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Vote Against Downtown Parking Ends First Night of TM

At last night's town meeting voters told government leaders how the feel about issues including the budget, downtown parking and town savings accounts.

Voters at gathered at  last night for the town's 2012 Annual Town Meeting.

With a , 58 in total, residents made it almost halfway by getting through 24 of the articles when the magic hour of 11 p.m. came and the meeting was adjourned for the night.

In perhaps to of the most impactful votes of the night, the town approved a budget of  and a budget of $30 million for the rest of the town.

There were nearly 200 voting members present at the meeting, less than five percent of the town's voting residents, and the voters are on pace to raise the total taxes paid by homeowners more than 2 percent.

Of the 24 articles voted on, 21 received un-amended yes votes. Two were approved with amendments by Hopkinton residents and one article, the final of the night, was voted down.

Articles 11 and 12 were both called for the town to raise and appropriate funds for, as well as transfer funds from free cash, in to stabilization funds.

Article 11 originally called for raising $20,000 through taxes and transferring $30,000 from free cash in to the capital stabilization fund which will be used to pay for capital projects such as new buildings and keep the tax increases steady.

After receiving word from the state that the town would have a higher amount of free cash than expected, the appropriations committee decided to raise the amount transferred from free cash to $130,000.

With hearing this Hopkinton resident Dr. John Duffy, former member of the Board of Selectmen, suggested an amendment that took the tax raise out of the article.

The next article up was 12, in a similar fashion the town was prepared to raise $100,000 and transfer $300,000 (after the knowledge of more free cash) that would be put in the generalization fund. Once Again Duffy suggested an amendment that took out the tax increase. 

Both amendments by Duffy were approved by the town meeting and both articles were passed as amended.

The one article to receive a no vote was article number 23, which would have allowed the town to .

Many proponents of the bill suggested that the need for more parking wasn't just needed because the Downtown Initiative Steering Committee has suggested removal of some on-street parking, but because there is a genuine need for parking in the area.

Jack Speranza from the Hopkinton Chamber of Commerce, and Ken Weismantel from the Planning Board both said that the lack of parking was detrimental to getting new businesses in to the downtown area.

Opponents, on the other hand, worried that the expense of preparing a lot was too high when there wasn't even a lease established. Other opponents of the plan lived on neighboring streets and did not want to deal with the increased light pollution as well as the reduction of the trees around the parking lot that act as a natural barrier.

The vote ultimately failed 74 in favor to 80 against as the clock struck 11 p.m. and the meeting was adjourned for the night.

Tonight the voters will take on issues including improvements to the Sandy Beach facility, replacing the old electrical system in the library, a new traffic signal at the intersection of West Main Street and School street, a law that would limit the number of unregistered vehicles on a property and the second to last article which would allow a developer to apply for a site-specific liquor license for Hopkinton Square.

Once again Hopkinton Patch Editor Sean O'Donnell will be broadcasting live from the meeting, updating readers on discussions and votes.

Barry May 08, 2012 at 12:44 PM
It seems obvious that too many people think we still live in the 1950s and will come up with any reason at all to inhibit or stop growth. Light pollution is the current statis-du-jour (and finding so-called protected insects from one location and putting them on the grounds where the new high school was to be built - and fortunately was built - was probably the most egregious). To put it simply, Hopkinton is going to grow (regardless of the futile desires of too many of the people living here) and will need more parking. From our perspective, if we have trouble parking we will go to Westborough to do all of our shopping as well as use their cleaners for our clothes. We will completely stop spending any money at all in the downtown area of Hopkinton.
vigilant mom May 08, 2012 at 04:30 PM
To Barry - If you're suggesting that you or anyone else would actually use the parking lot behind Bill's to drop your dry cleaning off at Hiller's, I find that very hard to believe. I live in the downtown area and can tell you that people won't even park a block up Main Street to pick up their pizza from Mangia. Plenty of times I've seen people double-parked on Main Street, outside of Mangia, or blocking the entrance to Walcott Street, when there are plenty of open spaces behind Bill's --- and in the parking lot adjacent to Hopkinton Drug, which is even closer to Mangia. People are in such a hurry, they routinely cut down Walcott Street --- whether going from Main Street to 85 or from 85 to Main Street, which means they are driving the wrong way up the one-way portion of Walcott --- just to avoid the one traffic light in the center of town. People are so oblivious to the residents of the downtown area, they drive 40 mph down streets where the speed limit is 25 and then flip the bird to residents who ask them to slow down. People who don't live downtown don't typically care about how changes downtown affect those of us who do. So you can criticize residents who fear the expansion of the Bill's parking lot, but we have a right to continue to fight to keep our neighborhood as safe and enjoyable as possible.
DowntownFam May 08, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Can we expand a parking lot in front of or across from your house? Then you might better understand the concerns with noise, light pollution, erosion, and water runoff.
Jack May 08, 2012 at 10:15 PM
As both a long-time resident and business owner in downtown, I couldn't disagree more with DowntownFam's stated reasons for opposing the "changes." If you want better control of erosion and water runoff, then opposing the parking lot study takes you further away from your goal -- any work done to repair and improve the lot will, by law, have to address those very problems. Similarly, if you don't want traffic flying down our side streets to bypass the light in the center of town, then support the efforts being undertaken by DISC to develop solutions to deal with traffic patterns that will inevitably arrive over the next 30 years. Change is coming. We can either recognize it early and plan effectively, or ignore it and react after our solutions will be more restricted and more expensive. Thank God we had folks like Charles Zetteck and others in this town 40 years ago who had the foresight to plan for what eventually arrived many years after their work. We're sadly lacking that leadership and vision right now, and it's going to bite us in the behind very soon unless something is done about it.
vigilant mom May 08, 2012 at 11:02 PM
The solutions DISC has presented to alleviate the traffic at the light in the center of town (i.e. 85 and 135) are not viable. The suggestion to take land from Colella's to widen that intersection seems totally counter to the "save the downtown businesses" mission, and the proposal was shot down anyway. I haven't heard any suggestions that would actually improve the traffic conditions downtown or that would give drivers any incentive to stop cutting down our side streets. As regular attendees of the DISC meetings for the past several months, we have made an effort to be part of these conversations --- to be part of the solution and not add to the problem. In fact we support many of the other improvements that DISC has recommended, including underground utilities and some of the initiatives related to the issues on Wood Street. I can't speak first hand about the light that comes from the lot behind Bill's or what expanding the lot would do to homes on Claflin --- but I feel for those who would be impacted by those changes and that's why I oppose expansion. As for the traffic, the fact remains that people are lazy and don't obey existing traffic laws or posted speed limits. People who visit Bill's, the library, Hopkinton Gourmet, Mangia, etc. will still use Walcott Street as a cut-through to 85. And they are trying to save time, which means they won't slow down just because there are families backing out of driveways or elderly people walking up A Street.
DowntownFam May 09, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Jack, It is not that I oppose change. Rather I will not support plans that have not evaluated other possible solutions. The DISC never investigated other possibilities and did not have a proper plan to mitigate the negative impacts on the surrounding residents. Furthermore, if you view the property in question it is clear that with the runoff issues, slope, removal of trees, etc. this is a very expensive plan for land that the town will not own. Much more than say $50,000 as it was deceitfully presented at Town Meeting.

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