2021 year in review: Southborough

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SOUTHBOROUGH – As 2021 winds down, the Community Advocate is taking a look back at major stories that shaped the past 12 months. 

From COVID-19, to town meeting debates, 2021 has been an eventful year in local news. 

Read on for our recap of this year’s top Southborough stories and check back over the coming days for similar recaps of stories from other area communities…

EDITOR’S NOTE: Click each subheadline to see a collection of articles on each of this year’s top stories.

Town Meeting approves downtown district bylaw

2021 year in review: Southborough
Photo/Laura Hayes

Voters approved a much-debated effort to create a new downtown district at Town Meeting this fall.

The bylaw added a number of permitted uses by-right including mixed-use developments, bakeries and offices and banks, among other things. Businesses such as microbreweries, exercise facilities and animal clinics are also permitted provided that they first receive a special permit from the Planning Board or the Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Proponents of the downtown district bylaw argued it would encourage investment in Southborough, updating an existing downtown zoning bylaw that was over 60 years old.

Debate continued both prior to Town Meeting and during Town Meeting itself, though, as community members discussed aspects of the bylaw, including portions concerning multi-family dwellings and by-right floor area ratio, among other things.

The bylaw ultimately passed by a two thirds majority. 

School district considers absorbing Southborough Extended Day Program

SEDP operates an after-school program at Finn Elementary School. Photo/Laura Hayes
SEDP operates an after-school program at Finn Elementary School.
(Photo/Laura Hayes)

School officials have discussed the option to absorb the Southborough Extended Day Program (SEDP) as an in-house service over multiple public meetings this year. 

SEDP has a contract to provide extended day services to Southborough families. Though that contract was slated to end in August, the district extended it after rejecting all of the bids it received through a request for proposals process this year. 

Superintendent Gregory Martineau subsequently recommended absorbing SEDP at a School Committee meeting on Dec. 10. But no action was taken at that time. 

Southborough navigates second year of COVID-19

The Margaret A. Neary Elementary School is located at 53 Parkerville Rd.
The Margaret A. Neary Elementary School is located at 53 Parkerville Rd.
(Photo/Laura Hayes)

Southborough moved through 2021 as COVID-19 continued to make its presence felt. 

Southborough was part of a regional vaccination push throughout the year, helping drive down infection rates over the summer before the Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus prompted rates to tick upwards in recent months. 

The 3.06 percent rate of COVID-19 tests coming back positive in Southborough was lower than the most recent state average of 5.66 percent between Dec. 5 and Dec. 18. 

The town has felt particularly local impacts, though, notably when school officials confirmed a cluster of 23 cases over two weeks at the Neary Elementary School this fall.