The town of Westford Select Board met on Tuesday, November 9, and discussed everything from the removal of trees, to new tax rates, to liquor license transfer approval, to the status of the property on 63 Main Street.
Two Public Shade Trees
The select board welcomed Stephen Cronin, the Director of Public Works for the town of Westford. Cronin presented a request to authorize the issuing of a permit for the removal of two public shade trees located at 6 Hildreth Street. The request was previously submitted to the select board on October 12, however it was rejected by the select board due to objections made by a couple of Westford residents. Since then, the trees were examined by an arborist and deemed to have significant decay.
After a lengthy discussion regarding the status of the two trees, all Select Board members agreed to allow the removal of the trees. Japanese zelkova (non-native), and maples, particularly red maples, were identified as suitable replacement trees. The consideration for which trees to plant was left with Cronin. (Agenda item starts at 00:24:35 in the attached video.)
Classification of Real and Personal Property Tax
The select board then welcomed William Naser, the Principal Assessor for the town of Westford, who brought a request to establish the tax rate for Fiscal Year 2022. Naser presented the select board with a chart demonstrating the town wide value change from fiscal year 2021 to fiscal year 2022.
The overall change in value of property in the town increased by 6.8 percent. The chart showed that the value of residential space in Westford increased throughout the past year, while the value of commercial and personal property decreased throughout the past year. The value of industrial space remained relatively the same.
The decision that Naser proposed the select board to vote on was whether the town should enact a single tax rate, in which the same tax rate would apply to all properties, or a split tax rate, in which a higher burden of tax amount shifts to commercial, industrial, and personal taxpayers.
Select board members all agreed to vote on the single tax rate option. (Agenda item starts at 00:40:40 in the attached video.)
Disposition of 63 Main Street
Following approval of the Oak HIll Road utility pole relocations and the transfer of a liquor license to the new manager of the Rapid Refill Convenience Store on Rte. 40, the select board discussed the status of the property on 63 Main Street. The house was badly damaged following a fire that occurred in March of 2016.
In October of 2018, voters approved the town of Westford to purchase the property from its previous owner Liz Adams for $600,000 despite opposition.
At that time, the Town purchased the property because “parking spaces [are] tight for large town center gatherings, and more space needed to house such town entities as the School Department.” Board member Scott Hazelton stated. “The purchase has the potential to solve problems,” he said.
Two years later, the town voted to approve conveyance of the property at the 2020 Annual Town Meeting. Article 18 (a citizen’s petition) stated: that the conveyance include both the house and the carriage house to be used as a single family residence with an historic restriction to preserve the view of the buildings from Main Street; and that a portion of the property contiguous to the Town Hall parking lot be retained to accommodate not more than 32 parking spaces. (Link to the 2020 Annual Town Meeting Warrant)
The five-year issue was finally resolved when the select board voted along with the historical commission to approve the MA historic preservation restriction on the iconic home and then to transfer the deed to the new owners, Dianne and Charles Grondine. (Agenda starts at 01:08:48 in the attached video.)
New Requirement for All Alcohol Package Store License Applicants
The select board then introduced Lt. James Peloquin from the Westford Police Department. Peloquin discussed “implementing a new requirement for all alcohol package store licenses and wine and malt package store license applicants to complete Beverage Alcohol Training (BAT), techniques of Alcohol Management Training (AMT), or Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) in order to obtain local license approval. The action to implement these new training techniques was also approved by all the select board members. (Agenda item starts at 01:16:12 in the attached video.)
The Town Manager’s 2021/2022 goals, presented at the last select board meeting, were approved with a few additions and edits. The members of the Select Board all had high praise for Jody Ross’ commitment and dedication to the Town and residents.
They then voted on a 2 percent merit raise. Additionally, they voted to increase her salary by $2,000 on top of the 2 percent as a market basket adjustment. Peraner-Sweet explained that a survey done of other town managers in the market basket showed that her compensation is below average and while the increase helps to bring her salary into alignment, her compensation remains below average. (Agenda item starts at 01:30:37 in the attached video.)
The meeting concluded with the Town Manager’s report.