WESTFORD — Welcome to the Sept. 24 edition of Weekend Wrap-Up. Here, we highlight the most important news you may have missed this week in Westford.
Roudenbush Community Center recently welcomed its new Executive Director, Amanda Sullivan.
Sullivan replaces former Executive Director Michelle Sullivan, who left her role earlier this year.
Sullivan, a graduate of Suffolk University and holds a Master of Social Work from the University of New England. Born and raised in Groton, Sullivan says she “spent a lot of time in Westford growing up.”
“[I have] lots of ties and very fond memories [here],” she told WestfordCAT.
While studying at Suffolk University, Sullivan found her passion for working with under-resourced populations.
“Living in the city exposed me to working with individuals in need,” she said, “That’s where my interest grew for a long time.”
Later, Sullivan was contracted to work with children to build their communication skills.
“It was a foundational job because it opened my eyes to how to work with children and learn their needs,” she said. “I always loved that.”
Most recently, Sullivan served as Youth Services Director at Community Teamwork, a non-profit community action agency based in Lowell. In her role, she built up day-to-day and long-term programming for youth and adolescents.
Sullivan says the experience at Roudenbush is “so different” than her previous work.
“It is really given the opportunity to get the small-town feel,” she said. “I’m having a really good time so far.”
She says her aim to to “figure out what the community wants” and build programming that meets the needs of residents.
PHOTOS: WestFest 2023
Rain didn’t stop families from enjoying this year’s WestFest.
The event, hosted by the Westford Education Foundation, is used to raise money to provide educational and professional development grants to fund projects connected with Westford Public Schools.
The event was hosted at Stony Brook Middle School on Sept. 24. Check out photos from the event below.
The public hearing for a proposed bylaw amendment that would regulate future firearms businesses in Westford has closed. The proposal will soon head to Special Town Meeting in October for consideration by voters.
The Planning Board voted unanimously to close the hearing during a Sept. 18 joint meeting with the Select Board.
Changes to the draft proposal
A number of changes were made to the draft language, including increasing setbacks from schools from 500 feet to 1,000 feet, as well as limiting just two of the available four special permits for retail firearms sales.
This setback change would only impact the area near Nashoba Valley Technical High School.
“I think it makes people feel better to have 1,000 [feet] for the schools, I don’t really think it makes a difference, personally,” Planning Board member Joan Croteau said.
Under the current proposal, four total special permits could still be granted for future businesses. Only two of these permits could be used for retail sale of firearms and ammunition.
Businesses that are preexisting nonconforming uses, including Westford’s two sportsmen’s clubs which have existed before zoning, would not count toward the total of special permits for their existing firing ranges.
Changes to their businesses, such as adding another form of service, would require a special permit.
“Whether it the two existing clubs or preexisting nonconforming use, if someone went to the Zoning Board of Appeals and sought special permit relief to change or extend a preexisting nonconformity that resulted in a new firearm business or a new element of service where it did not exist, that would then count toward the applicable limitations,” Director of Land Use Management Jeffrey Morrissette said.
Officials told WestfordCAT that it is unclear how this change could affect a firearms business at 359 Littleton Rd., which received site plan review approval in March. Currently, the business would not count toward the total number of special permits allowed under the proposal.
Jeffrey Steinbrecher, owner of Legal Arms Co., has three years from approval to move forward on his application. According to Morrissette, there has been “no forward movement” on the application at the time of reporting.
Additionally, firearms businesses could share space with other firearms businesses. However, both businesses would need approval in each of their special permits.
What hasn’t changed
The draft retains setbacks where children under 18 years old commonly congregate in “scheduled and structured activities.” Planning Board Chair Michael Bonenfant felt the restriction is “somewhat ambiguous,” and believes it could open the town up to future legal challenges.
“I think in town that [locations where children under 18 years old commonly congregate] it’s so fluid,” he said. “We may just be asking for trouble if we continue with that language.”
He added, “businesses change quickly. I think the thought is there.”
Officials estimate there are approximately seven locations in town that would fit the criteria of scheduled and structured activities where children commonly congregate.
Town Counsel Justin Perrotta of KP Law believes the language could withstand potential legal scrutiny.
“I think this language is drafted clearly enough that it would withstand any scrutiny on its face,” he said. “But certainly someone could say I disagree with your [Special Permit Granting Authority] determination that it is a place where children congregate.”
He added, “it doesn’t strike me as something that would be open to appeal all the time, it’s pretty rock solid in its language. But I can’t say [that] it couldn’t happen.”
The Planning Board retains the authority to increase the number of special permits if they felt that a service was not provided in town.
“This is the opportunity for the Planning Board to review that limit. The Planning Board still has to grant a special permit,” Perrotta said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that the service would get added.”
He added, “the goal of that section is to prevent a situation where certain firearms use were effectively prevented from coming into town.”
Additionally, resident Kristi Bates expressed concern over a multifamily zoning overlay, which would occupy the same region along Littleton Road where future firearms businesses could operate. There is no setback requirement between firearms businesses and residential zoning under the proposal.
“We might want to consider a buffer from residences,” she said. “I could envision a multifamily area with multiuse and the way it is written now, a firearm business could open in the bottom floor of a multi use structure.”
