The Board of Selectmen is considering adopting a policy for the naming of public places.
Town Manager René Read presented them with two draft naming policies at their Jan. 13 meeting. The two options differ in who makes the final decision: in one, the selectmen get to decide on the names of public places; in the other, town meeting will cast its vote. The board currently has the power to name town properties.
“The Board of Selectmen believe that the naming of public property such as buildings, parks, squares and ways is a matter of great importance and deserves careful consideration,” stated the draft policy.
The policy will “establish a systematic and consistent approach” for naming town property.
In recent years, varying town properties have received names meant to honor those people who have made important contributions to the community. For example, long-time town volunteer and veteran Joseph Shea was honored after his death by having the town name the Congress Street roundabout after him. Last year, the new high school field house was named after Lieutenant Timothy Steele, a 2004 Duxbury High School graduate who was killed in action in 2011. Also in 2011, Town Meeting named a piece of land off Mayflower street the David S. Cutler forest to honor the late Duxbury Clipper publisher for his work to preserve open space.
Read prepared the new naming policy after looking at those from a number of towns including Essex, Wellesley and Hingham.
The policy states that anyone, including town officials and members of the public, can propose a name for a public place as long as the request is in writing and is supported by the signatures of 50 or more registered voters.
Priority will be given to names that carry geographical, historical, or cultural significance to an area or to the whole town, the policy states. A property can 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 will be considered, the policy states.
The policy requires 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 may also solicit the advice of the Duxbury Historical Commission, surrounding property owners, residents, town officials and anyone else they think may contribute meaningful input.
Selectmen discussed which option they liked better, having the sole discretion to vote on naming public property or having town meeting do it. Selectmen chairman David Madigan called town meeting “a more conservative way to go” but all selectmen worried that an amendment might be made at town meeting that could change the proposed name to something else. Read planned to check with town counsel to see if there was a way to prevent a naming article from being changed at town meeting.
Selectman Shawn Dahlen said the new policy was not an effort to begin naming lots of town properties but it was a process for the board to follow when the issue arose.
“It doesn’t happen that often,” he said.
Nancy Melia is part of a group who wanted a town property naming policy and she said it was important that residents are notified when a name and location are being considered.
“We were looking for transparency,” Melia said. “We’re looking for something that gives this information to a wide cross section of the community before the decision is made.”
Selectmen will wait for the information from town counsel regarding town meeting before adopting the policy at an upcoming meeting.