Local Government and Politics, News

Nahant residents vote to establish a study committee for wetlands protection bylaw

Residents of Nahant look on during the annual Town Meeting on Saturday. (Spenser R. Hasak)

NAHANT — Nahant residents voted Saturday to postpone a vote on the wetlands protection bylaw and establish a study committee; they adopted a local meals tax; and voted to move the Annual Town Meeting a month later.

The nearly seven-hour day at Town Hall was filled with a lot of discussion, some confusion, roars of laughter, and a packed building. While some votes were drawn out with a “communion style” yes or no vote, and others created tension in the room, Town Moderator Dave Conlin did his best to keep the long day somewhat entertaining with his witty jokes.

The most tension came during discussion of Article 27, a vote to repeal, in its entirety, the wetlands protection bylaw that was adopted last August. The Finance Committee recommended the repeal, with member Ken Carangelo stating the committee has more information now than they did during last year’s special election vote.

Town resident Michael Manning spoke in favor of the bylaw repeal.

“This bylaw does nothing but add an unnecessary level of bureaucracy in a small town where things could be handled amicably,” said Manning. “The Conservation Commission made an error, it’s not a level playing field. I hope you vote in support of this repeal.”

Other residents spoke in anger over the wording of the article’s recommendation, stating it was more of an opinion piece and not based on facts. One resident got the packed room cheering after she said section four of the article, which states “If you disagree, your only recourse is several years and tens of thousands of legal fees in Superior Court,” is a statement made to alarm and frighten town homeowners opposed to the repeal.

“It’s a fabricated worst case scenario stated as a definite fact,” she said.

“In terms of comments made over the Superior Court section, to say I’m offended is a strong word,” Carangelo said. “But … whatever.”

Town residents opted out of voting on the repeal. Instead, they moved forward with an amendment made by resident Frank Lafeyette, which suggested holding off on a vote until next Town Meeting and, in the interim, implementing a study committee which will give a report next May.

The committee will be made up of a mix of various town officials and committee members and will work to determine, in regards to the bylaw, what will be best for the whole town.

Article 16 revolved around different sections of Community Preservation and a discussion was led by Lynne Spencer, the chair of the preservation committee. The article included 10 sub-sections.

The town, besides Selectman Richard Lombard, voted in favor of transferring $26,681 from the Community Preservation Fund’s FY2020 estimated revenues to the Community Housing Account.

The town also voted in favor of appropriating the sum of $10,000 from CPF’s estimated revenues for administrative and operating budgets for the Community Preservation Committee, borrowing $40,000 for the preservation of the historic Nahant Public Library, appropriating $160,000, with cash from funds and reserves, for replacement or improvements to the basketball and tennis courts in the Flash Road Recreation Area, appropriating $5,000 for Johnson School recreation improvements, appropriating $15,000 from estimated annual revenues for improvements to the Nahant Road softball field, appropriating $50,000 for the renovation of the historic Town Hall, particularly the Council on Aging Kitchen, and appropriating $20,000 to construct new stairs for Tudor Beach.

When it came to a vote to appropriate $30,000 to develop a committee that would prepare an Open Space Master Plan, Finance Committee members stated it was premature to fund a committee that doesn’t exist yet. Carangelo also noted there was a plan created in 2008 that only needed minor modifications and date changes.

A motion was made to postpone the vote and the town voted in favor of it.

When it came to Article 20, the town voted in favor of borrowing $476,292 for costs associated with damage repairs caused by the March 2018 storm.

There was much confusion when it came to Article 26, which suggested moving the Annual Town Meeting to the third Saturday of May. One resident asked if that would ever fall on Memorial Day weekend, which caused residents and town officials to whip out their phones and try to calculate.

After the calculations proved the new meeting date would never fall on a holiday weekend, the town voted to amend it. Town Clerk Peggy Barile said having the election and Town Meeting in the same day has been extremely laborious on Town Hall staff and Nahant might be the “only community in the commonwealth that still does it.”

Aside from a few amendments to postpone, all of the articles were voted in favor of, except Article 28, which proposed letting dogs off their leashes on all town beaches from October 1 through April 30. The no vote was nearly unanimous, with residents noting health risks and it being an open invitation for other communities to come to Nahant with their dogs.

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