2017 Belmont Town Meeting, Night 2, Special Town Meeting LIVE

Photo: Town meeting again.

Hello to the second night of the annual Belmont Town Meeting at Belmont High School. 

Tonight’s topics will be booze, pot and the CPA with a special town meeting called to vote on changes to the town’s liquid licensing bylaw concerning transfer of licenses than a vote supporting a temporary moratorium on retail sales of marijuana and finally votes to approve or deny items on the Community Preservation Committee’s request list.

7:09 p.m.: We are starting a bit late, even for Belmont, which starts every meeting five minutes past the scheduled start time. 

Moderator Mike Widmer is explaining why he will not allow non-Town Meeting members to speak on Article 10, the Welcoming Town article. Belmont has representative Town Meeting, and so each member can not just express their opinion but also members in their precincts. 

First up tonight is Bill Lovallo who is speaking on the Belmont High School Building Committee. You can go here to see where the building committee is at this time. Some news is made tonight as Lovallo said the committee would select one of the three configurations which will be studied by this time in 2018. 

7:25 p.m.: Article 6, the temporary moratorium of establishing retail marijuana operations, is being read and explained. This isn’t a controversial article, as the town is following the state in asking for a 6-month delay to July 1, 2018, in creating a bylaw on the rules and regulations for the sale of recreational marijuana.

7:30 p.m.: The Special Town Meeting is being convened concerning the transfer of all-alcohol licenses. Widmer said the focus of the two articles would NOT be the relitigation of why we are here. i.e., the Loading Dock, but on the feasibility of the new rules.

Selectman Mark Paolillo, who is presenting the articles, explains that in 2013, the town made an oversight that the non-transferability language in previous all alcohol licenses, was mistakenly not added on six new licenses. The selectmen always wanted to grant licenses to enhance businesses, never to be a windfall or an asset for the businesses.

Under the articles, all licenses will be non-transferable. If Town Meeting approves, the measure will need legislative approval. Until then, all licenses are transferable. Why make restaurant licenses also non-transferable? Just for uniformity. 

Restaurant licenses provide viability to the business community, nothing more.

Tomi Olson, Pct. 5, and chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee is seeking to amend the first article by adding the phase “for use at any other location.” 

Erin Luben, a member of EDAC, who wrote the amendments, believe the town should allow transferability of licenses because owners may need to sell a license to leave a business or simply sell it. No one would buy a restaurant or store that sells liquor/beer/wine. What the articles would do is undermine businesses in town. The new language will allow a business to sell it to a new owner at the same location or bringing it to a new site. That is pro-business.

Ralph Jones, Pct. 3. is opposing the new language since it makes a license an economic asset. It should not be bought or sold. We want to avoid what occurred in 2016, and we want clear language. The Olson/Luben amendment will muddy the waters. The important concept is that the amendment allows decisions to be decided by business owners and not the town. 

Anne Marie Mahoney, Pct. 8, said as a former selectman who granted the licenses made a compact with the town that the licenses would not be a commodity for large corporations that buys and sells and could lead to corruption as seen in other locations in the state.

Dr. David Alper, Pct 6, said that food licenses are not transferable and why should it be. 

George Hall, town counsel, said with transferability, the business owner selects who can buy the license. If it goes back to the town, there is a far greater number of entities who can apply for the license, so it’s far more fair. 

Jim Williams, Selectman, said Town Meeting has a goldilocks choice, either no transferability, full transferability or something in-between. Williams said he voted in favor of the amendments because it can promote business activity.

Adam Dash, said the words of the amendments are very small but the effect is very large. It’s in Belmont’s best interest to have a larger number of buyers rather than who the business wants. He said the amendment is actually anti-business as it limits the number of businesses which can seek the license. 

Roy Epstein, Warrant Committee, said there are many gray areas with businesses – a parent selling to a child, change the location to increase business etc. – so he is willing to approve the amendments and hope that nothing really bad happens.

The question has been moved to suspend debate and it passes easily. So after the introduction of the article, the amendment and debate: exactly 90 minutes. 

The vote on the amendment by Tomi Olson. 37 to 226. Defeated.

Finally, a vote on the first amendment on requesting the legislature to end transferability for retail all liquor licenses: 244-18 in favor. 

9:30 p.m.: Now up is to end transferability of the 26 restaurant – also known as pour – licenses. There are 13 licenses currently held by business owners. It passes 223-19.

9:40 p.m.: Up now is the marijuana moratorium which delays by 6 months until June 31, 2018 when the town is required to have a permitting process and a bylaw on where a retail business can be located. This article follows the state’s 6-month delay on the creation of a state control board.

Don Mercier, Pct. 8, requested the delay be increased to June 30, 2019. Widmer said that was too substantial a change and is rejected. 

Article 6 passes on a voice vote.

9:55 p.m.: Now up is the annual CPC projects, numbering five this year. This should go by quickly.

With Treasurer Floyd Carman leading the way, the projects are:

$336,000 to restore the Grove Street tennis courts. Approved by voice vote.

$173,200 to repair and restore portions of Sherman Garden. Approved by voice vote.

$24,125 to preserve historical artifacts and create a mini-museum at the Sons of Italy state headquarters which is located on Concord Avenue. Bob McLaughlin, Pct. 2, said while he loves this sort of project, it’s not a Belmont project. By OK-ing this one, how do you deny any other ethnic organizations? Crowley said he had is own forgiving but this is an important cultural 

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