Needham residents will gather at Town Hall tonight for the start of the 2012 Annual Town Meeting, at which they will approve the fiscal year 2013 town budget and consider about 40 other articles including one that would take the first step toward changing the town’s mostly dry status.
The 2012 Annual Town Meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in James Hugh Powers Hall, on the second floor of Town Hall. The 240 recently elected and re-elected Town Meeting members, along with at-large members such as selectmen, will get a chance to vote on each of the articles appearing on the Town Meeting warrant over the next week or so. (See the full list of voting Town Meeting members, by precinct, at right.)
Interested residents who are not voting members may attend the meeting to observe the process, but must be seated in a separate section. (Last year, visitors were seated on the balcony.)
At right, find a PDF version of the full 2012 Annual Town Meeting warrant. Below is a quick summary of the articles to be discussed:
- Article 1—Establishes the annual town election
- Article 2—Reports from town officers and committees
HUMAN RESOURCES ARTICLES
- Article 3—Sets the salaries for elected town officials including the town clerk, selectmen and chairman of the Board of Selectmen
- Article 4—Funds a new contract between the town and the Needham Fire Union (Note: An agreement had not been reached at the time the warrant was printed)
- Article 5— Funds a new contract between the town and the Building Custodian and Tradesman Independent Association (Note: An agreement had not been reached at the time the warrant was printed)
- Article 6—Allocates “free cash”—money left over from fiscal year 2011 because of unspent allocations or higher than anticipated revenues—for various items in fiscal year 2013. The town has a total of $5,366,720 in free cash left over from FY2011. By comparison, free cash available for allocation at the 2011 Annual Town Meeting totaled $3,380,269.
- Article 7—Allows the town to grant an additional exemption to Needham taxpayers who are surviving spouses, surviving minors of deceased parents, individuals over the age of 70, veterans and disabled veterans and their surviving spouses, parents of veterans who died in wartime service and blind individuals
- Article 8—Sets aside $15,000 to fund the Senior Corps program, which enables qualifying elderly and disabled Needham property owners to work for up to 100 hours for the town, with money paid toward their property tax bills
- Article 9—Sets aside $13,353 to fund the Needham Property Tax Assistance program, which provides tax relief for qualifying Needham residents.
- Article 10 (FY2013 Town Budget)—This article is the town’s operating budget for fiscal year 2013. The Finance Committee has recommended a total operating budget of $117,705,784—an increase of 4.7 percent over the FY2012 budget. That number includes $51,892,719 for the School Department—an increase of 5.8 percent of the district’s FY2012 budget. And it includes a total of $12,145,898 for public safety, including the Needham Police and Fire departments and the Building Inspector—an increase of about 1 percent over FY2012.
- Article 11: Sets the Recycling and Transfer Station’s operating budget for FY2013, totaling $84,017—a 4.2 percent increase from FY2012.
- Article 12: Sets the operating budget for the Sewer Division of the Needham Department of Public Works. Officials are recommending an FY2013 budget totaling $8,278,121, an increase of 2.7 percent over FY2012.
- Article 13—Sets the operating budget for the Water Division of the Needham Department of Public Works. Officials are recommending an FY2013 budget totaling $4,665,731, an increase of 8.8 percent over FY2012.
- Article 14—Continues already existing revolving funds for various town departments, such as the Council on Aging, Youth Services and the Public Health Department
- Article 15—Allows the town to receive and spend Chapter 90 funds from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation for roadway projects in town
ZONING & LAND USE ARTICLES
- Article 16—Submitted by citizen’s petition by Needham resident John A. Jensen and others. If approved, this article would amend the definition of the term “structure” in the town’s zoning bylaws to include the concrete pad surrounding a swimming pool, making both the pool and pad subject to setback requirements of the zoning district in which they are located. Currently, only the pool is subject to these setback requirements.
- Article 17—Amends the town’s zoning bylaws to include the definition of a studio as “a premises used by a professional artist as a workroom and/or as a workplace where art is taught to, practiced by or studied with others” and to allow artists’ studios as an “accessory use” in single- or two-family dwellings in most residential districts in town.
- Article 18—Amends the town’s zoning bylaws to clarify that “a lot reduced in area or frontage by public action is entitled to grandfathered protection” and “that similar public actions that reduce the setback of pre-existing structures on the lot to public or private ways are similarly entitled to grandfathered protection,” according to the article definition included in the warrant.
- Article 19—Amends the town’s zoning bylaws to clarify a section regulating illumination in parking areas to reflect historical Planning Board practice
GENERAL, COMMITTEE & CITIZEN’S PETITION ARTICLES
- Article 20 (Bow Hunting)—Regulates bow and arrow hunting on public property in Needham with the following provision: “No person shall discharge bow and arrow within the limits of any park, playground, public way, public building or other property except with the consent of the Board of Selectmen, or hunt by bow and arrow on any private property except with the written consent of the property's owner or legal occupant.” Currently, the town’s bylaws regulate the discharge of a firearm on public property but not the use of bows and arrows. The article also establishes a $50 fine for the first violation of this rule, $100 for the second offense, $200 for the third and $300 for the fourth and each subsequent offense.
