The following is part of a transcript from the Oct. 14, 2014 Board of Selectmen meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.
7:30 p.m. – The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Wayne Wagner.
Conservation Commission member Jim Gozzo was commended for completing a certificate of achievement from the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions for completing a course.
Cindy Collins of the Board of Health was honored for holding a flu clinic.
Selectman Scott Hazelton then added that Jodi Ross was given a 3.25 percent merit pay increase.
And then Jodi Ross then talked about bears, saying that a bear had gotten into chicken coops and had eaten four chickens as well as rabbits.
Massachusetts Environmental Police came into town and she said that anyone keeping chickens must make their coops very secure or they may lure bears.
7:35 p.m. – Hazelton then went to an alcohol license suspension for Evviva Cucina, which was suspended again.
A 600 foot sidewalk from Vose Hill Road to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail was then talked about, but Chris Barrett of Vose Hill Road asked if the item could be delayed until 7:45 since that was when it was scheduled on the agenda.
That item was then delayed due to this.
7:36 p.m. – Next was the consent agenda, Selectman Don Siriani said he appreciated the Blanchard School’s efforts with lighted lanterns and hoped that they could be weighted down.
Selectman Kelly Ross made a motion to approve that request with the stipulations made by the Board of Health.
Everything else was approved without condition.
7:38 p.m. – The first item on the Town Manager’s report was a requesting a return of the Arts and Technology Committee
Assistant Town Mangiaratti said that a fund was established in 1997 and a committee would be needed to manage the fund that would include the Superintendent and at least four residents.
Siriani asked when this fund was last withdrawn, Mangiaratti said it was 2002.
Kelly Ross made a motion to reestablish the committee, it was approved.
7:41 p.m. – Next was a status on double pole remediation efforts.
The last time Verizon was before the Selectmen, a phone number was given and six double poles have been removed since then.
7:42 p.m. – An annual timeline was given for the 2015 Annual Timeline in March. It was unanimously approved.
7:43 p.m. – Jodi Ross then gave an update on new unfunded mandates included domestic violence issues and issues with police firearm training.
She met with members of the Attorney General’s office and said that they generally get two per year and they take 80 days to respond to.
If they report back, the town can choose not to do the unfunded mandates and potentially go to the courts.
Jodi Ross also gave a list of other unfunded mandates to the Attorney General, although she is not optimistic that action will be taken.
7:45 p.m. – The agenda then went back to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail agenda item.
A presentation was given regarding the issue relating to the issue, talking about efforts that had been done with the neighborhood and the Pedestrian Safety Committee.
Barrett introduced his neighbor, Maureen Lynch, and also talked about Westford’s Sidewalk Master Plan adopted in 2000 and said that the sidewalk fit clearly into that issue.
There are approximately 200 people in the neighborhood, many are children.
Barrett then talked about the plan, talking about a granite curb at Vose Hill Road that would allow people to cross Route 27, also known as Acton Road.
The alternatives were looked at, but there were problems ranging from wetlands to additional street crossings needed to other safety issues.
Barrett said that other towns have used Community Preservation Act funding to build similar projects. That is an option, as well as capital appropriation.
The cost is expected to be $150,000 to extend the sidewalk from Vose Hill Road to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.
Barrett then talked about the possibility of parking along the new sidewalks, which has been an issue in the past with neighbors. He said that in Spring 2015, construction will begin on a new parking lot less than a mile away in Acton and that the terminus of the trail would no longer be in Westford at that point.
He said that this is being done for children due to safety issues in the area.
7:56 p.m. – Pete Ewing of the Pedestrian Safety Committee said that this request meets the basic requirements of a major safety issue.
He said currently people are taking their life in their own hands along that area and there aren’t a lot of physical or legal obstructions.
Siriani says that that he hopes people use the rail trail and he has been impressed with neighbors who have been tracking the progress of the project. He talked more about funding timelines and input from the Police Department.
Kelly Ross asked about a fund specifically for sidewalks and whether this could be used. Barrett said that fund has $80,000 and it was chopped into chunks and part of it had been used nearby already.
Mary Hilcoff of 37 Acton Road came to the microphone. Her house is 300 years old and has stone walls and not a lot of land in front of her home.
If the sidewalk goes past her home, she said she was not happy about it. There are several people from side streets who created a committee to get this.
She requested police assistance to help slow down traffic in previous years and did not get much response and she said that police told her it was safe there.
She said she has lived in town for 36 years and has rights as a taxpayer and then asked why she wasn’t informed by Barrett along with the abutters when police and the neighborhood committee looked at the area.
Barrett said that people were informed, then someone said that was not true, and the Barrett said abutters were.
Hilcoff said she is basically an abutter, and she was concerned that in the future this sidewalk could in the future go by near her home.
8:04 p.m. – Hazelton asked if the sidewalk was going by Hilcoff’s home, she said not yet, and Hazelton said if it did, she would be notified.
Hilcoff said that if this was allowed, other nearby streets would also request sidewalks in the area and alleged that homes had been built on wetlands nearby.
She said that she was not informed when the Rail Trail was built either.
She then said she pays high taxes and recommended a crosswalk instead.
Hilcoff then told Hazelton that she had gotten a letter in the mail that the meeting was going to be held on Wednesday and got another one saying it was happening in 2015.
The letters actually came from the Engineering Department, and Town Engineer Paul Starratt apologized for the error. Hilcoff forgave her.
However, she said that some of those neighbors might not be here due to that notice.
Siriani asked Hilcoff what is the harm to her from the sidewalks, other than possibly privacy.
Hilcoff said that there is a stone wall next to the road then a small yard and her house.
She said that she was concerned in the future that a group would come together and want a sidewalk in front of her house.
Siriani then asked if a future sidewalk would interfere with her property, which she said was the issue.
