Selectmen Considering Feb Special Town Meeting To Tackle Transfer Loophole

Photo: Alcohol transfer on the agenda.

The Belmont Board of Selectmen is considering calling a February Special Town Meeting to resolve the controversal inability of the town to control the transfer of alcohol and liquor licenses.

“We want to tackle the non-transferability of [alcohol] licenses sooner than later,” Mark Paolillo, selectmen chair told the Belmontonian at the end of the board’s meeting on Monday, Dec. 19.

“There’s a lot of folks in town that are concerned about … these licenses,” he said. “And there is unanimity on the board to follow that recommendation,” said Paolillo.

When asked when the meeting could be held, Paolillo said: “it would be in the February time frame.”

The proposed action comes on the heels of a controversial 2-1 vote by the Selectmen approving the transfer in October of a full-retail alcohol license from the Loading Dock to Star Market for a $400,000 fee. It was discovered during the public hearings that legislation from 2013 increasing the number of liquor licenses in town did not have the same limiting language on transferring licenses as in the first retail liquor licenses approved in 2006. 

Paolillo said a memo to the board from Town Counsel George Hall recommended moving forward with a special home rule petition that would request the Massachusetts legislature to approve a Town Meeting article creating “an umbrella” bylaw covering regulations including transfer limitation overall alcohol licenses including full, pour, retail, and wine and beer.

A home rule petition would be required as the town is taking action that will effect liquor licenses which are granted by the state to municipalities.

The Selectmen can call a Special Town Meeting at any of its public meetings with the agenda posted with minimum 48 hours notice to the public.

Selectmen must then sign and or post the warrant with at least 14 calendar days notice to the public before the Special Town Meeting. For instance, if it signs the order on a Monday, Tuesday is day 1 of 14. There is no requirement that the warrant stays open for any amount of time – it can open it and close it right away – and it does not have to accept another article a resident or Town Meeting member may want to add to the warrant.

The estimated cost of a three hour, one night Special Town Meeting would cost approximately $2,776, according to the Town Clerk’s Office.

Paolillo acknowledged the expense of holding a meeting but deemed the issue important enough to push for an early resolution.

“We certainly appreciate the cost of having a Special Town Meeting, and we will take that into consideration,” said Paolillo. “We have to weigh that against the expense of a possibility of another transfer happening before the [annual Town Meeting which begins in May 2017].”

“Lots of folks have expressed concern that legislation in 2013 didn’t have a non-transferability provision within it and they want to see that reinstated,” said Paolillo.

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