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Nahant Special Town Meeting scheduled for September is on the move

Nahant Town Hall. (Spenser R. Hasak)

NAHANT — A Special Town Meeting that was scheduled for September at the last Board of Selectmen meeting could instead be held in less than 20 days.

The Board of Selectmen voted on July 10, the panel’s last meeting, to have the Special Town Meeting on Sept. 17. Now, it’s being advertised on the town’s website for Aug. 27.

Town Clerk Peggy Barile said more than 200 residents signed a citizen’s petition requesting the meeting be moved up, but declined to provide a copy of the petition. The matter is listed on the agenda for Wednesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

Nahant has an open Town Meeting, meaning any registered voter who lives in town can take a vote. Selectmen are tasked with the responsibility of calling a Special Town Meeting, but are required to do so if either 200 voters, or 20 percent of the total number of voters, whichever is less, request the meeting, according to a citizen’s guide to town meetings on the Secretary of State’s website.

A Special Town Meeting must be called within 45 days of the board’s vote and the warrant must be made available to residents at least two weeks before the meeting. Should the selectmen call the meeting for Aug. 27, as already advertised on the town’s website, they will be giving residents 19 days to prepare.

“This is a time of year that people go on vacations,” said Barile. “People are trying to get people back to school. My confidence level in thinking that people will be educated on these articles before they return for the meeting is very low.”

The issue at hand is a proposed bylaw that would change the permitting process for projects within the town’s wetlands, as was discussed at the last Board of Selectmen meeting in July. But, the article has not yet been placed on the warrant, said interim Town Administrator Gerry Perry, who declined to provide the documents that were discussed.

According to a document outlining the zoning bylaw amendments that were originally proposed, the purpose of the zoning bylaw was “to protect the wetlands, water resources, and adjoining land areas in Nahant by controlling activities deemed by the Board of Appeals likely to have a significant or cumulative effect on resource area values.”

The amendments, which were presented to Town Meeting, would have required permits to remove, fill, dredge, build on, degrade, discharge into and otherwise alter any freshwater or coastal wetlands.

The bylaw would also cover marshes, wet meadows, bogs, swamps, vernal pools, banks, reservoirs, lakes, ponds, quarry pits, rivers, streams, creeks, beaches, dunes, estuaries, the ocean, land under water bodies, land subject to flooding by groundwater or surface water, land subject to tidal action and all land within 100 feet of any of these features.

The Planning Board made a recommendation for Town Meeting to support the article, but Vice Chairman Cal Hastings said he wasn’t happy about vouching for something that he believes is missing several elements. The panel was not able to amend the language, but could have referred it back to the Board of Selectmen, where it originated, for the changes to be made, he said.

Town Meeting ultimately postponed the article indefinitely. The biggest change to the document since it last appeared before Town Meeting is that it is no longer a zoning bylaw, which means proponents who are denied by the Conservation Commission can no longer appeal the decision at the state level. Instead, they will need to go to land court, said Selectman Enzo Barile.

There are expected to be two other articles for residents to take up in the town meeting.

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