- Article 21 (Retail Alcohol Sales)—Directs the town to seek permission from the state legislature to place an item on the ballot on an upcoming town election allowing the retail sale of alcoholic beverages in Needham. The proposal would allow for up to six licenses for beer and wine or all alcoholic beverages, which would be issued by the Board of Selectmen. In 2018, the board could issue two additional licenses for a total of eight maximum. Selectmen have noted voted whether to recommend this article, planning to do so at their May 8 meeting, in between sessions of the 2012 Annual Town Meeting. Two separate public hearings have been held on this issue—one in December, regarding whether the item should go to Town Meeting, and one in April, regarding what regulations selectmen should seek if the item does move forward.
- Article 22 (Pesticide Use)—Submitted by citizen’s petition by Needham resident Susan W. Abbott and others. This article seeks to eliminate the use of herbicides and pesticides on town property. Selectmen have voted not to support this article, saying the town’s current Integrated Pest Management policy already limits the use of pesticides only as a last resort on town land. However, the board may come back to vote again on the article after new language was submitted that amends the article as it appears on the warrant.
- Article 23 (Citizens United Resolution)— Submitted by citizen’s petition by Needham resident Stacie Shapiro and others. This article asks Town Meeting to call upon the town’s representatives in Congress and in the state legislature to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would essentially overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Selectmen were split on whether to support this resolution, with Dan Matthews and Matt Borrelli voting against support, mainly because they felt it was a national issue and not appropriate for a local Town Meeting.
COMMUNITY PRESERVATION ACT ARTICLES
- Article 24 (Historical)—Sets aside $25,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the organization, categorization and storage of historical artifacts currently in the Needham Historical Society collection
- Article 25 (Affordable Housing)—Sets aside $500,000 for the construction by the Charles River Center of a 3,000-square-foot home for individuals with disabilities
- Article 26 (Historical)—Sets aside $25,000 for the Needham Historical Commission to continue its inventory of historical homes and properties in town
- Article 27 (Historical)—Sets aside $30,000 for the Town Clerk’s Office to restore and preserve town records, including births, marriage and death certificates, that predate the early 1900s.
- Article 28—Sets aside funding in the Community Preservation Act reserves for future projects
- Article 29—Rescinds previously approved debt authorizations for projects that have been completed and frees up the town’s borrowing capacity.
- Article 30 (Capital Purchases)—Sets aside money in the general fund for various one-time capital projects such as: technology and equipment, $828,000; the facilities maintenance program, $450,000; athletic facility improvements, $207,500; new equipment, vehicles and other items.
- Article 31 (Lincoln Street Land Purchase)—Authorizes the town to purchase property at 37-39 Lincoln St. for $630,000 for the purpose of adding about 26 parking spaces to the area, which is adjacent to the existing municipal lot at Chestnut and Lincoln streets.
- Article 32 (Fire Truck)—Sets aside $750,000 for the purchase of a new ladder truck for the Needham Fire Department. The new vehicle would replace Engine No. 3, which is a 1994 model.
- Article 33 (Streets and Sidewalks)—Sets aside $600,000 for improvements and repairs to the town’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, sidewalks, intersections, drains, brooks and culverts.
- Article 34 (DPW Complex Renovations)—Sets aside $580,000 for the engineering and construction of eight garage bays and associated site improvements at the Department of Public Works complex
- Article 35 (RTS)—Sets aside $175,200 to purchase large specialty equipment for the Recycling and Transfer Station
- Article 36 (Sewer Division)—Sets aside $647,100 to purchase vehicles and equipment for the town Sewer Division
- Article 37 (Water Division)—Sets aside $838,800 to purchase vehicles, equipments and other items for the town Water Division
TOWN RESERVE ARTICLES
- Article 38—Adds $125,00 to the Workers Compensation Reserve Fund
- Article 39—Establishes an Athletic Facility Improvement Fund that will allow the town to save money for the design, maintenance, renovation, reconstruction or construction of athletic facilities, and adds $282,728 to that fund
- Article 40—Adds money (amount to be determined on Town Meeting floor) to the Capital Improvement Fund for future projects. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the fund had a balance of $561,668, according to the warrant.
- Article 41—Adds money (amount to be determined on Town Meeting floor) to the Capital Facility Fund to address “extraordinary building repairs and related expenses at times when other resources are unavailable,” according to the warrant. As of Dec. 31, 2011, the fund had a balance of $734,117.
- Article 42—Omnibus article