Local Government and Politics, News

Lynnfield Board of Selectmen want to shorten Town Meeting

Among the proposed changes is the building of a new septic system for the Meeting House, Lynnfield Public Library and Historic Center. (Owen O'Rourke)

If the Board of Selectmen gets their way, Town Meeting in Lynnfield could be a lot shorter and rarely go past 10:30 p.m.

Under a series of proposals set for debate at Town Meeting Monday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m., in the Middle School Auditorium, voters will consider several proposed changes to limit debate time and eliminate the reconsideration rule.

“I don’t know if it will be a lot shorter, honestly, but I think the change on the reconsideration vote is major,” said Richard Dalton, Board of Selectmen chairman. “It’s perhaps the most confusing thing for the majority of people who attend Town Meeting. I always thought we had to live with this rule, but we don’t.”

Today, if a measure is successful and supporters leave the building because they only came for that issue, someone can call for reconsideration.

“Reconsideration is a way to reverse the vote that was just taken,” Dalton said. “Let’s put it up for a vote once, up or down, and live with it. Otherwise, someone who understands the mechanics of Town Meeting can use reconsideration as a weapon.”

The other changes would limit the proponent of a petition to 10 minutes and opponents to three.

If more than one person expresses a desire to make a presentation in support of an article, the moderator may divide the time.  The same rules will apply should there be a principal speaker in opposition.

For example, if 10 voters favor or oppose a measure, each would get one minute each.

“It will save time, but it’s not about slamming things through, just as long as people aren’t wasting time by getting up several times and saying the same thing,” Dalton said.  “Say your piece and that’s it.”

In addition, under a proposed change in the rules, no article will be considered  after 10:30 p.m. without voter approval.

The discussion about the changes came up when trying to boost attendance at Town Meeting, Dalton said.

For example, for the fall Town Meeting people may say there’s nothing really exciting on the agenda and it diminishes the chances voters will attend for up to four hours, he said.

“Our goal is get more people to participate,” he said.

Voters will also be asked to make changes to the town’s zoning ordinances.  If approved, buildings would be limited to a maximum of three stories, or 40 feet in height.

The exception to the limit would be reserved for commercial or industrial district. In those cases, height of a building would be limited to 50 feet, but no more than three stories.

On finances, voters will be asked whether Lynnfield should build a new a septic system for the Lynnfield Public Library, the Meeting House, and the Historic Center.

One thing hasn’t changed, 175 voters are still required for a quorum.


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