Reading, MA — Venetian Moon will have to remove its outdoor dining tent by August 17, according to a 3-2 vote of the Select Board on Tuesday, July 21. The issue arose when several Main Street businesses, who use the town-owned parking area where the tent is located, complained that their businesses were being adversely affected by the closed lot. The board had previously voted a change in policy to correct the issue of those businesses not having been notified prior to the change.
Both Select Board chair Mark Dockser and member Carlo Bacci reached out to several businesses, including Venetian Moon during the past weeks. Bacci reported that the owners of the restaurant were non-committal regarding the board’s suggested mitigation plan of “parklets” along the sidewalks of Woburn Street and Main Street. They also floated the August 3 date discussed by the board at its previous meeting as a possible end date for the tent. Dr. Jane Harrison, owner of the Middlesex Animal Hospital, urged the August 3 date during public comment. “We will come up with a compromise and everyone will be upset,” Dockser stated.
As the board struggled with the decision, member Vanessa Alvarado pointed out that though the board made its original decision with “incomplete information” and that she was concerned over the perception of the lack of consistency in local government once a decision is made. “People need to rely on us,” Alvarado commented. Member Karen Herrick echoed this view, also expressing concern about the investment made by Venetian Moon in hiring staff and other expenses made in good faith to open the tent. “We made a commitment.” Herrick declared.
Dockser suggested the August 17 date as it coincides with the end of Venetian Moon’s monthly lease on the tent. After consideration, Bacci and Alvarado agreed. Member Anne Landry suggested a compromise date of August 10 and voted against the motion. Herrick was the other dissenting vote.
The board received an update from a team at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) regarding the Main Street paving and road diet project. When asked about the road diet, Andy Paul from MassDOT described it as a “proven safety measure” and pointed to similar road diets that MassDOT has done in other towns. Police Chief David Clark shared that he is not convinced of the added safety of the diet, but is willing to be proven wrong. “Until the world returns to normal, we are not going to know.” Clark opined. Paul confirmed that the final decision on the road diet will only be made after comments from the community. “Local input is our number one factor [in making the decision]. Paul declared.
Community Development Director Julie Mercier presented the criteria needed for Reading to become a “Green Community.” Among these are zoning changes, updates to permitting policies, an energy reduction plan, and policy regarding fuel-efficient vehicles. Mercier shared that zoning and policy updates were underway and nearing completion. David Zeek, representing the Climate Advisory Committee, indicated that his committee would be willing to aid in the development of the two plans that are required. The Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) must also locate one investor-owned utility customer in town and adopt a renewable energy change that would need to be approved by all four member communities. David Talbot, from the RMLD Board of Commissioners, reminded the board of the importance of the shred the peak initiative and how it aids in reducing costs for everyone. He suggested the town adopt “peak day protocols” for those days when usage is at its greatest.
The board also voted 5-0 to transfer the liquor license from Reading Wine and Spirits to the Tivaan Corporation. The store is located within the Stop & Shop on Walkers Brook Drive. The board voted 5-0 to borrow $2,000,000 from free cash reserves in order to begin the Sturges Sewer Station project. The money will be returned to free cash through a bond issue by the end of the fiscal year. The board voted 5-0 to add the benefits coordinator position to the Classification Chart as a Grade F position. Dr. Richard Lopez was appointed to an associate position on the Board of Health by a vote of 5-0.
The Select Board adjourned at 10:05 pm.