Town Counsel Disagrees With McCoy, Rules Petitioned Warrant Articles Are Valid

WILMINGTON, MA — In a follow-up to Selectman Mike McCoy’s recent letter arguing four of the petitioned town meeting articles are illegal, Town Manager Jeff Hull announced that Town Counsel has ruled, instead, that the articles in question ARE valid.

Selectman McCoy had pointed out that (1) the articles never referenced “Annual Town Meeting” and (2) contained signature pages that don’t contain the text of the article for which residents were asked to sign.  McCoy contrasted this situation with his own, when the Town Counsel invalidated his original petitioned article to amend the town’s zoning bylaws because he never referenced a “Special Town Meeting.”

“The distinction is that Special Town Meetings are not scheduled,” explained Town Manager Hull in a memo. “Annual Town Meeting is scheduled each year and in accordance with Chapter 2, Section 3 of the Town of Wilmington Inhabitant By-laws, which establishes that the elections are held on the fourth Saturday in April. There is no date certain for a Special Town Meeting. They are typically called by the Board of Selectmen on an ‘as needed’ basis.”

“When the first petition article was submitted to the Town Clerk in October of 2017, there was no reference made in the body of the petition or on the signature pages that the petitions were seeking to require that the Selectmen call a Special Town Meeting,” added Hull, which is a requirement of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 39, Section 10.

“In the case of the four articles [in question], they were submitted to the Town Clerk prior to the deadline for submission of articles for the Annual Town Meeting warrant on February 2, 2018,” said Hull. “The May 5, 2018 Annual Town Meeting is a scheduled meeting that has been well publicized. It is reasonable for the Town Clerk and the Board of Selectmen to conclude that articles submitted prior to the deadline for the next scheduled Annual Town Meeting are intended to be included on the warrant for that Annual Town Meeting, even if there is no reference made in the body of the petition that seeks to have the article considered at the Annual Town Meeting.”

The Town Clerk, in fact, identified 17 articles that did not reference “Annual Town Meeting” but were accepted by the Board of Selectmen for inclusion on the next scheduled Annual Town Meeting over her 12 years on the job.

To McCoy’s concern about the article’s text not be included on signature pages, the town confirmed with a representative from the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth that, while their office recommends petitioners include such text, there is NO legal requirement to do so.

“A petition article cannot be disqualified because the signature packages lacked that information,” said Hull.

“I don’t dispute anything the Town Manager just said,” responded Selectman Mike McCoy. “My big concern is that farm… That’s the only thing I cared about… That was the point of this.  I’ve been on the board a long time and we should be getting that farm.”

McCoy was referring to the petitioned article that would rezone the 62.5 Wilmington acres of Sciarappa Farm from R60 to neighborhood mix use, which would allow for the potential construction of a large scale condo development.

Later in the meeting, McCoy would make the case that the town should buy the farm. Wilmington Apple will have that story tomorrow.

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