Town Resolutions, By-Laws and Ordinances


Massachusetts rules on town meetings, by-laws, ordinances, resolutions
Keep in mind that each town’s method of getting articles on the warrant for town meeting are slightly different (especially the dates of the Town Meeting and the closing date for getting signatures in support of articles in to the Select board.).
Here’s info from the Mass Secretary of State on how many signatures are needed to get an item on the warrant:

May voters place articles on the warrant?

Yes, voters may “insert” articles in the warrant. They have to do it before selectmen “close” the warrant.

To insert an article in the warrant for an annual Town Meeting, at least 10 registered voters of the town must sign a written request. The written      request of registered voters for the insertion of subjects in town meeting warrants shall not be valid unless the required number of registered voters not only sign their names but also state their residence, with street and number, if any. Voters do not have to include their addresses after their signatures, but it is a good idea.

If you want a sample of an article to use to draft your article, go to town hall and ask for a copy of the annual report, or check if your town has a website and publishes the annual report there. The annual report will have warrants from the previous year’s Town Meeting, which you can use as samples. For further assistance, contact the town clerk or town counsel.

Citizens may insert an article in the warrant for a special Town Meeting. Selectmen shall insert in the warrant for every special town meeting all      subjects which shall be requested by 100 registered voters or 10% of the total number of voters, whichever is lesser.

Find out when the dates of both town meeting and the deadline for getting articles on the warrant are. If you’ve missed them, then a special town meeting can still be called. It usually requires more signatures and may cost the town additional $$, sometimes making them reluctant to hold the special meeting.
More from the Sec of State site:

For more details, look at your town’s by-laws.

Where do I find the statutes governing Town Meetings?

Go to your local library. Ask to see the Massachusetts General Laws, chapters 39 and 43A. Parts of other chapters apply to Town Meetings, but chapters 39 and 43A are the major ones. Check with your town clerk if your Town Meeting is governed by special act or town charter.

Where do I get my town’s by-laws?

Call your town hall and ask the clerk’s office. When you ask for the by-laws, also ask if the Massachusetts Legislature has passed any law that applies specifically to your town or if your town has accepted any specific Massachusetts General Laws.

Where do I get my town’s charter?

Ask the clerk’s office or check your town’s website.

The differences between ordinances, by-laws and resolutions can get a bit fuzzy if you’re new to the process. The biggest difference between the others and a resolution is that a resolution is not legally binding. It’s more of a way of formalizing a position and/or aspirational goals of a municipality.
According to US-Legal, ordinances are defined this way:

An ordinance is generally used to designate a local law of a municipal corporation, duly enacted by the proper authorities that prescribe general, uniform, and permanent rules of conduct, relating to the corporate affairs of the municipality[i].  An ordinance, a local law, or a regulation enacted by a city council or other similar body under powers delegated to it by the state is legislative in nature by its own definition[ii].

A local ordinance is a municipal legislative enactment.  An ordinance passed in pursuance of express legislative authority is a law and has the same effect as a local law, and it may prevail over a general law upon the same subject[iii].  Therefore, an ordinance is equal to a municipal statute and it governs matters not already covered by federal or state law.

An ordinance is a legislative act and a resolution is an expression of opinion or mind or policy concerning some particular item of business coming within the legislative body’s official cognizance

• Open Law Library has an article on how to craft town by-laws and city ordinances that was written by a former Asst. Attorney General for Mass.
• Certain by-laws need to then be approved by the Attorney General’s office. It’s best to check with the Atty. General’s Office Municipal Law Unit. Either way, that process would happen AFTER it’s passed locally.


» Berlin Resolution Against NED
» Boston – Resolution Affirming that the Climate Crisis is a Health Emergency
Regarding Management and Elimination of Natural Gas Leaks
» Buckland – Community Rights Resolution
» LynnfieldDenial of Permission to Survey for NED,
» Montague
Scoping statement for NED,
» North Adams – Resolution Against NED,
» Northampton –
» Northfield

Town Report on Concerns Expected from NED,
Analysis of Alternative Winter Reliability Solutions for New England Energy Markets by EnergyZT,
Addendum to FERC comments on NED,
» Townsend
Board of Selectmen letter against NED,
» Warwick
FERC Scoping Testimony,
Conservation Commission Scoping Statement for NED,
» Weymouth – School Committee Resolution Against Compressor Station
» Wilmington
Scoping statement for NED,
» Williamstown
Resolution Against NED,
» WinchendonTown Meeting Warrant,
» WindsorResolution in Support of 100% Renewable Energy,

—— Plastic Bag Bans in Massachusetts (from Mass Green Network)

» MerrimackComplaint to FERC regarding access agreement for NED,
Complaint to FERC regarding communications with TGP on NED,
» RichmondBoard of Selectmen Scoping statement for NED,
» SharonBoard of Selectmen Scoping statement for NED,

» Nassau
Town of Nassau Scoping statement for NED,
Further Scoping statements for NED,


» Longmeadow, MA Zoning By-Law
» Windsor, MA Zoning By-Law for Large Scale Industrial and Commercial Buildings

»» See’s Fossil Fuel Free program’s Fossil Fuel Policy Resolution