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Made last year, broken this year

By M.E. Jones


HARVARD – Billy Salter said he recalls a “lively discussion” at a selectmen’s meeting a year ago, when he and other Elm Street residents came to a public hearing held to issue a one-day entertainment license to their neighbor, the Unitarian Church.

At that time, members of the Harvard Schools Trust and “a couple of church representatives” sought the license to hold the Trust’s annual gala at the church.

Residents described problems created in the neighborhood when other events were held at the church hall, such as parties that lasted too long, lack of management and parking. They and asked the board to add requirements such as appointing a responsible person to oversee events and to limit parking to one side of the narrow street.

Tuesday night, Salter said the problems have not been resolved.

Despite “explicit” directives the church agreed to abide by, when a craft fair was held there recently, cars were parked on both sides of the street and one parked in front of his driveway, he said.

He called the police. But the officer said that since there’s another way into the driveway, it wasn’t blocked and the police don’t have authority to issue tickets. He was told nothing could be done, Salter said.

But in his view, the church could have prevented the problem by posting signs or simply letting people know where they should park.

Abutters wanted the church to “manage this property,” Salter said.

Representatives promised to “work with neighbors” and to leave contact information with the public safety dispatcher. But that has not happened, he said.

Nor was there any attempt to communicate until earlier this month, when abutters received an apologetic letter from the church, informing them of the upcoming gala. They received no notice about the craft fair, he said.

Back in April, 2011, after the hearing, the selectmen issued the one-day entertainment license for the Harvard Schools Trust, with conditions attached.

This year, they issued the license – including a one-day liquor license – without holding a public hearing. Salter was surprised. “Technically and in fact, a public hearing was required,” he opined, citing bylaws and other reasons.

But Chairman Marie Sobalvarro said the board followed policy.

“We heard there were no issues last year” and thus were not required to hold subsequent hearings, she said, noting the same procedure used for temporary entertainment licenses issued to the Lions Club for its annual event in town.

As for parking, she said that if a vehicle poses a risk to public safety, the police can have it towed.

But even if the board followed the rules, the church didn’t meet commitments made last year amid “all the fuss,” Salter continued. “This is not being a good neighbor, and one apology letter is not good enough.”

“This is a small town,” he concluded. “If this is going to be a party house, they (the church) should do the right thing.”

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