CHARTER COMMISSION MEETING
One School Street
Sharon, MA 02067
Present: Peg Arguimbau, Allen Garf, Paul Izzo, Abigail Marsters, Andrew Nebenzahl, Paul Pietal and Colleen Tuck
Absent: Sam Liao, Suzi Peck
Mr. Nebenzhal, Chair, called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m.
Mr. Nebenzahl asked for motions to approve the following Open Session minutes of May 11th, 18th, 27th and June 1st, which were distributed electronically for review. It was noted that the June 1st minutes would be approved pending the correction of the spelling of Peg Arguimbau’s name.
MOTION: (Izzo/Marsters) Moved to approve the Open Session minutes from the meeting of May 11, 2009 as revised and submitted to the Committee. Vote was seven in the affirmative.
MOTION: (Izzo/Marsters) Moved to approve the Open Session minutes from the meeting of May 18, 2009 as revised and submitted to the Committee. Vote was seven in the affirmative.
MOTION: (Izzo/Marsters) Moved to approve the Open Session minutes from the meeting of May 27, 2009 as revised and submitted to the Committee. Vote was seven in the affirmative.
MOTION: (Izzo/Marsters) Moved to approve the Open Session minutes from the meeting of June 1, 2009 as revised and corrected to the Committee. Vote was six in the affirmative. Mr. Izzo abstained.
Mr. Izzo stated that the Charter Commission received a letter from the Town Clerk, Marlene Chused, in which she outlined the pros and cons of an elected vs. appointed Town Clerk.
Mr. Izzo stated the Abigail Marsters submitted original deeds for the property now known as the Sharon Public Library. Discussion on the library is an agenda item for this evening’s meeting.
Long-Term Strategic Planning
At this point in the meeting Attorney Robert Shelmerdine joined the Commission for a dialogue on strategic planning. He presented a brief biography: He is a 26-year resident of the town; He has represented developers in zoning matters; He is a land use attorney and is presenting his point of view from an attorney’s perspective as and the perspective of a resident coming before various town boards/committees. Mr. Shelmerdine had three topics to present to the members:
1) Town Meeting Issues; 2) Coordination among boards/committees in the town; 3) Implementation of long-range planning in the town and region.
Town Meeting Issues
• Open Town Meeting may work well in theory as the “last true form of democracy” through participation by voters. However, the OTM is not the best mechanism to deal with and adopt complex zoning and land use issues. Voters reflect on their immediate concerns and vote in the present and that moment in time may not be good for the town’s long-range plans.
• Town Meeting voters are not privy to the warrant application process that an applicant must go through (presentations to Finance Committee, Planning Board, Board of Health, neighbors, abutters, etc.) prior to the final vote at Town Meeting and yet they vote on issues that would possibly have long-lasting effects on the town (i.e. Sharon Commons).
• The application process from a developer’s perspective can appear to be disjointed and somewhat ad hoc.
• Town Meeting is not the setting for a complete vetting of complex town warrant articles. In Mr. Shelmerdine’s opinion, most voters in the town are not involved in the process, and decisions are determined by a fairly narrow percentage of the town’s population. From a long-range planning point of view, is this best for the Town of Sharon?
• Brookline has a Representative Town Meeting and adheres to strict deadlines, thereby allowing final reports from the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Finance Committee to be published in the Town Warrant.
Coordination Among Boards
• For in-depth development proposals that involve multiple boards/committees, it would streamline the process to have a lead board or liaison/point person that would coordinate communication between a developer and the town boards/committees.
• Boards/committees in Sharon work well but that is due more to personalities than process. There is no formal structure to make this happen.
• A formalized structure/procedure would eliminate any possibility of “turf” issues, as there is sometimes an overlap in jurisdiction between boards/committees.
• There should be a required, formal orientation program for newly appointed board members and all members should be required to take refresher courses on evolving laws, particularly regarding land use issues.
• It would be helpful to have a town liaison that would explain to citizens board responsibilities and facilitate the permit process. This liaison would coordinate application procedures between a developer and the town boards/committees.
Implementation of Long-Range Planning
• The town must have a long-range vision and planning – particularly for land use, and there must be a mechanism to implement the vision.
• The town should maintain a current master plan.
• There is a current state statute Chapter 41, Section 81B that requires towns to adopt a master plan.
