A description of Spring Town Meeting articles and how articles come to be
Contributed by Warrant Committee Chair, LeeMichael McLean
As the chairperson of the Warrant Committee, I was disappointed to hear several citizens mention at the 2016 February Special Town Meeting that they were unaware of what topics were up for consideration at that Special Town Meeting. There is a lot of work over many months that goes into articles before they get to the Town Meeting for vote. This work is done by various committees and boards according to Open Meeting Law with required public notification of agendas and topics are discussed in many forums. That said, it’s true that it takes some attention to find out what’s going on when and where or to track the development of a specific article. Here you’ll find some thoughts about how you can stay connected and make your voice heard.
Articles for consideration at Spring Town Meeting
The Warrant Committee is currently debating the following articles. We will be forming and voting on recommendations on these articles over the next few weeks and Town Meeting Members will vote on them during the Spring Town Meeting on May 2, May 3 and May 5. The date indicated in parentheses is the currently scheduled date for town officials or petitioners to discuss their articles with the Warrant Committee. If possible, the Warrant Committee will also vote on the articles on that same date. Topics and meeting locations are subject to frequent change, so always check the Public Meetings Calendar for up-to-date agendas.
- Construction Start Time—would establish a daily schedule to prevent early and late nuisance noise from construction, renovation and remodeling operations (Feb 24)
- Bed & Breakfast Bylaw—would create the ability to open owner-occupied bed and breakfasts in Milton with special limitations on number of rooms, screening for parking, etc. (Mar 16)
- Bed & Breakfast Tax—would allow for the collection of a local tax for Bed and Breakfasts in Milton (Mar 16)
- Non-Conforming Business Use—would encourage redevelopment and/or improvement of existing grandfathered business uses in residential neighborhoods by creating a special permit process though the Planning Board (Mar 16)
- Assisted Living Residence Development—this housekeeping request would re-letter a subsection in the Town bylaws (Mar 16)
- Dog Ordinance—would specify requirements for dog licenses, limits on number of dogs per household, allowable restraints on private and public property, etc. (Feb 24)
- Affordable Housing Trust Appropriation—requests a contribution to the Affordable Housing Trust (Feb 24)
- Land Transfer, Alvin Avenue—requests permission to transfer a lot into the Affordable Housing Trust (Feb 24)
- Safe Routes to Schools Easement—this article will likely be renamed. It would allow easements to be acquired as part of the East Milton Square deck project (Feb 17)
- Extension of Town Government Study Committee—would extend this existing committee for three more years; the committee makes recommendations on how Milton’s government can become more efficient and effective (Feb 24)
- Playgrounds Appropriation—this citizen’s petition requests a contribution to the fundraising efforts of a group of citizens seeking to rehabilitate Milton’s playground equipment (Mar 16)
I abbreviated and interpreted significantly here. For full article language, visit the Current Information section of the Town Meeting website. Also, the Planning Board will be holding extensive public education sessions on the articles they have submitted. The first is scheduled for Wednesday, February 24 at 7pm in the Milton High School Library.
How article comes to be
For those unaware, the Warrant Committee is charged with recommending a balanced budget to the annual Spring Town Meeting. Town Meeting Members collectively vote on whether to accept the recommendations of the Warrant Committee or take other actions. In addition to presenting a balanced budget, the Warrant Committee studies proposed articles to be voted on at Town Meetings and Special Town meetings (such as zoning adjustments and new bylaws). In this communication I will focus on the process for non-budgetary articles.
Elected Town Meeting members get a printed copy of the Warrant about two weeks in advance of any Town meeting. It contains the articles Town Meeting Members will be voting on as well as the Warrant Committee’s recommendation and reasoning for how the Town Meeting Members should vote. But for months preceding the delivery of that printed document, the Warrant Committee holds meetings to vet the articles, discuss pros and cons, uncover unintended consequences, seek areas for efficiency and productivity, etc. The Warrant Committee does not have a Citizens’ Speak session as elected bodies such as the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board do (the Warrant Committee is appointed by the Town Moderator each year) but we seek input from people who will be affected by a particular article (such as an abutter to a property under consideration for a zoning change) or others that we know have a vested interest. In addition to the Warrant Committee seeking information, sometimes citizens and representatives of petitioners approach the Warrant Committee with important information and we try to accommodate brief comments during article discussions. Meeting time is limited, so citizens are encouraged anytime to submit written comments to me to be shared with all members of the Warrant Committee.
Well before the Warrant Committee receives the Warrant articles from the Board of Selectmen, various groups in town are busy putting together articles that they feel will be important for Town Meeting to consider. These groups include the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, Citizens Petitions, etc. Each of these groups has a different process that involves public input at their meetings, but they all have public involvement through posted meetings or neighborhood meetings.
All along this process – from formation of article language by submitting authors, to submission to the Board of Selectmen for inclusion on the Warrant through discussions and voting of recommendations at the Warrant Committee -there is significant, though not necessarily well coordinated, notification to the public of various discussions and developments.
Ways to keep informed on Warrant articles and other Town developments:
(without even having to attend any meetings!)
- Follow Town of Milton on Facebook for updates on public meetings and current events (or visit the Town webpage for updates)
- Follow Milton Access TV on Facebook to see agendas posted on the day of meetings
- Watch Milton Access TV live or stream meetings on demand on their website
- Visit the Milton Scene website and join Milton Neighbors on Facebook to keep up to date on town happenings and see what your neighbors are talking about
- Subscribe to the Milton Times newspaper for ongoing stories as articles move through the development process and important topics evolve
- Get to know your neighborhood Town Meeting Members, ask questions and share your opinions! Or better yet, run to be elected as a Town Meeting Member in your precinct and get involved!
- Read the final recommendations of the Warrant Committee about a month before each Town Meeting.
I’m relatively new to Town Meeting and even newer to the Warrant Committee and I’ve just recently been made chairperson. I’m steeped in the work of the Warrant Committee, but I’m still learning new things every day. I’m sure I missed some important points; I hope my fellow neighbors will weigh in helpful tips in the comments section or reach out to me with suggestions. See you around Town!
Town Meeting Member, Precinct 10
Warrant Committee Chair