HomeWeekend Wrap-UpSpecial Town Meeting Results, Budget Task Force Report Released: Weekend Wrap-Up

Special Town Meeting Results, Budget Task Force Report Released: Weekend Wrap-Up


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WESTFORD — Welcome to the Oct. 22 edition of Weekend Wrap-Up. Here, we highlight the most important news you may have missed this week in Westford.

Drew Farmhouse project passes, firearms business bylaw fails at Special Town Meeting

Voters approved funding for a workforce housing project on Boston Road and rejected a bylaw that would regulate firearms businesses at October’s Special Town Meeting.

Over 1,000 voters attended the Oct. 16 meeting. Town Moderator Angela Harkness acknowledged that the town was “not quite prepared” for the influx of voters.

“I’ve been wanting to increase the number of voters to over 1,000, but I’ll admit, we were not quite prepared for this many people,” she said. “Next time we will be.”

She added, “I hope people won’t get discouraged because of the way the meeting is proceeding and not come back. I hope all of the voters who are here tonight will come again so we can continue to have 1,000 people and be better prepared in the future.”

Article 6: Approve Community Preservation Committee Recommendations 

This article had the town 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 had been submitted by The Drew Farmhouse, Inc. to rehabilitate the 70 Boston Rd. property. $1,450,000 was requested and approved for the project.

WestfordCAT reported on Oct. 15 that the 70 Boston Rd project, which has received unanimous support from the Select Board and the Community Preservation Committee, would see the former Coldwell Banker property converted into five apartments and one condominium.

The five apartments would be administered by the Drew Farmhouse, Inc., a nonprofit established by resident Ellen Harde. Harde, who owns the Wright and Fletcher building at 40 Main St., purchased the Boston Road property for $1.1 million.

The condominium would be administered by Habitat for Humanity, and would allow a habitat-eligible family to purchase the three-bedroom space.

The Drew Farmhouse, Inc., says it aims to give local preference to renters with ties to Westford. Additionally, eligibility for the rental units will be based on a maximum of 100% of the area median income, or $79,100 for a one-person household.

“We want it to be 100% autonomous, that’s why we didn’t take federal or state money,” Harde told WestfordCAT on Oct. 11. “The whole goal is to keep it affordable for the people who live there.”

She added, “I hope that like our existing building at 40 Main St., everybody who is there has some connection to the town. Such as they work here, or need to downsize, or grew up here and can’t afford to buy.”

The nonprofit will provide a financial backing of $800,000 for a mortgage and building loan and is seeking an additional $350,000 from foundations and generous residents. The nonprofit has already received approximately $163,000 in contributions for the project.

This article passed 627 to 406. 

Now, the Select Board and The Drew Farmhouse, Inc. must draft a grant agreement and establish terms to release the appropriated funds.

“There will be a regulatory agreement between the Drew Farmhouse, Inc. and the Select Board,” Town Manager Kristen Las said.

This regulatory agreement will establish how the housing lottery would operate, who would manage the lottery and who would be eligible to enter the lottery for an apartment.

Article 9: Amend the Zoning Bylaw to Define and Regulate Firearm Businesses and Related Terms

This article had voters consider a proposed bylaw that would regulate future firearms businesses in Westford.

The proposal would have created new buffer requirements between certain businesses and schools, established operating hours and set a limit on the number of firearms businesses that could operate in Westford.

The proposal failed to pass, with 590 voting in favor and 477 voting against the bylaw. Zoning bylaw amendments must garner a two-thirds majority vote to be enacted. 

After the article failed, Chief of Police Mark Chambers motioned to reconsider Article 9, with the intention of reintroducing an amended version that only retains a 500-foot setback requirement between firearms businesses.

“Some dealers would provide certain parts of the firearm and other dealers would provide another part of a firearm and essentially skirt the Mass. approved firearms regulations,” Chambers said.

He added, “so that’s why I would like to propose a less restrictive version of the bylaw to address the public safety issue that has been demonstrated in neighboring communities.”

After protests from residents against the regulations and concerns about double voting, Chambers withdrew his motion to reconsider Article 9.

Residents share their thoughts

Opponents of the bylaw, like Westford Pro2A Founding Member Al Prescott, said he was “happy” with the result.

“I’m happy we prevailed,” he told WestfordCAT. “I don’t gloat, this is just a good night and I’m happy.”

He said he believes future meetings “should be run better.”

“It was horrible,” he said. “Folks like me told the Town Moderator that it was going to be like this.”

Proponents of the bylaw, like resident Jody Marchand, expressed disappointment with the result.

“I was just so upset,” she said. “It’s that we’re saying it’s OK, people don’t feel safe and we’re saying ‘here, open a gun shop.’”

Other proponents of the bylaw, like resident Barry Rosenberg, felt voters in opposition to the bylaw were “better organized” with more local and national support.

“They prevented a reconsideration from the police chief through unruly behavior,” he said. “These are people who vouched for the police chief’s power.”

He added, “can you beat that for irony? I can’t.”

Officials speak out 

Officials, like Planning Board Chair Mike Bonenfant, said he is “embarrassed about how the town behaved.”

“I feel bad for our moderator for dealing with the rudeness. I would support the chief’s amendment,” he said.

The Planning Board had previously endorsed the article in a 4-1 vote on Oct. 2, with Bonenfant casting the dissenting vote.

Additionally, the Select Board had unanimously endorsed the proposal during a Sept. 26 meeting. Select Board Chair Tom Clay said the board was “clearly disappointed” with the result.

