Watch WestfordCAT’s news show which includes a statement by Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg on why she filed her citizen’s petition.
UPDATED — A citizen’s petition for a special Town Meeting seeking to amend a bylaw was filed on Dec. 30, and certified yesterday by the town clerk’s office.
Resident Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg submitted a document containing about 300 signatures. She is seeking to amend the Legal Affairs bylaw that presently gives selectmen the authority to approve a settlement up to $100,000.
Nakashian-Holsberg wants to limit the amount to $20,000.
Her effort is in response to selectmen’s divisive decision to settle a legal battle with a Nashua businessman. Richard DeFelice of Newport Materials is seeking to build an asphalt plant at 540 Groton Road. The plant was denied twice by the Planning Board and appealed twice in Land Court. Settlement discussions with representatives of both boards and DeFelice were held behind closed doors. When residents learned of the agreement in early October, they expressed outrage, calling for selectmen’s resignations, demonstrating in the town Common and calling for the board officials to undo the agreement — a request Land Court Judge Alexander H. Sands, III, denied.
The settlement won $8.5 million over 20 years in concessions to the town from DeFelice, owner of Newport Materials.
Town Clerk Kaari Mai Tari said the special Town Meeting must take place within 45 days of the filing date.
“The meeting will take place before the annual Town Meeting,” Taari said. Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for March 25.
Nakashian-Holsberg said she began circulating her petition at a public hearing held Oct. 25 in which almost 800 residents attended to express their anger. By adding the words “and the approval of the Town” within the body of the bylaw, the amended measure would hand authority for any settlement above $20,000 to Town Meeting voters to determine.
“Personally,” she said, “I’m concerned that the selectmen’s decision set a dangerous precedent. This proposed amendment to the town’s Legal Affairs bylaw, would instead give authority for such settlements directly to Town Meeting.”
Selectman Chairman Andrea Peraner-Sweet declined comment.
However Town Counsel Jonathan Silverstein stated that the Legal Affairs bylaw does not apply to the asphalt plant agreement.
“Since no payment is being made to Newport Materials or 540 Groton Road to settle the claim, there is no appropriation necessary to effectuate the settlement, and therefore no Town Meeting authorization was necessary,” he said in an email to WestfordCAT.
Nakashian-Holsberg acknowledged that the amendment won’t undo the existing settlement.
“It could significantly impact future actions the selectmen may take on pending asphalt plant litigation,” she said.
This story was updated on Jan. 13, 2017 to add a statement by Jonathan Silverstein, Westford’s town counsel and to note that Selectman Chairman Andrea Peraner-Sweet declined comment.