On May 2, after nearly five hours of discussion and debate, part two of the 2023 Annual Town Meeting concluded.
The night ended in disappointment for members of the Community Covenant Church, who had petitioned the town for a zoning change to their property on the corner of Elm and West Main Streets. Although the Planning Board endorsed the change, they were met with strong opposition from some voters, who expressed concern about increased traffic on Elm Street and that the church would disappear.
“The town is trying to tear town a beautiful structure,” said a Rocky Roads resident.
After several residents spoke against the measure, Doug Rancourt, a member of the church and the trustee, attempted to speak, but a resident had already motioned to end debate, effectively cutting him off. The motion carried. “I think this is grossly unfair,” said Rancourt, returning to his seat.
The vote required a 2/3 majority to pass, and Moderator Ellen Rutter ruled that it had not received enough votes, so the motion failed.
Later in the evening a motion was introduced to have the vote reconsidered, and that motion failed.
In a related matter, Article 29, which sought to change the zoning of Hayward and South Street, failed unanimously. Several residents spoke against it, preferring to keep the zoning Residential Lake Front, and effectively halting Marguerite Concrete’s efforts to construct a new building on the lot.
Also failing last night was Article 32, a amendment to the town’s Leash Laws. Several residents noted that the proposal as-written was broad in scope, and did not contemplate excluded areas, such as the Hopkinton dog park. A Huckleberry Road resident proposed an amendment to exclude dog parks and the amendment passed by a simple majority, however the article itself failed, with some residents expressing concern that this unfairly penalized responsible dog owners who have their animals trained under voice control. In the end a standing vote was required, with 208 voting against and 185 voting for.
Town residents were not impressed with Article 33, the Short Term Rental Bylaw, which would have created a licensing authority over AirBNB’s and VRBO’s in town. Several owners of short term rentals took to the microphone and expressed their displeasure with what they saw as government interference into private land ownership. The vote to approve failed by a simple majority.
A Revolutionary Way resident brought a Citizen’s Petition to town meeting in an attempt to limit gun clubs from outdoor shooting. He spoke emphatically about the disruption from the “blast of gunfire all day”. “Hopkinton is not a war zone,” he said.
Former Select Board member Brendan Tedstone led the delegation from the Hopkinton Sportsmen’s Association. Tedstone reminded voters that his gun club has been in town since 1931 and operates under reduced hours to be mindful of their neighbors.
During the debate, Moderator Rutter turned to General Counsel Bryan Bertram to ask about the implication of passing this article. Bertram pointed out that the law exempts gun clubs from noise ordinances and that the measure would likely not withstand a legal challenge.
The debate continued, with a Sanctuary Lane resident saying “The gun clubs use the ‘We were here first’ argument. Hopkinton only had 2,000 residents back then, and has 19,000 now.”
At 10:10 PM the motion to approve this amendment failed by a simple majority, and several residents were seen filing out of the auditorium.
As the meeting reached the eleven o’clock hour two articles remained, and from the discussion that resulted they were certainly the most contentious.
Article #47 sought to Abolish the Upper Charles Trail Committee and Establish a Subcommittee of the Trails Committee. Select Board member Muriel Kramer, speaking as a private citizen, called the process the petitioners had employed “divisive and an affront to the people of this town.” The discussion continued for several minutes, many times veering into the pros and cons of locating a trail on Hayden Rowe Street (known as Segment 7). Moderator Rutter reminded the speakers that this article was simply about abolishing the committee, not the placement of a trail.
When called upon, General Counsel Bertram noted that any vote would not be binding. “The by laws are explicit,” he said. “For a committee to be abolished it must be done in a by law. It does not allow Town Meeting to direct the Town Manager to abolish a committee, which is what this article calls for. Whether this article passes will not abolish the UCTC. Citizens can still vote, but it will be advisory only.”
After nearly 30 minutes a vote was called for, and the room seemed evenly divide. A standing vote was called, and the article passed 158-61.
Article 47, the final article, was related to the previous, and asked to direct the town to suspend funding for Segment 7 of the trail. It passed with a simple majority.
The meeting concluded at 11:54 PM.
Watch the full replay courtesy of our friends at HCAM.