League of Women Voters Observers Corps: Observing Marblehead Town Government in Action

Observation reports are submitted by Marblehead League of Women Voters members who have attended meetings of various town boards and commissions. Observers are solely responsible for accuracy of the information. 

Complete reports can be found on the LWV of Marblehead Website www.lwvmarblehead.org.


LWVM Observer: Maggie Smist

General manager’s report: Battery / solar update. Meeting was held last week on 10/13 which included fire, light and board of health departments. Goal was to assemble documents which would show benefits and risks of the use of residential and utility batteries. He showed all the relevant document links on a slide and suggested they go up on MMLD website after the list is vetted.

The board discussed the fire department’s cautious stance on residential batteries in Marblehead. There are issues with town permitting process due to fire department stance. Lengthy discussion followed on ConnectedHomes program and the Tesla program.

Further discussion on residential batteries will be after January 2023 when new regulations come out.

Financial update. We are looking at another 573k revenue shortfall based on cost of wholesale power this past year. War in Europe has made energy demand become worldwide issue. We need to adjust PPA once again. PPA will continue to be updated monthly likely thru April, 2023. Rate restructure will still happen in January 2023.

Operating cash is in a solid position. Non-energy expenses below budget.

There was lengthy discussion of these unprecedented conditions and how to communicate it to the public. An insert will go out with bills and through email. Jean Jacque asked if we could have a public forum which was initially discussed over the summer. 

It is to discuss the rate restructure, but the current situation will also be discussed. Two dates being considered before holidays but the board wants to check town calendar.

Ludlow Solar update: largest municipally owned project in MA. Joe attended the ceremony to open it and said it was impressive and moving. It could power 160 homes and displace 700 tons of CO2 emissions.

Strategy committee update. Jean Jacques reported that the group met two weeks ago. There was consensus that benchmark forecasting will be done at the next meeting.

Sustainability committee update. Group has met twice since last meeting. They are developing customer journey map – there were 7 action items from meeting. First item is a customer survey. They discussed survey with an individual who had proposed a survey in the past. They decided to go with this individual and will develop consolidated set of questions for the survey. Survey would go thru billing insert or on-line. It would be out over two billing cycles. Goal is to have results by January. There was discussion on how to build it and what to cover.

There was a discussion of whether the new sustainability position was posted. It has not been. There was discussion on how the position will pay for itself and how it fits in 2023 budget.

There was further discussion on having the Board and GM come up with sustainability goals which hasn’t been done yet. The starting point for the discussion is the document that Jean Jacques has put together already.

(Note: Observer had to leave the meeting at 6:55 pm.)



LWVM Observer: Kay Rieper

New Business: It was decided that the replacement pavilions at Devereux should match, and will be completed in the spring. The Chandler Hovey planting project will be completed in the spring.

There was a brief discussion of the specific criteria for field closings and reopening.

Bike Path MOU (memorandum of understanding): The town counsel has reviewed the MOU. Rick Smyers has volunteered to be the local contact who would conduct weekly inspections of the park Schools MOU: It was decided that the Chairman of the Commission needs to meet with the School Superintendent and Business manager to discuss all the things Rec and Park provides for the schools, and in exchange, Rec and Park should be given the use of the school facilities for an hour after school. The MOU needs some revision to give more emphasis to recreation.

Ongoing projects: The Devereux pavilions (under new business). There is progress on the water line to the Stramski house, getting a quote for a larger diameter pipe.

Field Report: Fall fertilizer is down. Irrigation is blown out except for the Library and the Brown School. Leaf removal is underway. Tarps will go down soon.

Recreation The largest upcoming program is the basketball program which is every day from 4:30 – 9:30 every weekday. Jaime is aiming to have more crafts programs if she can staff them.

The Indoor Park at the Community Center gym will start up again on 11/18 from 10:40 – 11:45. The COA has been very cooperative.


The Chamber of Commerce request to hold the Home and Garden show at the Community Center next spring was discussed. A fee will be decided on after considering staffing needs and other costs. A Harborview Ave. resident complained about the noise from the new pickle ball courts at Seaside.


PLANNING BOARD – November 1, 2022

LWVM Observer: Cathy Marie Michael

Agenda item: ADU, Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) meeting in preparation for the November 15th Planning Board public hearing The Planning Board has been discussing ADUs over a lengthy period. The possibility of bringing two articles to town meeting was initiated after a single draft bylaw was presented by Rebecca at a Planning Board meeting on Oct. 4. One article would cover the creation of an ADU for occupancy by a family member/caregiver. A second article would cover ADUs for other purposes such as supplemental income for a homeowner or creation of a rental unit to serve as “affordable housing.” Rebecca presented a draft proposal concerning ADUs for a family member/caregiver. (There was no time to present her draft proposal on the second article due to time constraints).

Toward the end of the meeting there was discussion about revisiting the possibility of covering both scenarios in a single warrant article.

A number of the proposed rules in the draft articles were questioned by the three board members present:

Owner allowed to construct one additional unit only – not questioned

Must be a single dwelling unit, attached or not, with one additional parking spot  – not questioned

Must be subordinate in size to main dwelling, no larger than 50 percent of main dwelling – not questioned

Dimensions to be 350-800 sq feet – questioned – why limit max to 800 sq ft? Let’s change it to 1000 sq. ft.

No short-term rentals allowed, no air bnbs allowed – not questioned

When tenant or family member vacates the dwelling the kitchen must be removed – questioned – what if someone moves in later on?

Draft document said these units, whether attached or not, should be limited to family member or caregiver

In trying to keep ADU’s as a response to Affordable Housing, the draft document said

these must be rented at not more than 70 percent of market rate – Questioned – If one of the

benefits of ADU’s is to help cash strapped Seniors, why should the Affordability burden fall on them?

The quandary arose – perhaps ADUs are not the answer to affordability.

A survey about ADUs was conducted in Summer 2022 on the town website.  A citizen was recognized and gave his view that the survey was not written well nor monitored well.

The public is invited to the public hearing on November 15 where all these questions and more will be discussed by all present.