Town Meeting will wait to take up as the first item when they reconvene next week following the special Town Meeting, which opens Monday, May 14.
At 15 minutes to 11 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9, Town Meeting members decided to delay starting the discussion of Article 23, which one member said would be “a very controversial issue.” Instead, the members quickly passed two in the waning moments of Wednesday night’s meeting.
It took just over three hours to get through three articles on the second evening of Needham's . In addition to passing an article prohibiting bowhunting on town property except with permission by the Board of Selectmen (Article 20) and an article for a ballot question on alcohol sales (Article 21), Town Meeting members voted down an article that would have changed the town’s integrated pest management plan into an organics-focused plan.
The measure failed on a voice vote, and an amendment to refer the issue back to selectmen for further study also failed.
Needham resident Ellen Fine, who grew up in town and recently moved back, spoke strongly in favor of the citizen’s petition article, discussing the links between pesticide use and health issues such as autism, asthma and cancer.
Fine said Needham citizens should be involved in the discussion of pesticide use in town and that there should be a public dialogue on the matter.
Also speaking in favor of the petition was Norwood Selectman Michael Lyons, who had pushed to get an organic program going in his town. Lyons said the town of Norwood had agreed, without a Town Meeting vote, to try an all-organic approach to land management in the coming year.
Lyons talked about various activities in the past that had seemed appropriate at the time, such as using asbestos and lead paint in buildings, or careless dumping of industrial chemicals, that had people later asking, “What were they thinking?” He argued that the issue of pesticides was similar and said that people in five or 10 years would be asking the same question.
But others argued that the town’s integrated pest management plan already adequately limited the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
“The fact is that right now in the town of Needham we pretty much have an organic system anyway,” said Stephen Epstein, chairman of the Board of Health.
Epstein said the integrated pest management plan was one that “really uses pesticides sparingly and as a last resort” and that in the past five years the town had used pesticides on town land only once, to control poison ivy near a playground.
Bruce Eisenhut, a member of Precinct D, proposed that the article be referred back to selectmen for further study—an idea Town Meeting ultimately rejected.
Eisenhut argued that the current integrated pest management plan was “too general” and did not provide specific details about when and how the town addressed land management issues.
The plan also doesn't specifically state that pesticides will not be used for purely aesthetic purposes, even if that is the town’s practice, Eisenhut noted.
Town Meeting will resume next week after the business of the special Town Meeting is completed, possibly late Monday, May 14 or on Wednesday, May 16.