Norwell’s annual Town Meeting wrapped up a little after 11 p.m. Monday night, with all articles receiving approval from town voters.
“I’m glad that it went as well as it did,” said Town Administrator Peter Morin. “I think the articles were covered thoroughly and it was a good, productive discussion.”
Two projects seeking to use Community Preservation Act funds proved most controversial: one to remove lead paint from the apartment side of the Jacobs Farmhouse and one to fund a study on accessibility opportunities to Wompatuck State Park off of Grove Street.
Voters approved $150,000 for the Jacobs Farmhouse de-leading project, sparking debate about whether the town should continue to act as a landlord. The apartment, which has been vacant for the last year at the advice of town counsel due to the presence of lead, generates $21,600 annually when it is occupied. That money is used for building maintenance and repairs.
Roger Hughes, chairman of the Norwell Advisory Board, spoke against the article.
“The dwelling space in the rental apartment is not just dangerous because of lead paint,” Hughes said. “A number of access and safety issues may make it a liability to the town in the future.”
Selectman Alison Demong and Norwell Historical Society President Wendy Bawabe said they are aware of those issues and funding for those repairs had previously been approved, but were waiting to be completed until the lead paint could be removed.
“I absolutely anticipated the debate over the de-leading,” said Bawabe. “There are legitimate concerns, but the money is already there, so it’s not that there’s going to need to be additional money spent.”
The Norwell Historical Society operates the Jacobs Farmhouse.
The vote to approve $40,000 for studying access into Wompatuck State Park from Norwell was close, passing 110-91. The eventual proposal would include a two-way access road off of Grove Street connected to a 20-car parking lot. Over 500 acres of Norwell land is in the park, but the town has only one access point, which has no parking.
Opponents of the article expressed concerns that abutters had yet to be notified about the potential project, that there was no pressing need for the access, and that the CPA funds have focused too much on recreation and pathways, and should be used in other areas like affordable housing.
“It’s an interesting project that would open up Norwell to a wide array of recreational opportunities that aren’t available,” Morin said. “But I think in doing so you have to be sensitive to residents that are going to be impacted by the proposal. We were looking at money for a study tonight, and that study should incorporate residential concerns.”
In addition, Town Meeting voters approved:
CPC funds to improve accessibility of Jacobs Farmhouse, Gaffield Park, and Osborne and Woodworth fields;
Moved forward the Library Building Project by approving preliminary schematics and allowing the town to apply for, accept, and expend grant funding;
Enacted a temporary moratorium on the sale or recreational marijuana, and passed two bylaws, one zoning and one general, restricting the sale of recreational marijuana.
Voters also approved a $1.6 million bond for road repair and the repair and resurfacing of the Vinal Elementary School parking lot, a change in the way these projects are funded that town officials say will allow for greater flexibility and a more reliable source of financing.
Town Moderator Bill Coffey said he was pleased with how the night went.
“It’s always nice when you can have a one-night Town Meeting instead of a two-night Town Meeting, and I think people came prepared to discuss the issues and they discussed them well,” he said. “Turnout was low, I was surprised. It was almost as if we had a night two turnout on night one.”
Follow James Kuksits on Twitter at @MarinerJamesK.