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Fall Town Meeting News
Whittier Farm APR, budget cuts approved at town meeting

Passage of Article 4 will give the town a chance to have a cell tower to extend limited cell service in West Sutton.
Town residents approved 12 of the 13 articles on the warrant Monday evening, including measures to purchase more than 300 acres of land from Whittier Farms to protect as farmland, and cut $170,000 from the FY2010 budget.  Article 3 called for borrowing $280,000 through a debt exclusion to pay the town share of an Agricultural Preservation Restriction on 314 acres from Whittier Farms along Town Farm and Douglas roads. It passed unanimously.  The APR also seeks approval from the Town of Oxford for 64 abutting acres. The debt exclusion still needs voter approval at a Nov. 24 special election. If voters turn it down, the Whittiers have the option of withdrawing from the APR agreement, which would leave the 314 acres unprotected.  State Rep. Jennifer Callahan (DSutton) urged voters to act.

"This may not be funded to the level we would want, but if we wait, this money could go elsewhere," she said. This is a small price to pay."

Voters approved Article 4, to purchase five to six acres of land from Whittier Farm at $24,000 with the aim of constructing a cell tower to improve reception in various parts of town. Callahan and town officials hope cell tower income will cover debt exclusion expenses.

The board of selectmen can now lease the property to telecommunications company, which Town Administrator Jim Smith said should nullify any expenses accrued from the APR agreement. A clause in the purchase agreement between the Whittiers and the town would revert the land to Whittier Farms in 20 years if the property is no longer used for a cell tower.

"Our goal is to construct a cell tower that will help address the lack of cell phone coverage in West Sutton and generate revenue from cell carriers that will be used towards the debt service on $280,000 borrowed to pay the APR," Smith explained in a letter to town residents.  A vote would be needed annually to apply cell tower income to the debt exclusion. Smith said the tower would be constructed at the town's highest point for maximum quality and coverage.

Smith told residents that interest from cell carriers is already evident.  "They have been contacting us," he said. "We have heard from a number of carriers already."

Sutton voters also unanimously approved an article to reduce the FY2010 budget by $163,769 in lieu of cuts to state aid through Chapter 70. The school department lost about $110,000 in Chapter 70 funds after they came in well below estimated levels at the annual town meeting when the school budget was adopted.  As a result, open positions of high school vice principal, council on aging clerk and planning department clerk will go unfilled.

Residents approved a citizen's petition article allowing the planning board to exempt driveways from a bituminous surface requirement, if the board sees fit. Resident Joyce Walsh-Thomson of 71 Torrey Road entered the petition to give the board flexibility on a case-by-case basis concerning the dimensions and makeup of each driveway.

The article passed despite contention from the finance and warrant advisory committee that the move would open the town up to additional liability for emergency vehicles attempting to reach houses. Police Chief Dennis Towle and Fire Chief Paul Maynard said they had no issues with the article as long as each exemption still ensures emergency crews the ability to safely navigate each driveway under review. An additional item to exempt pre-existing homes from the conditions was withdrawn by the petitioner.

Voters also approved a "hawkers and peddlers" item requiring that door-to-door salespeople obtain a license from the board of selectmen. The board will put together formal regulations for the bylaw, but indicated that nonprofit groups such as Boy and Girl Scouts will most likely not need licensing.

Town of Sutton  4 Uxbridge Rd., Sutton, MA 01590
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