the TCMC thinks it would get neighborhood acceptance of this proposal is mystifying.

    The proponents of disbanding the Upper Charles Trail Committee assert that objections to a potential Upper Charles Trail segment along a portion of Hayden Rowe Street are the impetus for their petition. The UCTC. Disbanding the UCTC for this reason is ridiculous. As a tactic to chastise and discredit the UCTC.

    Maybe it’s time for the Charlesview residents to rise up and force the Select Board to disband the TCMC because they don’t listen to the ‘overwhelming majority’ of residents opposed to any trail through the Charlesview neighborhood.

    A map of the TCMC’s proposed trail can be seen at: http://www.hopkintontrailsclub.com/uct/map1_alternative_route.pdf.

  7. I also attended the town meeting with regards to voting against the Trails Committee intent to putting a walking trail up Hayden Rowe. Although that ended up not being what we voted on, I managed to stay until after midnight even though I get up at 4:00 a.m. as I am still working full time at 74 years old. After having my property damaged so often with accidents occurring on Hayden Rowe, the last one cost my family over $4,000 when a woman with her young son in the backseat drove through neighbors’ property and right through my front yard ending up in the woods. Before that another woman shooting up on drugs flipped her car after hitting a family from New Hampshire and seriously injuring the woman driving that car, damaging property. I have a big yellow flashing light on my front yard marking the school zone ahead. The light starts flashing at 6 a.m. even though the school doesn’t open until 9 a.m. and this light hasn’t slowed anyone down, morning or afternoon. Now with another proposed Elmwood School going in behind us and at least 12 feet of property being taken for a turning lane, how much more will be needed for a walking trail? I think anyone living on Hayden Rowe will attest to the heavy amount of traffic on this street that is even heaviest during school hours. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a walking trail through a quiet wooded area is a far better option than a busy highway on a 90-degree, humid day.

  8. The proposed alternate route by the TCMC pointed to by JIM CIRIELLO is ludicrous. Unless I miscounted we’d have a “bridge” across Rt 85 along with THREE additional crossings of the highway. If this is the only alternative, the project should be CANCELLED and the Group disbanded. Residents have tried to get this point across to the Group and Town leaders, many times, but they just blow-it-off.

    If this ever goes to Town Meeting for a vote, the messgae will be heard loud and clear. NO RATIONAL ROUTE, NO MONEY AND NO TRAIL. PERIOD, END of STORY.

    The residents of this area of Town are burdened with schools that should have been located elswhere along with fresh proposals for more. Traffic on Rt 85 in this area of Town is absolutely awful now; we do not want trail crossings on Rt 85 or addional schools in the area to make it worse. Is is my sincere hope that the route proposal along with additional schools (including the Taj Mahal) along Rt 85 be voted down.

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