Naming policy work continues

Written by Susanna Sheehan
 | Thursday, 03 April 2014 14:49

Last week, Duxbury selectmen continued a discussion on moving forward with a policy for naming public properties. They first discussed this topic in January after a group of concerned citizens asked about the town’s procedures for naming public lands.


These residents felt it is important that the town notify the public when a location is being considered to be named. In recent years, varying town properties have been named for people who have made important contributions to the community, such as the Joseph Shea memorial roundabout on Congress Street and the Lieutenant Timothy Steele Field House on St. George Street. 

In January, Town Manager René Read presented selectmen with two draft naming policies that differed in who makes the final decision to name properties - the selectmen or town meeting. Read said that after checking with town counsel, he learned that authority to name properties rests with the organization that has the care of the properties. However, a bylaw could be enacted giving town meeting this authority, he said.

Selectmen did not favor creating a bylaw but they felt that town meeting’s involvement would allow more people to participate in the naming decision.

Nancy Melia is part of the group who wanted a town property naming policy. She said she wasn’t aware the board might consider a bylaw and felt that just having some sort of policy was a step in the right direction.

“Right now there isn’t any type of a procedure,” she said. “We were looking for something that would guide the public and we were looking for more awareness.”

Also, Melia felt that the town should consider more generic names for places that were based on historical or cultural significance. She said the selectmen should decide on a name and then take it to town meeting for input.

Read said he would create an ad hoc committee to work on the naming policy and he asked Melia to be on it.

The first draft of the naming policy stated that anyone, including town officials and members of the public, could propose a name for a public place as long as the request was in writing and was supported by the signatures of 50 or more registered voters. Priority would be given to names with geographical, historical, or cultural significance to an area or to the whole town. A property could be named after an individual or organization that has made a significant financial or civic contribution or who played a leadership role in the town such as through distinguished military service, public safety or public office. Quality of contribution and length of service would be considered, according to the draft policy.

The draft policy would require selectmen to announce at a public meeting that they are going to discuss the naming request and then bring it up at a future meeting in order to let the public know about it. The selectmen could also solicit the advice of the Duxbury Historical Commission, sur- rounding property owners, residents, town officials and others who might contribute meaningful input.