From the Town Administrator's Desk

Nov 10

From the Town Administrator's Desk - November 10, 2023

Posted on November 10, 2023 at 4:07 PM by Tiffany Marletta

November 10, 2023
November 13th Special Town Meeting: Citizen Initiated Articles
By Gregory T. Federspiel

At the upcoming Special Town Meeting, set for this coming Monday, November 13, beginning at 6:30PM in the gymnasium of the Memorial School, 14 articles will be presented to voters for action. Last week I provided information on Articles 1-10. This week the focus is on four articles that were initiated by residents, not by a Town board.

Citizens can petition to place articles on any Town Meeting warrant. For this Special Town Meeting, four petition articles were submitted to the Select Board for inclusion. Because there were a few questions about whether the petitioners met every detail for successfully putting an article on a warrant, the Select Board, determining that the spirit of the law was met, has put these four articles on the warrant under their own authority. Doing so avoids debating whether the articles are properly before voters and will allow residents to concentrate on the merits of the articles.

Article 11 asks voters to authorize the Select Board to acquire the building that has been the home of the private, non-profit Manchester Community Center (MCC.) The article states that the acquisition should be by purchase or eminent domain. An easement for access to the building from Beach Street over property owner by Harbor’s Point Associates is to be included. The vote will also include a sum of money to be allocated for the acquisition costs (currently suggested to be $350,000.) Furthermore, the proponents of the article want the property to be resold to the MCC through a negotiated payment plan between the Town and the MCC.

This article differs from Article 8, which the Select Board and Finance Committee prefer. In Article 8, voters are being asked to authorize the Select Board to enter into a 10-year renewable lease for the same building to be used for a variety of community uses, including continued use by the MCC. A $10,000 appropriation is sought to help pay for building utilities. Both articles are aimed at continuing the use of the building for community purposes. The private, non-profit MCC was on a month to month lease of the land on which their building sits. However, this lease is being terminated and, per the signed lease agreement between MCC and Harbor’s Point Associates, unless the MCC relocates the building, the building ownership transfers to Harbor’s Point Associates. The Select Board believes the quickest and most assured means of continuing the use of the building for community purposes is through a new lease arrangement.

Article 12 asks voters to adopt a new local bylaw that requires all zoning amendments to be approved by a ballot vote as part of a local election in addition to being approved at a Town Meeting. The Town has a special act that was approved back in 1991 that is referenced in the article which allows for certain questions to require a ballot vote if voters so choose. Town Counsel researched the applicability of this special act to the zoning approval process and does not believe it applies. There is case law which concluded the approval process of zoning matters as specified in state statutes cannot be altered by local bylaws. For these reasons, Town Counsel does not believe the Attorney General’s Office, which must approve all local bylaws, will approve this proposal. Voters can still proceed to see what the AG’s Office will do. Currently, the 1991 Special Act has been used for bond votes over $1.0 million. Otherwise, most issues that come before voters are debated and decided at a Town Meeting.

Articles 13 and 14 relate to the Town owned lands comprising Powder House Hill. Four parcels make up the bulk of the holding and these parcels were handed over to the “care, custody, control and management” of the Conservation Commission in a Town Meeting vote back in 1977. The lands have long been used for passive recreation purposes. Given this history, Town Counsel believes these lands are already considered to be “Article 97” lands and fall under the protection of this article of the Amendments to the Commonwealth’s constitution. Nevertheless, Article 13 seeks affirmation that the lands are subject to the dictates of Article 97 meaning that it takes a 2/3rds vote of the state legislators (both the House and Senate) in addition to other measures before such lands can be put to a different use.

Article 14 asks voters to authorize the Select Board to convey a conservation easement to a third-party entity whose purpose is land conservation. Before doing so, the multiple steps that Article 97 requires would have to be met.

For the full warrant and other information related to Monday’s Special Town Meeting, please visit the Town’s website. See you Monday evening!

Nov 03

From the Town Administrator's Desk - November 3, 2023

Posted on November 3, 2023 at 4:45 PM by Tiffany Marletta

November 3, 2023
November 13th Special Town Meeting Details
By Gregory T. Federspiel

The warrant is set for the Special Town Meeting scheduled for Monday, November 13, 6:30PM, at the Memorial School. 14 articles are on tap. The warrant along with the proposed bylaw changes can be found on the Town’s website. A special “Q & A” session will be hosted by the Select Board on Tuesday, November 7, 6:30PM, at Town Hall to answer questions residents may have about any of the articles. (This is for answering questions, not debating the merits of any given article – save the debate for November 13!)

Four of the articles seek supplemental funding for the current year’s budget. Article 2 seeks voter approval of $30,000 for additional computer security measures being recommended by our IT collaborative group. Article 3 seeks up to $80,000 for the Town’s share of an operational review of the School District aimed at determining if there are additional opportunities for greater efficiencies and cost savings. In Article 5, approval is sought for $916 to pay expenses from prior fiscal years (state law requires specific voter approval for paying prior year expenses.) And finally, in Article 6, voters will be asked to approve the purchase of a new utility vehicle for the Fire Department using funds left over from the recent appropriation for a new ladder truck. This new vehicle is needed as a non-transport paramedic response vehicle instead of using the larger pumper truck for this purpose.

Four other articles involve amendments to our general and zoning bylaws. Article 1 proposes to change the date of the Annual Town Meeting from the first Monday in April to the fourth Monday in April. The extra three weeks will provide additional time to assemble the most accurate budget numbers possible before asking voters to approve the upcoming fiscal year expenditures. Often it is not until the very end of March that budgets for such items as employee/retiree health insurance are known, making for a difficult scramble to have the right numbers ready for an early April vote.

