In a productive session, Needham Town Meeting members finished off the remainder of business on the Annual Warrant, leaving only the Omnibus Article and the Special Town Meeting Warrant for May 8th. Among the articles they adopted was a town-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. However, the majority of the evening was dedicated toward discussing Article 18. This article sought to alter the rules around building and operating Accessory Dwelling Units. At issue was not just the changes proposed by the Planning Board, but how communication is conducted to town residents. This session is currently being processed for streaming, and will appear in the window below once available:
The legislative body picked up right where it left off on Monday night, with Article 18. The Planning Board recapped the article’s language, and outlined the changes in definitions being offered, which changed Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) rules to allow extended family members to qualify for participation, and allow rentals of ADUs for terms greater than 6 months. They also described ways in which detached structures could be used for Accessory Dwelling Units. The Select Board and Finance Committee split on their support of the Article. While the Select Board endorsed the plan, the Finance Committee couldn’t commit to it, citing the need for further study and information from other communities.
In advance of the meeting, Town Meeting member Michael Niden submitted a motion to amend, stripping the article of its language allowing for ADUs in detached structures. While he said he supported the majority of what the article was trying to accomplish, he felt the article went too far too fast, and echoed the Finance Committee’s concern that more study was needed before that aspect could be pursued.
The discussion ran for close to two hours, getting contentious at times, as members were challenged by non-serving residents, fearful that their voices and objections were not being heard. This struck a nerve with several members, who pointed out in their remarks that they consulted with others in their districts and were representing them, and not voicing thoughts or voting in self-interest.
In many speaker’s comments, communication was a running theme, with many complaining that the Town was not doing enough to draw resident attention to issues that affect them. Many claimed to be blindsided by the issue, despite the Planning Board’s public hearings, and the deliberations that took place on the issue in the months leading up to Town Meeting. Former Select Board member John Bulian suggested that individual members of town government could do more proactive outreach in addition to relying on public hearings to draw in community feedback.
Ultimately the article passed with the Niden amendment, and with Article 18 put to rest, the remainder of the evening progressed quickly, and the majority of articles were passed as proposed. The only exception to that was Article 37, updating the Non-Criminal Dispositions in place in the Town. The article’s proponents, the Needham Select Board, had discovered that there were some potential elements of the article that had been overlooked, as this was the first review attempting to comprehensively address the fine and fee structure of the town. Rather than approach the matter in a piecemeal manner, they opted to refer the matter back to their board, and plan on bringing it back to Town Meeting at a future date.
A report on this session will be filed as part of the Needham Channel News, and will be available on this site beginning Monday, May 8th.
To watch the full discussion of these articles, click on the links below:
Needham High School Senior Awards Ceremony
Needham Memorial Day Ceremony, 5/29/23
Needham Special Town Meeting, 5/8/23