AYER -- Selectmen have acted on a legal opinion from town counsel claiming that a plan to develop acres of private land into a 34-lot subdivision off Pleasant Street is in violation of state law.

Selectmen authorized town counsel to issue a demand from the owner, listed in subdivision plans as C.J. Moore, for a notice of intent to develop.

The opinion states that under Chap. 61 of state law, the town should be given the right-of-first-refusal for land classified as forest land. The opinion also states that the land was sold for residential use without a notice of an intent to sell, which the law requires.

Resident Beth Suedmeyer said that if plans are being made to seek permits to develop, it is not in violation of Chap. 61. When it is really, is the intent to proceed with the development, she said, then notice would need to be given to the town to initiate the right of first refusal.

But she said she has asked the Department of Conservation and Recreation to look into whether there are any violations of a conservation management plan that's on file with the state.

The Planning Board voted to approve a preliminary plan for the subdivision at its last meeting, also approving a final, definitive plan for an eight-lot subdivision off of Nashua Street proposed by Moore's father, Calvin.

The approvals have caused a wave of concern from affected residents near Pleasant and Nashua streets.


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Selectmen Chairman Chris Hillman clarified that the board is not insinuating that Moore has done anything wrong.

"We're just making sure the process for everybody is done correctly," he said.

Selectman Jannice Livingston addressed the selectmen's role in the current predicament with the Planning Board, which has had no budget since voters zeroed it out at Town Meeting.

Citing a lack of action from selectmen and the need for a budget, Chairman Morris Babcock resigned.

Babcock had said that he had requested from the selectmen that they hold a special Town Meeting to re-fund the board, but received no action.

But Livingston said that the board was never asked to hold a special Town Meeting. She also argued that Town Meeting is built of resident voters, and is not a Board of Selectmen meeting.

"The Board of Selectmen cannot override what goes on in Town Meeting just because four people decide to walk up to our table and say, 'Hey, we want you to do something,'" she said, referencing a previous meeting in which Planning Board members came before selectmen and addressed funding.

She also argued that the Board of Selectmen has been willing to use its paper to help print Planning Board agendas. Somehow, she said, it's the selectmen's fault that the Planning Board couldn't have a meeting.

"Sorry folks, it's not our fault," she said. "We allowed you to have a democracy and vote."

The board also heard from residents who were frustrated with the fact that they were told that the next meeting regarding the curbside trash pickup would be tonight, Aug. 19.

After selectmen clarified that that the next meeting on the proposal will be on Aug. 26, former selectman Pauline Conley presented a petition with 603 signatures that urged the board to keep the transfer station open.

She argued that two of the three selectmen have already publicly stated their positions to keep the transfer station open.

Selectman Gary Luca, who spoke at the public input meeting in July on the matter, said if he wanted to change his mind he would. He said he has asked for financial figures on the project, and will look through them to see if it's a viable option.

"That's when I'll make that decision, at that time, and it's no flip-flopping or anything else," he said. "It's gathering all the information and making an educated decision."

Snow-plowing on private roads came up again with Department of Public Works Superintendent Mark Wetzel, who presented a potential policy for plowing private roads.

Although the town has already accepted the state law that allows the department to plow private roads, Wetzel said the policy lays out the responsibilities of abutters. 

The policy states the department will do yearly inspections of each private road to see if it meets standards needed for snow plowing. It also requires minimum travel width and clearances for private roads.

Livingston asked why the issue was coming up if the department had been plowing these roads after all these years.

Wetzel said it suggests a policy to define the plowing of private ways. Old Groton Road became an issue, he said, because residents complained that it wasn't being plowed to their satisfaction.

"The reason why was because it didn't meet any of these standards," he said.

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