Hazelton then said that this is the only issue on the Pedestrian Safety Committee on Acton Road and if there were any new issues they would have to be introduced.
Hilcoff said that by that point it would be too late and she was also concerned about the costs compared to a crosswalk.
Hazelton said there is already a crosswalk.
Kelly Ross then asked about a possible bridge at one of the other locations looked at.
Starratt said that it would be a boardwalk and that there would be obstacles at that other location.
Kelly Ross then asked Hilcoff how far away from the road her house was. Hilcoff’s husband said it was about 15 feet.
There was another house 10 feet away from the road where a sidewalk was not pursued due to privacy issues.
Hilcoff said that it appeared a sidewalk was coming and other streets might want one.
Hazelton then asked Hilcoff if other people could talk.
8:13 p.m. – Tim Walsh of Anne Teresa Way said that safe access for kids is great but he does not share Barrett’s confidence that the parking will not come.
He indicated that he is not an abutter, but also asked that this is not voted upon tonight since many residents were unaware of this until tonight.
Hazelton then asked Starratt when the correction was sent, he said it had again and that a notice would go out for future meetings as there are many more steps needed for this such as a Town Meeting vote, as well as other municipal meetings.
Lynch said that this was only the preliminary steps of the process looking at options.
8:17 p.m. – Martin Newman of 2 Vose Hill Road said he talked to Highway Department Superintendent Chip Barrett was concerned about traffic on Vose Hill Road and mentioned that along with parking.
Laurie Shannon of 13 Vose Hill Road then came to the microphone. She grew up nearby on a similar road and said that Route 27 is a “death trap” but it’s not a good place to park on Vose Hill and Elderberry roads.
She then asked about the distance between a corner where cars cannot park.
Capt. Chambers of the Westford Police Department said that cars cannot park within 20 feet of a corner.
Shannon said that what really matters is someone being struck by a car and that no parking signs can be put up. She said that people will use the trail either way, but with this more people can use it safely.
Kelly Ross then asked Capt. Chambers about the benefits of the sidewalk versus concerns about parking.
Chambers said both opinions are valid. He said that many citations are written in that area and it is very dangerous near the intersection of Vose Hill and Acton.
It’s unclear how many cars would park on Vose Hill and Elderberry and what the safety concerns there would be.
He said he wasn’t comfortable supporting or opposing the sidewalk as he was fairly unfamiliar with the project.
Kelly Ross said if there had been any recent concerns with parking. Chambers said that there had been one call on Vose Hill Road recently, but most were at the corner of Acton and Carlisle Roads.
He noted there is a lot more marking in the area and that it is still unsafe for pedestrians even if someone driving is doing the speed limit.
8:23 p.m. – Cheryl Regis of 27 Acton Rd. said that reducing the speed limit would help make that area safer and get the town more speeding tickets.
Paul Starratt said that the only people that can change speed limits is the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and said that the 85th percentile of a study they do in the area becomes the new speed limit.
Regis offered her driveway to police.
Chambers said that everybody would like a police officer on their road, and they get out to Acton Road when they can.
However, it is difficult to cover 33 square miles with only four officers on duty at any one time.
8:26 p.m. – Jim Zegowitz of 178 Carlisle Rd. said that several years earlier when the Rail Trail was built, everybody thought it was great.
Then he mentioned proposals for parking, which were not mentioned along with the building of the trail.
He also mentioned other items and was concerned this could bring development creep and that the neighborhood residents were shellshocked.
He also asked of shrubs could be cleared in that area to provide more sightlines.
Starratt said that grade obstacles needed to be overcome in that area.
An unnamed man then said that a good job had been done starting this, but not enough people had been notified.
The man identified himself as Bob Kelly of 35 Acton Rd.
One of his sons was T-Boned as he tried to get out of his driveway in earlier years.
He printed out a map and was concerned about access to the rail trail for other nearby neighborhoods.
Kelly mentioned a once proposed parking lot at Griffin Road and that there is a lot of free land in the town given to the town for the people.
Then he talked about a time when his sons were given a ticket when they were fishing and then mentioned Powers Road.
He’d like to see everyone have access to the rail trail, but he wouldn’t want to see his taxes go up to support it.
8:32 p.m. – Emily Teller of 9 Texas Road and the Friends of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail said that off street parking is a result of opposition toward parking and noted that access for people on Griffin Road isn’t an issue.
Teller said that someone met with Hilcoff in the 1980s about the rail trail.
She also said that parking is not on the table for this and also mentioned a stop light in the area requested by Chip Barrett.
She concluded that this is only the beginning of the process.
Hazelton thanked everyone and asked what the board wanted to do tonight.
Kelly Ross said that since many people had not been aware of this and since Selectmen Jim Sullivan and Andrea Peraner-Sweet were not here, this item should be tabled.
Siriani agreed despite his opinion on the sidewalk and believed a delay would provide a better project.
Hazelton then mentioned that he was on the Pedestrian Sidewalk Committee and noted the site visit he went on in that area, but also agreed that this needed to be a transparent process and it should be delayed.
Kelly Ross asked if there could be a joint meeting of all the committees that would act on this.
Jodi Ross said that Barrett and Lynch were asking the Selectmen whether they should take this item to committees such as the Community Preservation Committee.
Starratt said it was also premature for a joint meeting.
Jodi Ross said that the Pedestrian Safety Committee supported this and that abutters within 300 feet were notified, but it was for Tuesday the 15th instead of the correct date (14th) and then the second mailing did have the wrong year.
Kelly Ross said that neighbors could be contacted.
Jodi Ross said she could contact neighbors by Oct. 28.
Hilcoff asked if she could talk again.
She asked about people walking across Acton Road and whether that was safe.
Hazelton said it would be discussed on Oct. 28.