Article 4 comes to us from the Planning Board and proposes to amend the Table of uses in Section 4.2 of the Zoning Bylaws. Currently existing outbuildings can be used as living space for employees of the owner-occupied property. The proposal would eliminate this restriction and allow anyone to live in the unit after a special permit has been granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Short term rentals of the unit would be prohibited.

Articles 9 and 10 seek changes to the parking bylaws. Article 9 would amend the current bylaw by removing the specific location of resident stickers on vehicles allowing the Select Board and staff to specify where the stickers should go (currently the bylaw says on the rear left side window but many of today’s cars have tinted side windows that make seeing the stickers difficult.) The process for obtaining stickers is also made more general to allow adjustments as needed. Also, instead of listing all the streets where resident only parking is permitted, the proposed bylaw has the Select Board determining the list after holding a public hearing. This avoids having to wait until a Town Meeting to adjust the list.

Article 10 seeks to amend the current prohibition on parking along Beach Street east of Tappan Street by allowing two new parking spaces just past Tappan as you head toward the beach. These two spaces would make up for the two spaces that will be lost when a new crosswalk is placed across Beach Street between Harbor’s Point and Reed Park. The crosswalk is needed to better accommodate train travelers in particular. The parking prohibition was recently put into place after the approval of a citizen’s

petition article to remove the 30 or so parking spaces that were added between Tappan and Old Neck Road along Beach Street.

Article 8 asks voters to authorize the Select Board to enter into a renewable, 10-year, nominal cost lease with Harbor’s Point Associates for the use of the Community Center Building. The private, non-profit Manchester Community Center (MCC) is a private, non-profit organization and its lease ended necessitating the need for a new arrangement. The Town has been offered the opportunity to become the new lease holder and will be able to work with the private, non-profit MCC under a shared cost arrangement to continue their use of the building while also expanding the use to new Town uses (public restrooms, regular meeting space, Harbor Master Office, etc.)

Four other articles originated as citizen petition articles – more on these next week.

Oct 31

From the Town Administrator's Desk - October 31, 2023

Posted on October 31, 2023 at 10:03 AM by Tiffany Marletta

October 31, 2023
Various updates - Carnival, MBTA Task Force, STM
By Gregory T. Federspiel

First up, a big thank you to the organizers of the Booster Club’s Harvest Carnival held at Masconomo Park. Despite the deluge of rain on Saturday, carnival goers on Friday and Sunday seemed to thoroughly enjoy the return of this Manchester tradition. The event allowed the community to gather, enjoy the rides, games, and food, and raise money for local athletics – a great combination all around!

Appreciation is also extended to Town Staff that worked with the organizers to help make the carnival event go smoothly. There are lots of details that go into these undertakings and the cooperation among various departments and the volunteers allowed for a nice event.  

The MBTA Task Force held a well-attended public forum on the Town Common in front of Town Hall.  A rare sunny Saturday morning welcomed some 70 residents who heard an overview of the work of the Task Force and the parameters of the state mandate under which we are working.  A robust question and answer period allowed for a good exchange of information and ideas on how best to proceed.  The Task Force will be hosting many more opportunities for gathering feedback on their efforts.  A grant-funded consultant, expert in the provisions of the law and how to assess compliance, has been brought on board to assist the Task Force in their work.

Special Town meeting preparations continue.  The warrant will be finalized and posted to the web site as well as published in local newspapers by October 30th.  The meeting will take place on Monday, November 13 at the Memorial School beginning at 6:30PM.  The items range from supplemental budget appropriation requests (e.g.: security upgrades to the Town’s computer network, new operational review of the School District) to bylaw amendments (Annual Town Meeting date change, resident vehicle sticker details, remove limitation of employees only in certain accessory units.) Resident petition articles will also be on the warrant.  More details will be provided in the coming weeks and a Q&A session on the articles will be hosted by the Select Board on November 7 at 6:30PM.

Regarding the proposed zoning amendment, voters will be asked to consider removing the current limitation on certain accessory units.  Currently, in the Table of uses in Section 4.2 of the Zoning Bylaws, only employees of an owner-occupied property are allowed to live in an existing accessory garage, stable or other accessory structure.  The Zoning Board of Appeals has asked that this limitation, which seems to be from a by-gone era, be removed.  The Planning Board agreed that the use, which will still need to receive a special permit from the ZBA after conducting a public hearing and meeting all the requirements of a special permit, does not need to be limited to an employee of the property owner.  In terms of impact, it does not matter if the resident of such an accessory structure is an employee of the owner or not.  Removing the limitation removes any claims of discrimination to which our current bylaw might be prone.

The proposed amendment removes the limitation in item number E.7 of the table of uses and similarly amends note 13 that accompanies item E 7.  The new wording speaks of living quarters (removing the word family) and prohibits the use of the living quarters for short term rentals both per the state’s statutes and our local bylaw.  No change is made to the need for a special permit (though the criteria for granting special permits have been recently updated and made more rigorous as approved by voters.  There are no proposals at this time to amend the Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU’s) section of the zoning bylaws.  

Work continues crafting the FY25 budget that voters will ultimately approve at next April’s Annual Town Meeting.  The Finance Committee is getting an earlier start this year by delving this fall into the updated Capital Improvement Plan, a 5 year look at capital expenditures (infrastructure improvement projects, vehicle purchases, special studies, etc.)   Part of the CIP discussions will include looking at the possible larger facility needs that extend beyond the normal 5 year time horizon.  A new Facility Master Plan is being finalized that will help guide these discussions.