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Your Guide to Special Town Meeting

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Sunnyside Gardens

On Monday, November 13, Hopkinton will hold a Special Town Meeting. Hopkinton’s Town Meeting form of government vests all legislative authority in the citizens, who alone have the power to approve town spending.

Here’s everything you need to know to prepare for the vote.

Schedule of Events

  • Monday, November 13 7:00 PM – A Special Town Meeting will be held.
  • Location: Hopkinton Middle School
    • The meeting is open to all Hopkinton residents that are registered voters.
    • Child care will be available, provided by the Hopkinton PTO.
    • In a late change, the meeting will be moderated by Town Clerk Connor Degan, who replaces Elected Moderator Ellen Rutter.
    • The Town is introducing electronic voting for this town meeting, an enhancement that promises to expedite the agenda and vote counts.
    • Attendees are encouraged to arrive early to check in, receive their electronic voting clicker, and find a seat. There will be a practice vote to ensure all attendees are familiar with how to use their clickers.
    • Large crowds are expected. At their last meeting, the Select Board advised residents to arrive early and explore carpooling and walking as parking options are limited.
  • Tuesday, November 28 7:00 AM – 8:00 PM – A special election will be held to vote on a Proposition 2 1/2 tax override to fund the Elmwood School, pending the outcome of the Special Town Meeting vote.

Agenda

There are four warrant items for voters to consider. The first topic, and likely most contentious, will be a vote to replace the Elmwood School. The total project cost is estimated at $158 million, with 31% of the money coming from the state. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) formally committed $61,257,604 to the project, asking Hopkinton taxpayers to fund approximately $96.5 million. If approved at STM by 2/3 of voters, the measure will move to the ballot, where it will require a simple majority to pass.

>> RELATED: Calculate your personal tax impact of the Elmwood School project

Hopkinton has a long history of voting in favor of schools, but the outcome of this measure is very much in doubt. Some residents have expressed concern that the tax consequences of a “Yes” vote will make Hopkinton unaffordable. Others have argued that the Elmwood school is already overcrowded, a trend demographers expect to continue, and that the quality of education may be compromised.

A recent HopNews reader poll suggests that proponents of the school project face strong headwinds, but in past years when school initiatives have been before voters, Town Meeting has seen a surge in attendance, primarily from parents of school-age children.

>> RELATED: Full Coverage of the Elmwood School Project

The second item will be to consider a citizens petition to eliminate partisan elections in Hopkinton. The measure would prevent the terms “Democratic Caucus Nominee” or “Republican Caucus Nominee” from appearing next to a candidate for public office’s name on any town election ballot. It would also prevent political parties from caucusing to anoint a candidate.

Hopkinton is one of 13 towns in the Commonwealth to still host partisan elections. “What occurred during this last election cycle involving pseudonyms, newsjacking and fake news was all driven by partisan politics,” said Ed Harrow, one of the petition’s sponsors. “From my perspective, there are no Democratic or Republican solutions to our problems, there are only Hopkinton solutions.”

>> RELATED: Full Coverage of the Citizens Petition

The third warrant item will ask voters to Adopt the Municipal opt-in Specialized Stretch Energy Code, which will regulate the design and construction of buildings in town for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The Stretch code was established at the state level in 2009 as part of implementing the Green Communities Act of 2008.

This code will affect only new construction; additions will be covered by the existing codes.

The primary changes in the new code are:

  • Pre-wiring: New buildings that use fossil fuels must pre-wire for future electrical needs, including building heating, water heating, cooking, clothing drying, and electric vehicle charging. For example, if new construction chooses to install a gas furnace, it must also have the wiring necessary for an electric heat pump.
  • Solar: New buildings that use fossil fuels must install solar onsite.
  • Exemplary Performance for Large Homes: New single-family homes greater than 4,000 square feet must be all electric or certified Zero Energy where solar panels offset energy usage.
  • Exemplary Performance for Large Multi-family: New multi-family homes greater than 12,000 sq ft must use the “Passive House” design principles for a highly efficient building.

At the 2023 Annual Town Meeting, voters approved a 2045 Net Zero target. This initiative aims to help the town reach that goal.

The fourth and final item will instruct the town to explore purchasing land for municipal parking in the vicinity of Town Hall. The town is including three parcels in this warrant: 10 Walcott Street, 14 Main Street, and an unaddressed parcel on Main Street. The measure would authorize spending up to $2,985,000 and requires 2/3 of attendees to vote in the affirmative to pass. The town currently rents parking from Saint John the Evangelist church at a cost of $16,000 per year, and this measure may eliminate that need.

>> RELATED: Read the full text of the Special Town Meeting Warrant

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1 COMMENT

  1. Regarding item 4, I just divided the requested amount by $16,000. By renting the St. John’s parking lot at the current rate, it would take 186 years to reach the over $2 million mark.
    Seems like renting space might be a cost savings for the town.

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