Town Meeting Warrant Opens in February for Citizen Petitions

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Photo: Belmont Town Meeting.

Have you ever said, “There ought to be a law in this town!

Here’s your chance to do just that.

The town warrant – the document that calls for the annual Town Meeting which Board of Selectmen voted to approve at last night’s Selectmen’s meeting – will be “open” from Feb. 1 to Feb. 29 for residents who wish to add their own article to be heard and voted on by the 290-member Town Meeting in May.

“Citizens are welcomed to submit petitions,” said Belmont Town Clerk Ellen Cushman.

Under Massachusetts law, residents may place articles before the annual Town Meeting without approval by the Selectmen by petitioning the Town Clerk to insert the article into the warrant. Officially, it only requires ten signatures on the petition from residents to secure a place on the warrant although Cushman recommends 15 to be on the safe side.

While not all petitions are successful, a good portion succeeded to become bylaws. In the past few years, citizen’s petitions on banning smoking in town playgrounds, combining school and town building supervision, restricting yard sales and requiring residents to shovel snow from sidewalks have passed Town Meeting muster and included into the bylaws.

For those residents thinking about putting their stamp on the town’s bylaws, Cushman advises petitioners to do their homework and be prepared to work with town officials and government groups to construct their appeal to have the chance of a favorable vote before Town Meeting.

For those seeking changes to the town’s zoning bylaws should meet with the Planning Board and the town’s Office of Community Development while those looking to alter the town’s budget priorities need to get in touch with the Warrant and Capital Budget committees and the town’s financial departments, said Cushman.

With all petitions Town Counsel, George Hall will review each, to determine that they do not violate the state or US constitutions.

“So it’s important that citizens start the process earlier than later to receive advice in drafting their petitions and getting the support they need to give themselves a good chance before Town Meeting,” said Cushman.

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