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Andover’s Annual Town Meeting will open as scheduled after Essex County Judge Salim Tabit denied an Andover man’s request on Thursday for a preliminary injunction to force the Town to reschedule it for a Saturday.
High Street resident Donal Coleman filed his emergency petition in Lawrence Superior Court last week, claiming Annual Town Meeting would violate the American With Disabilities Act if held at 7 p.m. Monday. Coleman asked for an emergency injunction and for the Town to move Town Meeting to a Saturday morning to make it easier for seniors and disable voters to attend.
In its response to Coleman’s handwritten complaint against the Andover Town Clerk, the Town argued Coleman had not cited any case law supporting his claim. Town Counsel Tom Urbelis also noted that only the select board — not the Town Clerk — has the authority to change the date of the meeting. He argued the Town would incur costs to notify residents of the change and would not have time to notify voters before Monday.
“The Complaint does not articulate any specific irreparable harm to this Plaintiff if the request for a preliminary injunction is denied,” Urebelis wrote in the response. “The Court should also weigh the risk of harm to the public interest when deciding this request for a preliminary injunction…The public interest is not served by having residents, who have not received the required notice of the rescheduling of the Annual Town Meeting appear on May 1, 2023 to no meeting.”
More coverage of the 2023 Annual Town on Andover News.
The Town Governance Study Committee had a subcommittee consider the time and location of Town Meeting. The study committee recommended the Town continue holding the election in March and Annual Town Meeting in May, but having newly-elected officials take office after Annual Town Meeting when it submitted its 198-page report in December.
In surveys conducted by the study committee, 130 of 288, or 45.1 percent, of respondents said time conflicts prevented them from attending town meeting. Of the respondents who wanted to keep Andover’s open town meeting form of government, 7 percent said the Town should consider changing the meeting time and location.