Wellesley Select Board approves Town Meeting going fully remote, though with regrets

Wellesley’s Select Board on Tuesday approved a motion allowing Annual Town Meeting to be held remotely instead of in person come March 28. Their hope is that Special Town Meeting in the full will return to an in-person event.

Annual Town Meeting was to have been held at Wellesley Middle School in person, until state legislation allowed a return to the remote format used last time around in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID-19-related restrictions have begun to loosen—the town’s municipal building mask mandate lifts on March 7—the timing of the meeting is still on the fringe of where many might be uncomfortable meeting en masse in person.

“The discussion really has been trying to ensure that the greatest number of Town Meeting members can attend,” Select Board Chair Tom Ulfelder said. He added later: “When we’re hearing from quite a cross-section of people that they they are not yet comfortable going to Town Meeting, I think we do have an obligation to try and ensure that every one of among the 240 elected members are comfortable attending.”

He complimented the town on the way it has run Town Meeting remotely in the past, but acknowledged it isn’t the same when you think of the energy and historic tradition of New England Town Meetings.

The Board unanimously approved allowing the meeting to take place online.

“I sadly support this, I wish we were in a different place…” said Board Member Ann-Mara Lanza.

“I support this although it does sadden me that we will be remote again because I do think the discussion’s different and the sense of community making decisions is different. So I hope we get back in person soon, but understand the realities of the moment.”

One upside of holding the meeting online-only, aside from health-based ones, is that attendance is greatly boosted.