Published September 18, 2019


LYNNFIELD — With the Special Town Meeting just a week away, Town Moderator Joseph Markey has developed some new rules for the special session and future sessions.

The Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail submitted a citizens’ petition last month requesting a Special Town Meeting in order to appropriate $348,000 to cover the $10 million rail trail’s final design engineering costs. There are no other articles appearing at the Special Town Meeting, which will be held on Thursday, Sept. 26, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Lynnfield Middle School auditorium.

A quorum of 175 voters is needed in order to hold the session and vote on the requested appropriation.

“The purpose of Town Meeting is to establish and update the bylaws, operational policies, budgets and land use rules that govern our town,” Markey stated in a letter sent to the Villager. “Lynnfield’s Open Town Meeting has been in force as our form of government since 1782. It represents the purest form of democracy in that every vote truly counts. Each registered voter is guaranteed an equal voice in the decisions made by the meeting. These rules are historically based on the traditions established by generations of Lynnfield citizens and by other New England communities, acting as legislators of their local governments.”

Similar to recent Town Meetings, Markey said electronic check-in and electronic voting will be used for the Special Town Meeting on Sept. 26. Residents are encouraged to check-in between 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. in order to allow the quorum to be met and the meeting to begin at 7 p.m. One must be present at the meeting to vote because absentee voting at town meetings is prohibited.

“Votes will be recorded by an electronic clicker,” said Markey. “The two buttons that are utilized on the clicker are number 1 and number 2. To vote yes, press number 1. To vote no, press number 2. The last vote that is entered will be registered as your vote. Voting is open for 20 seconds upon the moderator calling for a vote.”

While most of the Town Meeting rules are similar to previous years, Markey has implemented a new rule pertaining to residents and representatives who have a financial interest associated with a warrant article.

“Any person who has a financial interest in an article under discussion shall make a disclosure of that interest before speaking,” Markey stated. “The employment, whether paid or unpaid, of any person acting as an attorney, engineer, architect, land surveyor, broker, consultant, agent or in any other capacity by a person interested in the article under discussion shall be disclosed before that person speaks.”

Markey noted rail trail abutters as well as abutters to future projects will be required to disclose that information to Town Meeting. He said, “an abutter is defined as a property directly adjacent to the subject property, and a property directly across the road to the subject property.”

“Being an abutter to a project constitutes having a financial interest in an article before Town Meeting,” stated Markey. “Violations of such disclosure or refusal to disclose the required information is on the honor system, but it may result in revocation of the speaker’s right to be heard on the matter then before Town Meeting. Disclosure is not generally required of voters who are utilizing and/or are beneficiaries of town services such as public safety, public works and public utilities or parents of children in public schools. However, if the speaker has a personal financial interest beyond what is reasonably available to all eligible citizens, disclosure is required.”

Markey also said, “There may be no distribution of handouts, signage or other collateral within the confines of the meeting place at any time, whether while gathering together or during conduct of the Town Meeting.”

“Handouts or other illustrative materials may be distributed outside the meeting hall, upon the permission of the moderator, for informational purposes only,” said Markey. “For anyone who has submitted a citizens’ petition that is included on the meeting warrant, Lynnfield’s bylaws allows for presentations – in favor of and opposed to the article. For anyone wishing to make a presentation, you first must contact the moderator for permission. Please also refer to Lynnfield’s Bylaw Article IV, Section 45-5 of Chapter 45.”

Markey also encouraged rail trail supporters and opponents to remain civil.

“All remarks should be addressed to and through the moderator, for the benefit of all attendees,” Markey stated. “Direct questioning of others is not permitted. Questions may be directed, through the moderator, to any petitioner, speaker or official and, if determined germane by the moderator, the person asked will have the immediate opportunity to answer should they choose. Please refrain from inappropriate applause or negative responses during discussions. Keeping remarks brief and relevant shows respect for the value of your neighbors’ time. The most persuasive statements at Town Meeting are often those succinctly stated, disclosing new facts or arguments in an effort to advance a position while retaining the audience’s full attention.”

Similar to previous Town Meetings, Markey said the Sept. 26 session will allow amendments.

“An amendment changing or limiting the main motion can be offered during the course of debate,” said Markey. “The moderator may rule an amendment out of order if it is beyond the scope of the warrant article. The moderator will redirect the discussion to consider the proposed amendment once it is properly before the meeting. The party proposing such motion shall concisely state, to the meeting, the consequence of the amendment on the existing main motion and/or article being considered. Should further reference or context be necessary to provide the meeting with full understanding of the amendment, then this shall be allowed at the moderator’s discretion.”

If residents have any questions about the Special Town Meeting’s procedures, they can email Markey at