Fall Special Town Meeting Taking Shape
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Preparations for a Special Town Meeting, scheduled to take place on November 14th, are entering the home stretch. Voters will be asked to make decisions on a dozen or so proposed zoning changes as well as a few other items that are time sensitive. The Select Board will finalize the warrant or list of articles to be presented at their meeting on October 17th.
The bulk of the meeting will deal with proposed amendments to the Town’s Zoning By-laws. Zoning regulations govern how land can be developed in town prescribing what uses are allowed where and under what conditions. The process for obtaining permits is also spelled out in the by-laws.
The Planning Board has been working on re-formatting the bylaws to make them more user friendly and easier to understand. Several of the proposed changes represent no substantive changes in the by-laws but rather focus on how material is organized and presented. For example, instead of describing what uses are allowed where in a narrative in different sections, a new use table consolidates the information in a readily discernable list that fits on a few pages. While a few minor changes in uses are proposed most uses remain as they are today. Similarly, a new table consolidates all the dimensional requirements of each zone with no changes from what is required currently.
Other changes are more substantial and may garner debate at the Special Town Meeting. The Planning Board is putting their finishing touches on these proposals and the final versions will be up on the Town web site very soon. New proposals providing more flexibility in changes to non-conforming uses are contemplated. Easing the restrictions for accessory dwelling units (ADU’s) are likely to be presented as are new proposals allowing by special permit senior housing and residential conservation cluster developments. New provisions restricting adult entertainment establishments, which must be allowed, are proposed for the Limited Commercial District.
The Planning Board is hosting on Open House on October 12th in the evening at the High School to provide an informal setting for voters to become more familiar with the proposed zoning changes. Materials are available on the Town’s web site and a series of articles in the Cricket provide additional information on the reason for the changes and what they are.
A Citizen’s Petition article is on tap as well. The article asks voters to approve a new provision to allow the recall of an elected official. The proposed article lays out the process to be followed if a prescribed number of voters feel a recall is needed. We currently do not have a recall provision beyond waiting for the next election cycle. If voters approve the proposal, special legislation will need to be approve at the state level before the new bylaw could go into place.
Two money articles will be on tap as well. One seeks a supplemental appropriation to cover the cost of defending the Zoning Board’s denial of the proposed 40B project on Upper School Street. To cover the cost of legal services during the ZBA process and now during the appeal process and to hire experts to testify on the Town’s behalf voters will be asked to approve $130,000. Any unspent funds will roll into the Town’s Fund Balance.
The other request is to allocate funds from the existing Fire Department Vehicle Fund for the purchase of a new ambulance. With lead delivery lead times more than two years, the Fire Department is requesting that voters approve this expenditure now to allow us to place an order in for the new ambulance.
Both funding requests still need the review of the Finance Committee which will be taking place in the coming weeks.
The Select Board discussed the possibility of seeking voter authorization for entering into tax agreements for large developments on a case by case basis and subject to final voter approval but they have decided to hold off on this proposal for now. A possible revote on relocating Chebacco Road was also under discussion, but the Town of Hamilton has decided not to consider this after thinking they might.