Residents look to rescind petition
About 600 would have to attend meeting
GREENFIELD — A group of residents opposed to the town’s plans to draw sand and gravel from the town-owned lot next to Greenvale Cemetery submitted a second petition calling for a special Town Meeting to vote on whether to reverse the approval granted at March’s Town Meeting. This time around, they had enough valid signatures on their petition, so town officials are moving ahead with making arrangements for a meeting. But now the petitioners are looking into whether they can withdraw the request, after learning that the meeting would require attendance by at least half of Greenfield’s voters in order to be held.
“This is a real curveball you’ve thrown me,” resident Bob Brown, who lives across Forest Road from the lot in question, told Select Board members Rob Wimpory and Karen Day at Thursday’s Select Board meeting. “We’re looking at a moot point here. We’re not going to get 600 people to show up.”
Greenfield had 1,119 registered voters at the time of last March’s Town Meeting, but less than 100 voters attended the meeting. The warrant article that approved $15,600 for a study on using the property for gravel processing and eliminating $10,000 from the salt and sand line in the DPW budget passed by a margin of 49 to 28.
The residents’ first petition seeking a special Town Meeting had been deemed invalid after a number of the signatures could not be confirmed as registered voters. But last week, a second petition was submitted, and Town Administrator Aaron Patt said at the meeting that checklist supervisors had confirmed the 61 signatures were valid. Wimpory said the Select Board then started the process of setting up a Special Town Meeting, which is when they were notified by legal counsel that such a meeting would have to be held according to state statute 31:5, which states that no money previously appropriated may be reduced or rescinded at a special meeting unless half the registered voters attend that meeting.
Wimpory said because the petition has been presented, the board will start the process of setting a date and finding a location large enough to hold 600 or more voters. The town’s Meetinghouse would not be large enough, he said, but the board will check on whether a site at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center or somewhere else in Greenfield or even out of town might be available.
But both the Select Board members and the 10 or so residents representing the petitioners agreed they should look into options for withdrawing the latest petition.
“There must be a way to back out,” said resident Tim Schloemer, as he asked the board members if they could get a legal opinion on how the petition could be withdrawn. Wimpory said they would do that.
“We’ll ask, but I don’t know if it can be stopped,” he said.
Wimpory said the Select Board has committed to not removing any more sand and gravel prior to next year’s Town Meeting, unless there was an emergency. He said if the special Town Meeting is not held, the group could certainly put a petition article on the March 2014 warrant for a new vote on the project.
Most of the petitioners in attendance seemed to agree with that approach.
“We’d be in a much better position in March,” Schloemer said.
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or email@example.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.