Dawn Braman Rand

The closing of the polls today marked the conclusion of Dawn Rand’s service on the Northborough Board of Selectmen.

Thank you Dawn, it was an honor to serve with you on the Board and I’m forever grateful for your guidance.

The Complaint About The 2018 Private Meeting Re SA Farms

This is a response to a comment on my Facebook candidate page (see link at right) under my June 25 7:41AM post relating to support for single tax rate. Response posted here because it is too long to fit into a Facebook comment.

Hi Laura,

On Tue July 17 2018, the Town facilitated a private meeting held at the Northborough Free Library between MA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and certain residents of the Coolidge Circle neighborhood impacted by the operations at SA Farms. The purpose was to provide an opportunity for a candid conversation safely outside the presence of (and potential intimidation by) the operator of SA Farms. You arrived at the library expecting to be able to attend. You were insistent that you should be allowed to attend. The Town Administrator and I were equally insistent that you should not, because the meeting was intended to include only 1) certain neighborhood residents who were already on record with the Town and / or DEP as having submitted complaints about SA Farms, and 2) the residents’ legal representatives. You were neither of those, and were not allowed to attend. Later that night, after the meeting had concluded, you emailed a complaint to the members of the Board of Selectmen, stating that you had an invitation to attend the meeting, and insinuating that the manner by which the meeting was conducted was in violation of Open Meeting Law.

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The Citizen’s Petition to Amend the Duplex Bylaw

In its February 5 2019 meeting, the Planning Board considered whether to propose an amendment to zoning bylaw Section 7-06-030(J), paragraph (5), relating to two-family dwellings in the Residential C (RC) zoning district. The proposed change was to delete a waiver clause that followed a table specifying minimum lot frontage and minimum lot width in RC to be 150 feet:

The Planning Board may approve a waiver to reduce the minimum lot frontage and minimum lot width to 100 feet by special permit upon a determination that it would not be detrimental to the neighborhood, would be appropriate with respect to the surrounding properties and activities, and would not disturb any consistency of the neighborhood.

The Planning Board members engaged in a lengthy discussion and expressed mixed opinions and uncertainty about whether the effect of the change was truly an improvement. By a 2-3 vote, the Board declined to bring that proposal forward to Town Meeting.

And that was that.

**

That was not that.

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Prohibition of Recreational Marijuana Facilities

In my fourth year on the Board of Selectmen, I served as Chair for the first time, and just in time to preside over one of the more volatile issues in recent Town history: the prohibition of recreational marijuana facilities.

In November 2016 the State Election featured a ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana use and to permit licensed facilities for retail, wholesale, cultivation, and testing. Although the question passed state-wide, it was opposed in Northborough by a very slim margin.

The law was written such that, if a community took no action in its bylaws to prohibit or regulate marijuana facilities, those facilities would be permitted with little to no restriction. At the following Town Meeting in April 2017, Northborough imposed a moratorium on recreational marijuana facilities through end of June 2018, allowing a year to understand the law and the yet-to-be-written regulations, and to craft a suitable local bylaw for Town Meeting in 2018, prior to the end of the moratorium.

In late summer / early fall of 2017, this happened:

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The ARHS State Grant Apportionment Issue

In October 2006, the Algonquin Regional High School addition / renovation project was approaching completion and the Massachusetts School Building Authority was about to pay the first of two expected lump sum grant payments totaling $36M to close out its participation in the project.

A dispute arose between Northborough and Southborough as to how the grant should be apportioned and credited to each of the Towns. A few years earlier, due to the efforts of Northborough’s James Casella and Susan Sartori (Financial Planning Committee) and Elaine Kelly (Appropriations Committee), an understanding had been reached that the methodology of MGL Chapter 70B would apply; but with the passage of time and with transitions in Regional District leadership, that understanding had been lost, and the District was applying a different treatment based on the capital cost sharing formula in the Regional Agreement.

In December 2006, I made a presentation to the Nortborough Board of Selectmen, estimating that the correct treatment of the grant would favor Northborough by an additional $1.5M, compared to the treatment the District was applying.

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You Are Right. I Was Wrong.

Seven years ago, I waited in line at the Post Office while the man in front of me was being served. As the postal worker handled his transaction, she asked, as they always do:

“Would you like to purchase any stamps today?”

This set him off. No. No. He didn’t want to buy any stamps today. If he wanted to buy stamps, he’d ask for stamps. Had he asked for any stamps? No, he hadn’t. So why was she asking him if he wanted to buy any stamps today? Does she know how irritating it is for a customer to be asked if they want to buy something they don’t want to buy?

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There is no I in Dual Tax Rate

Or rather, there is no isolated I, as selectman candidate Lisa Maselli proposes as her solution to provide property tax relief for residents and local businesses.

The October 5 2017 edition of City & Town, a publication of the MA Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services, presents the article “Know Your Limits” which offers this compact summary:

Each year, every municipality must determine how much money it needs to operate and how much of that budget will come from real and personal property taxation. Before the tax rate can be set, the select board, town council or city council must also hold a public hearing known as a classification hearing to consider the percentage of the tax levy (which is the amount a community raises through the property tax) that will be paid by the owners of all classes of property: residential, open space, commercial and industrial real estate, and personal property.

All classes of property can be taxed using a single tax rate, which applies the tax burden uniformly to all classes.

As stated, the taxable property classes are Residential (R), Open Space (O), Commercial (C), Industrial (I), and Personal Property (P). Northborough generally holds its tax classification hearing in November and, historically, has maintained a single tax rate across all tax classes as a matter of policy.

Ms. Maselli wants to provide focused property tax relief to residents and local businesses, and to do that, she proposes to move to a dual tax rate structure: one that reduces some of the tax burden on both the Residential and Commercial classes by shifting it onto the Industrial class.

There are several problems with Ms. Maselli’s proposal:

  • No authority under state law to implement the proposed dual tax rate structure
  • Relative proportions of tax classes, plus tax shift constraint, limits intended effect
  • A business might not receive the benefit intended for it
  • Inequitable tax burden for town services used

I’ll start with the first of those, as it ends the debate outright and you can go back to whatever you were doing; or, if you like, continue reading for a little more depth on this topic.

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Tell Me Again About The Flash

[Originally written leading up to the 2017 town election, in response to a statement that the members of the Board of Selectmen — which included me — didn’t understand the concerns of families with young children. It may or may not be relevant for 2020, but I’m leaving it here because it’s the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m unlikely to ever write anything better.]

Tell me again.

Tell me again, because I don’t know, I don’t see, I don’t care, I don’t remember, I don’t understand.

Tell me again, because it’s gone, all gone, never happened, never did, never will.

Tell me.

Tell me again about the Flash.

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