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Town Meeting Wraps with Walkways, Expanded Overlay Districts Approved

Residents support restoration of town records, amendment of zoning bylaws.

The third and final day of Town Meeting Wednesday night at opened with residents approving an article to amend the zoning bylaw of the wireless services overlay district in Sudbury, the motion for which was suspended the previous night following a last-minute amendment brought before town officials.

According to the official warrant, Article 21 was proposed to expand the usefulness of the overlay district, which will have the effect of protecting the town against undesirable cell tower sites in inappropriate locations — in essence, “keeping cell towers from cropping up in residential neighborhoods all over town, and generating the income for the town since the towers will be on town property,” said Selectman Larry O’Brien.

According to O’Brien, the article expands the town properties available for cell tower use from the “very specific parcels” first designated in 1998 to all town-owned land except for school grounds, school properties and cemeteries — which, though not technically prohibited, could evoke an “emotional” reaction among residents.

Residents also approved a number of articles submitted by the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), ranging from allocating funds of up to $100,000 for new walkways to purchasing Fairbank Farm, a 33-acre property off Old Sudbury Road, for $750,000.

After a brief presentation by CPC Chair Chris Morely about the Committee’s history and function for “newer residents, or those new to Town Meeting,” residents approved, by a necessary majority vote, $100,000 in funds for new walkways (Article 31), the location of which is not yet known, according to Jody Kablack, director of planning and community development.

Citing the popularity of and increased safety afforded by other recently constructed walkways, Kablack encouraged residents to submit requests for walkways and said the Planning Board will hold a forum in June to discuss the walkways’ potential locations.

While supporters called Article 33, which would allow for the purchase an agricultural preservation restriction on approximately 33 acres of land located on Old Sudbury Road, a unique opportunity to preserve a historic property, some residents questioned the urgency of the request, saying portions of the negotiations surrounding the deal aren’t clear enough.

“Don’t let (those) arguments kill this deal. This is a wonderful opportunity,” Board of Selectmen Chair John Drobinski told the audience, who approved the article by a majority vote.

Other CPC measures approved at the meeting included funds to continue harvesting invasive aquatic weeds at Carding Mill Pond, part of the Hop Brook System (Article 28); funding some small-scale historic projects, including restoring chimneys at Hosmer House and fixing the roof at the Wadsworth Cemetery gazebo (Article 30); and funding the Sudbury Housing Trust (Article 32) in the amount of $190,000 “to enable the trust to continue its efforts to provide for the creation and preservation of affordable housing,” according to the article.

Other articles discussed and approved included:

  • Funds to continue the restoration of “ancient” town records. In presenting Article 29 to the audience, Town Clerk Rosemary Harvell described Sudbury’s “unbroken chain of historic records” dating back to 1638 as “very unusual” and presented a series of slides showing the progress of records restored to date. Estimated at close to $17,000, the funds will allow “continued reparation, stabilization and digitization” of such records.
  • The amendment of a zoning bylaw to expand the types of use for certain parcels of land designated as “limited industrial use” districts (Article 23). According to Kablack, the amendment will allow owners of the property, located along Union Avenue, Boston Post Road and Old County Road, to lease the property to a broader group of interested parties, particularly retail businesses.
  • The dissolution of the Permanent Landscape Committee (Article 25), formed originally to recommend ways for preserving and safeguarding public shade trees within the town. Committee member Deborah Kruskal told the audience the Committee hasn’t been meeting regularly for several years as most of its responsibilities “are now covered by other boards and committees.”
  • The sale of two small parcels of land, for approximately $3,500 each, at Hudson Road and Pinewood Avenue (Article 26). O’Brien called the parcels “unbuildable, except for maybe a garage or some kind of addition” to abutting properties but said the sale would be an easy way to “generate some revenue and remove the (parcels) from the town’s possession.”
  • The exchange of land off Peter’s Way (Article 27), which would, according to Drobinski, “provide a unique opportunity to increase the size of the (Town) cemetery at no cost to taxpayers.” According to the article, the town will be deeded two acres of land with a permanent access easement across Peter’s Way, with the landowner obtaining access to a landlocked parcel for the intended development of one house lot.
  • General appropriation of Community Preservation funds (Article 35), which set forth the entire FY12 budget including debt fund obligations of $1.2 million and administrative and operational expenses of $85,000.

Articles withdrawn at the meeting, both originally submitted by petition, included one to reduce the CPA surcharge from 3 percent to 1.5 percent, as well as one that called for replacing the town manager position with a town administrator.

Another article requested by petition asked the town to appropriate $900,000 for the purchase of a 9-acre parcel on Brimstone Lane abutting Nobscot Priority Heritage Landcape. Dave Wallace, a former Sudbury selectman, represented the petitioners and cited the parcel’s “unique topography” and increased access to Boy Scout property as incentives for purchase, as well as alluded to a lawsuit between the landowners and the town that would be resolved if the town agreed to purchase the land. After opposition from both the FinCom and Board of Selectmen, Conservation Coordinator Debbie Dineen told the audience the portion of the property up for sale had “a lot of developmental constraints” and said her department “has never had a policy of supporting the purchase of land because we’re being bullied” via a lawsuit. The audience unanimously opposed the article.

The meeting concluded with majority approval of Article 39, which called for a “state of the town”-type forum in which town goals, programs and decisions would be discussed bi-annually by the town manager and department heads in an open public forum. The article was presented by petitioner Daniel De Pompei, who told the audience it is intended to “increase engagement between town management and town residents.”

After the meeting, the Board of Selectmen held a vote to restructure, with O'Brien to serve as chair, Bob Haarde as vice chair, and Drobinski as selectman, effective immediately upon the conclusion of Town Meeting.

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