Due to an anomaly in the newspaper production calendar, this column had to be written before Town Meeting, even though it has to appear in the Ipswich Chronicle after Town Meeting.
This scheduling situation required me to put the finishing touches on my commemorative “Back to the Future II” time machine, travel forward in time about 48 hours, land on Tuesday evening, park the time machine on School Street, sit through Town Meeting, take notes, get back in the time machine, travel back to Sunday evening, park the time machine back behind my garage (please don’t pull over on Randall Road and get out of your car just to peek under that blue tarp), and write this column.
It’s possible that my time machine is not yet entirely functional — I’ve consulted certain experts in Town Hall, who suggest that my time machine is essentially imaginary — but in any case, I’ll tell you what I think I saw at Town Meeting, and you can draw your own conclusions, and feed back accordingly.
Fifteen or so articles came before the voters. I won’t bore you with all the details — you’ve already sat through Town Meeting, and believe me, once is enough — but here are the highlights:
- Voters were asked what to do with the extra $60,000 that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts graciously bestowed upon the Town of Ipswich this year. Our selectmen proposed putting it aside for contingencies, but there was a massive outcry from the citizenry, who voted overwhelmingly to spend the whole $60K on a feasibility study.
- Selectmen proposed lowering the age of eligibility for property tax exemptions from 70 years to 65 years. The meeting was temporarily disrupted when wailing was heard from the back row, as a certain Ipswich resident, who will turn 70 next month, grieved over the five years of taxes he just finished paying.
- Our Cemetery & Parks Department wanted to buy a mini-excavator for $65,000. The grave-diggers’ lobby prevailed.
- The Planning Board proposed that all solar panels be regulated — no more exemptions for residential units. This article was inspired by a solar panel that reflected sunlight so intensely onto a neighbor’s property, the lawyers had to wear welding helmets. Town Meeting voters approved the residential regulations, but added an amendment stipulating that schoolboys can still use magnifying glasses to fry ants.
- A related article was intended to protect access to sunlight for people who install solar panels: no fencing or hedge-planting to keep out the glare. The fence-building union and the Hedge-Planting Division of the Ipswich Shade Tree Beautification Committee mounted a massive campaign to kill this article.
- In the never-ending conflict over inns and B&Bs, the Planning Board proposed a novel solution: a new kind of permit, but to be granted only after a new kind of hearing. At Town Meeting, the people spoke. They recognized that the Planning Board, in their wisdom, had not only untied the Gordian knot of the inn-and-B&B issue, but also addressed a much larger problem: Ipswich’s sad shortage of permits and hearings. Article approved! Another permit! Another hearing! We’re safe now. Ipswich will not be overrun by outsiders setting up inns all over Ipswich. This is far more efficient than the alternative idea, occasionally bandied about by gatherings of concerned citizens at Sofia’s and Zumi’s: A huge wall could be erected around the entire town, which would avoid the obvious most dangerous risk — hordes of illegal immigrants coming in and setting up even more inns, which would give even more tourists, God forbid, even more places to lodge, God forbid, while visiting our fair town — thereby drawing into our town even more suspect out-of-towners and even more polluted tourist dollars. The obviously valid idea of a massive protective wall to keep our local economy free from the contamination of tourist dollars will certainly be considered again in the future, I imagine.
- Article 10 was housekeeping stuff intended to fix ambiguities, omissions, and inaccuracies in the zoning bylaws. The article failed because voters couldn’t understand it.
- The article preventing non-residents from sitting on town committees was amended to specify that non-residents could serve but not vote, and — and this was the crucial amendment — non-resident members of town committees would have to clear their opinions in advance with The Outsidah.
- A proposal to ban “certain types of knives with blades or weapon-like objects” was voted down because it would stand in the way of folks from driving over to their friends’ houses for potlucks where they planned to stab their lovers’ spouses.
Doug Brendel tinkers with his backyard time machine on outer Linebrook. Follow him by clicking “Follow” on your screen now.