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By Richard McDonough
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
On May 2, Westwood residents will come together to vote on articles that will decide the next stage of Westwood’s development. With recent law changes, retail developments, and zoning concerns, the Finance and Warrant Commission met for their final public hearing to vote on their recommendations for the town of Westwood. Their responsibilities to the town include analyzing proposed articles that will be voted on by town members in May.
Additionally, they are asked to make recommendations on whether or not they believe an article is beneficial for the town. After weeks of discussion and input from members of the town, Tuesday, March 28, culminated in the final decision regarding the recommendations issued by the Finance and Warrant Commission.
While several articles were unanimously voted for recommendation with little resistance, there were naturally articles that required lengthier debate - and even then, they did not receive unanimous approval.
Among the most controversial items discussed regarded the town’s stance on non-medical marijuana use. There was some discussion about ambiguous language in the proposed article, but the board ultimately approved to recommend the town accept Article K, which prohibits the use of medical and non-medical marijuana in public dwellings. Police Chief Jeffrey Silva was there to comment on the proposed laws intent.
“We just want to make sure that anyone who does not want to inhale marijuana smoke does not have to,” stated Silva.
Following the same guidelines in place for the use of tobacco products, Westwood is taking proactive steps in adjusting to a Massachusetts where marijuana is a legal substance. While the use and possession are now accepted, smoking in a public places is something the town wishes to guard against.
While Massachusetts legislation changes, so do the communities that make up the Commonwealth. Without question, the hot-button issue addressed in these public hearings revolved around the recent developments taking place in Islington center. While already having updates made to Morrison Field, the Post Office building, and ongoing development of the new Islington Fire House, the village center is still the focus of commercial developers. One building that has already been erected on Washington Street has drawn criticism for being intrusive to the properties it borders. Citizens voiced their concerns that the building does not adhere to the village charm in keeping with surrounding area.
While little can be done about the building that has already been constructed, there are concerns about proposed development involving the Islington Community Center. Currently, there are several propositions the Islington task force has considered, outlining a plan where the town works with a private developer to develop apartment in the lots surrounding the intersection of School and Washington. Additionally, the plan includes a new building for CVS and relocating the Library. Many feel that this will destroy the village feel that draws so many people to Westwood. While the Planning Board understands these concerns, they believe that it is in the best long-term interest of the town to invest in projects that will promote housing diversity and space for commercial business.
While the Planning Board can only make recommendations on how the town residents should vote, the decision ultimately lies in the hands of the people. While the final recommendations have been made, Town Meeting will decide which articles are passed and in which direction Westwood will move.