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By Jon Bishop

AYER — Resident Patrick Hughes has filed a citizens’ petition that would limit the Planning Board’s terms from five years to three. His is the only citizen’s petition on the upcoming Oct. 27 Special Town Meeting warrant. The remaining articles are proposed by the town.

Through e-mail, Hughes, a former member of the Ayer Conservation Commission, noted “the ease with which the 114 signatures were collected by the many volunteers who gathered them in less than a week.”

According to the article summary he provided, “the five-year terms of office on the Ayer Planning Board are the longest of any elected committee in the town.”

“Frequently, members have left, leaving the posts to be filled by un-elected appointees,” it reads.

The Planning Board “requires exceptional focus and effort over those five years,” which possibly contributes “to exhaustion on the part of its volunteer members.” Members also have to stay abreast of “changes in technology, land use policy, and demographic trends.”

“Further, the aforementioned changes mean that community desires and demographic needs are constantly in flux, requiring new representation to acknowledge that,” the summary reads.

“To that end, this petition’s purpose is to reduce the Ayer Planning Board Terms of elected members from the current five years to three years, in order to ensure a more frequent and more vigorous cycle of renewal, energy, knowledge of best practices and state of the art knowledge to the Board.”

The summary notes that, under Massachusetts general laws, Chapter 40 Section 8C, Town Meeting can establish the Planning Board’s terms.

Hughes did not want to comment further.

For his part, Planning Board member Rick Roper said, “No, I would not be in favor of term limits below 5 years; it takes awhile to become comfortable and proficient in any job.”

In July, Morris Babcock, the then-Chairman of the Planning Board, resigned, citing a lack of budget, something residents eliminated at Town Meeting. Currently, the board consists of five members.

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