Officials will now prepare a draft report and recommendation based on the current draft and comments made on Sept. 18. A draft report is expected to be presented to the Planning Board on Oct. 2.
The proposal will be presented to voters at Special Town Meeting on Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. at Westford Academy. The proposal is the final item on the agenda.
“Although this is the last item on the agenda, the rest of the meeting will probably go very quickly. If you want to be there for this item, you probably should plan on attending the whole meeting so you don’t miss it,” said Town Moderator Angela Harkness.
Special Town Meeting is next month — with a number of Warrant articles up for consideration by voters.
The Warrant is still open at the time of reporting and is subject to change until it is finalized and closed by the Select Board. We have updated this piece to reflect the most recent draft of the Warrant.
Article 1: Approve Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Adjustments
To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate, borrow, or transfer from available funds sums of money in order to adjust certain line items in the Fiscal Year 2024 Operating Budgets.
Article 2: Appropriate Opioid Settlement Funds
To see if the town will raise and appropriate, borrow or transfer funds received from the Statewide Opioid Settlements.
Article 3: Approve Capital Appropriations
To see if the town will raise and appropriate, borrow or transfer funds for the following capital requests:
- $15,000 for compressor replacements for the HVAC system at the Department of Public Works garage.
- $200,000 for police station attic and pipe insulation.
- $1,000,000 for Blanchard Middle School roof top units.
- $150,000 for Stony Brook Bridge resident relocation and right of way.
- $350,000 for Forge Village water treatment facility repairs.
- $250,000 for the preliminary design of PFAS treatment facilities.
Article 4: Appropriate Funding for the Cameron Senior Center HVAC Project
To see if the town will vote to appropriate an additional sum of money for HVAC energy conservation and related building improvements for the Cameron Senior Center. This article would also authorize the Select Board to enter into a lease agreement for temporary space for such price and on such terms as the Select Board deems appropriate.
Article 5: Reduce Amount Raised by Taxes in Fiscal Year 2024
To see if the Town will vote to take specific amounts from available funds and to direct the Assessor to reduce the net amount to be raised by taxation for Fiscal Year 2024.
Article 6: Rescind Authorized and Unissued Debt
To see if the town will vote to rescind the following debt:
- $901,750 for the Robinson and Day School window and door replacement.
- $6,298 for the center fire station on Boston Road.
- $686,442 for the Abbot School roof replacement.
- $320,000 for the Vine Brook Road water distribution system.
- $130,000 for the Kirsi Circle, Douglas Road and Anderson Lane water main replacement.
- $110,000 for portable radios for school staff.
- $23 for a fire truck.
- $128,000 for the Pine Grove Cemetery enlargement.
Article 7: Approve Community Preservation Committee Recommendations
To see if the town will vote and act on the report of the Community Preservation Committee and to appropriate the Community Preservation Fund for open space, historic resources, community housing purposes and outdoor recreation.
At the time of reporting, one application has been submitted by The Drew Farmhouse, Inc., led by resident Ellen Harde to rehabilitate the 70 Boston Rd. property. $1,450,000 is requested for the project.
Article 8: Authorization for the Select Board to Petition the General Court for Special Legislation to Amend the Town’s Means Tested Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption Act
This article would authorize the Select Board to petition the state legislature for special legislation to amend language within Chapter 314 of the Acts of 2020 which allows the town to establish a means tested senior citizen tax exemption.
The Select Board aims to petition for clerical changes, including:
- Removing the three-year limitation on the tax exemption. The town will no longer be able to offer this program after 2024 if the limitation is not removed.
- Clarifying that the exemption would never constitute more than 50% of an individual’s property tax.
Article 9: Authorize the School Bus Transportation Contract for up to Five Years
To see if the town will vote to authorize the School Committee to enter into a service agreement to provide student bus service for up to five years.
Article 10: Amend the Zoning Bylaw to Define and Regulate Firearm Businesses and Related Terms
To see if the town will approve a proposed bylaw that could regulate future firearms businesses in Westford.
After a successful pilot in March, on-site child care is returning to Special Town Meeting in October.
The free program is hosted through the Westford Recreation Department for children age 5 years and older. Drop-offs begin at 6:45 p.m. in the auxiliary gym in Westford Academy.
Town staff that work with children are first-aid and CPR certified, as well as subject to a background check.
Recreation Department Director Michelle Collett told WestfordCAT in March that the program was “very successful” during its pilot at Annual Town Meeting.
She added, “My hope is that more people will take advantage of these options so they can have a nice town meeting experience without worrying about their children.”
Online pre-registration is required for the program, and parents must remain on-site. Online pre-registration closes on Oct. 11.
Additionally, free transportation will be offered to Special Town Meeting. Residents who need transportation should sign-up online at least 48 hours prior to the event.
Residents hoping to get their flu shots can do so at Westford Academy this October.
Two flu clinics will be sponsored by the Board of Health. The first clinic will be held on Oct. 12 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The second clinic will be held on Oct. 17 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Both clinics will be hosted in the Westford Academy cafeteria.
Residents should bring their insurance cards to be checked during their appointment. Walk-ins are welcome, but the Health Department encourages residents to register online to save time.
Residents can register online.
We’re excited to announce the launch of our new E-Edition, which will be published every Sunday.
This new edition will include news from WestfordCAT, our town departments as well as community productions from our members.
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