“I think we learned a lot tonight and we learned about the challenges of running a meeting with this much interest,” he said.

Board of Health Chair Stephanie Granger said she hopes the town can revisit the issue in the future.

“I’m just disappointed,” she said.

Chambers told WestfordCAT that he is “just disappointed.”

“There were certain goals when we started this but it unfortunately didn’t happen the way we hoped,” he said.

So — what else passed at Special Town Meeting?

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.

This article passed by a majority.

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.

This article passed by a majority. 

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.
  • $100,000 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.

This article was amended to reduce an initial appropriation of $150,000 to relocate a resident near Stony Brook Bridge to $100,000. According to Town Engineer Paul Starratt, the resident must be relocated to “enjoy the benefits of a firetruck or ambulance coming to their home.”

Voters also questioned a $200,000 appropriation to insulate the attic of the police station.

“When we built the very expensive police station, did we not insulate the attic that we now have to spend $200,000 to insulate the attic,” resident Gerry Sarno asked.

“Back in 1999 when the police station was built, the attic was improperly insulated at that time. Over the years that insulation has caused substantial sweating from pipes during the summer months,” Director of Facilities Jeff Goodwin responded.

He said sweating from pipes causes “unsafe conditions” and poor air quality within the building.

Other voters, like Tom Allen, questioned why the town is responsible for the project if “the design was not done properly.”

Goodwin said he is finding “several areas” where insulation was not installed properly. He said the town could “potentially look into” submitting a claim against the original engineer’s insurance to recuperate the cost of the project.

This article passed by a majority. 

Article 4: 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.

This article was dismissed by a majority. 

Article 5: 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.

This article passed by a majority. 

Article 7: 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 would no longer be able to offer this program after 2024 if the limitation is not removed.

This article passed by a majority.

Article 8: 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.

This article passed by a majority. 

PHOTOS: Girls’ Volleyball loses 3-1 to Newton South

Westford Academy Girls’ Volleyball lost a home game 3-1 against Newton South High School on Oct. 18.

The Ghosts tried to keep it close for the four sets of the game, winning the second one with a score of 25-22. The remaining sets ended with scores of 18-25, 21-25, and 10-25.

  • The Ghosts huddle prior to the game.
  • Sophomore Lia Clancy stands ready for the ball.
  • Junior captain Sophie Krauss jumps to serve the ball.
  • Senior captain Jocelyn Vogel sends the ball flying to the other side of the court.
  • Juniors Eesha Srivastava and Navya Balineni stand in ready position as they keep their eyes on the ball.
  • The WA student section remains loud and supportive throughout the game.
  • Sophomore Kaitlyn Pepin smashes the ball over the net.
  • The Ghosts celebrate after being awarded a contentious point.
  • Srivastava stretches her arm toward the ball.
  • Pepin and senior captain Jenny Alexander reach to meet the ball.

PHOTOS: WA Girls’ Soccer takes win at senior night vs. Newton South

Westford Academy Girls’ Soccer won 1-0 to Newton South High School on Thursday, Oct. 19 at Trustees’ Field. The game was the last one at home of the season, making it the senior players’ very last game at WA.

The game began with a recognition of these seniors, who are captains Abigail Baker, Urvi Pai, and Sarah Kirby, as well as Vannesa Urizandi, Lilli Wain, Samantha Reddington, and Tara Morris.

Right off the bat, both teams went into action with vigor, with strong defense from each side. WA goalkeeper Olivia Cipriano, who is a sophomore, performed many good saves and catches throughout both halves.

With seven minutes left in the first half, Pai took a corner kick, allowing for sophomore Ella DiRuggiero to squarely put the ball into Newton South’s goalpost. Newton South tried to win back that point, renewing their offense, and made many almost-successful shots towards the goal. However, the Ghosts saved all of them.

WAGS’s next game will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at Lincoln-Sudbury.

  • Senior captain Abigail Baker and head coach Tracy Capone hug during the ceremony for the senior players.
  • WAGS cheers on their teammates as the announcer calls all the players' names one by one.
  • Sophomore Davaney McClelland and senior Tara Morris try to take the ball from Newton South.
  • Baker protects the ball from a Newton South player.
  • Baker waits for the signal to throw the ball back into play.
  • Junior Martha Khusid shields the ball so that a teammate can bring it back into play.
  • Westford Youth Soccer plays a mini game during halftime.
  • WAGS strategizes before gameplay resumes.
  • Sophomore Evelyn Weber tries to reach the ball before a Newton South player.
  • Junior Alexa Pantoja throws the ball in.
  • Sophomore Ella DiRuggiero fights for the ball.
  • Wain takes a fall from aggressive play from a Newton South player, awarding the Ghosts a direct free kick.
  • The WA student section cheers as the game comes to a close.
  • The Ghosts walk off the field victorious.

Budget Task Force releases final report

Editor’s note: We are still working through the report. Full reporting from WestfordCAT will be available in the coming days. 

A number of boards and committees met on Wednesday to discuss the Budget Task Force’s final report.

The Select Board, Finance Committee, School Committee and Budget Task Force met in the Millenium Building on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. to discuss the report.

Watch the full meeting below. Read the full report online.

WestfordCAT News


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Ben Domaingue
Ben Domainguehttps://www.clippings.me/bendomaingue
Ben Domaingue has previously worked at newspapers in New Hampshire and is the Managing Editor covering Westford. He’s passionate about community journalism, photography and hiking. Email him at bdomaingue@westfordcat.org.

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