• Local communities have the ability to adopt more stringent laws/guidelines than those of the state.
• A well-planned community has provisions for all its citizens – first time homeowners as well as senior citizens who would like to continue residing in the community.
• There should be a complete review of the rules and regulations of all boards/communities . Sometimes town boards work independently from one another – more collaboration is needed.
• Good long-term planning requires a unified vision; boards must work together, and requires a point person to implement the vision.
Following Mr. Shelmerdine’s presentation, there was a brief Q&A with the members. It was noted that it is beyond the purview of the Charter to mandate money expenditures in the Charter. Positions may be recommended for by the Charter Commission (i.e. Town Planner), but funding for such positions cannot be mandated.
Mr. Nebenzahl, on behalf of the members, thanked Mr. Shelmerdine for such a comprehensive and informative presentation. Mr. Shelmerdine left the meeting at 8:17 p.m.
There was a brief discussion among the members on Mr. Shelmerdine’s presentation and opinions. Mr. Curran noted that in the absence of a master plan, town’s become reactive rather than proactive and become “project specific”.
Follow-Up Discussion on Whether Library Trustees are to be Elected or Appointed
Ms. Marsters stated that through exhaustive research, the determination has been reached that there is no specific ruling regarding the Board of Trustees, and thus, Trustees can either be elected or appointed. There are merits to both procedures. Abigail stated that with appointments there is the possibility of having a larger pool of qualified candidates and at this point, she does not see a downside to appointing Library Trustees.
Town Election Results
Mr. Izzo distributed and highlighted a summary of town election results from 1999-2009, which was supplied by Marlene Chused, Town Clerk. Election information was provided for the Planning Board, Tax Assessor, Housing Authority, Library Trustees and Town Clerk. Data on annual town elections and voter participation at Open Town Meetings was also provided. There was a discussion on the data. The question was posed whether law requires the Housing Authority to be elected. Mr. Curran stated that Housing Authority members could be appointed. Members thanked Mr. Izzo for providing the informative data.
Mr. Izzo stated that he conducted research into where Sharon ranks in property taxes throughout the state and that Sharon ranked 25 out of 333 reporting communities, which would place Sharon in the top 7-½%.
There was a brief discussion on the material provided by Mr. Curran from Swansea relative to a provision requiring regularly scheduled meetings between town boards/committees. Colleen Tuck felt that Swansea’s language is too vague. There was a brief discussion on the most efficient way to structure regular meetings between town/school boards and committees as presently there is no structured collaboration built into Sharon’s town government.
There was a discussion on incorporating specific positions into the Charter. Mr. Curran stated that outlining roles and responsibilities of positions such as Town Engineer, Superintendent of Public Works, etc. would be the best served through a piggy-back by-law. Piggy-back by-laws are adopted at Town Meeting.
There was a discussion on the need for town planning and the role and responsibilities of the current Planning Board. The Planning Board views their main function as overseer of subdivision planning rather than that of long-range strategic planners for the town. Mr. Curran stated that Weymouth has recently reorganized and redefined positions. He will contact the Planner in Weymouth for further information on how the reorganization was executed and the advantages of combined departments.
There was a discussion on limiting the number of future guests to meet with the full Commission, as the majority of members would prefer to adhere to the proposed timeline. Mr. Izzo suggested a subcommittee format whereby subcommittees would meet with proposed guests and report back to the Commission at a subsequent meeting. Mr. Nebenzahl stated that he would defer to the members but that he is a proponent of everyone hearing the same conversation at the same time. It was the consensus of the Commission that:
• Colleen Tuck contact the Housing Authority and discuss with them the possibility of having the Housing Authority appointed rather than elected.
• Paul Izzo, Abigail Marsters and Peg Arguimbau meet with Weymouth officials relative to the planner position.
• That at this time, it is not necessary to schedule an informational meeting between the Charter Commission and Town Counsel.
The next meeting of the Charter Commission is scheduled for June 15th at 7:00 p.m.
There being no further business to come before the Commission at this time, Mr. Nebenzahl asked for a motion to adjourn.
MOTION: (Marsters/Garf) Moved to adjourn. Vote was seven in the affirmative.
Open Session was adjourned at 9:26 p.m.
Submitted on behalf of the Charter Committee by: Helen Campanario, Recording Secretary to the Charter Commission