Important Meeting Dates Set
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Many important meetings are on the calendar as we look toward the spring and early summer. You are especially encouraged to mark your calendars for the Annual Town Meeting in April and Special Town Meeting slated for June. (In this time of turmoil where a democratically elected government is fighting for its existence, we are reminded how fortunate we are to live in a free and open society.)
Normally our Annual Town Meeting is held the first Monday in April. COVID caused delays the past two years and once again the Selectmen have decided to postpone the date to hopefully allow for a further decrease in COVID activity. This year’s Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 25 at 7PM. We will convene in the gymnasium and cafeteria at the new Memorial Elementary School.
The focus of the Annual Town Meeting will be the adoption of the Fiscal Year ‘23 budgets which cover the period of July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. While most departmental budgets are status quo with level services, a few (Police, Fire and Health) are seeking to bolster staffing. More details on this will come closer to the ATM. Other articles will include the possibility of imposing a new room tax on short term rentals to raise town operating funds, changing the name of Selectmen to Select Board as many communities have done, and considering amending the zoning regulations of the Limited Commercial District to allow the possibility of a research lab to locate near the Manchester Athletic Club.
The Planning Board holds another hearing on proposed changes to the Limited Commercial District on March 28th. Currently research labs are restricted to the LCD area to the west of upper Pine Street. One of the proposed changes is to allow research labs in the LCD that is near upper School Street by special permit. Other amendments being considered would allow taller buildings (55 feet instead of 35 feet) and some flexibility in lot line setback requirements on a case-by-case basis. A local company, Cell Signaling Technologies, hopes to construct a new research campus in our LCD, transforming the current old stone mining pit to a new productive and more environmentally sound use. The proposed changes to the LCD would allow a special permit application to be submitted and reviewed.
On another zoning front, the Selectmen have scheduled a public forum on the new transit-oriented development requirements the State has enacted for lands near transit stations. The forum is scheduled for Tuesday evening, March 22. Under the new law, Manchester is being asked to create zoning that allows multi-family housing by right (no special permit needed) within a ½ mile of the commuter rail station. Depending on the final guidelines, this may involve some 50 acres (10% of the land total within a ½ mile of the station) with a density of 15 units per acre. Failure to comply with the state law means the Town would be ineligible for various state grants that we have utilized in the past. More details about the new law and how it might fit into our long-range plans for the village core area will be discussed at the March 22 forum.
Lastly, a Special Town Meeting is planned for Saturday, June 11, at 1:00PM. This date and time were selected in case we need to return to the outdoors for a meeting. However, we hope to be inside the Memorial School to use the audio-visual equipment to assist in reviewing the various zoning amendments, which will be the focus of this meeting. Prior to the Special Meeting, the Planning Board will be holding public hearings on the proposed changes to our zoning regulations that will be voted on at the June meeting. In addition, other articles are likely to include two options for dispatch services (boosting in-house operations or moving to the North Shore Regional 911 Center) and the consideration of requiring fire sprinkler systems for certain kinds of buildings. These articles will likely generate a fair amount of debate which is why they are being targeted for a separate meeting.
These meetings present excellent opportunities for residents to engage and help shape the municipal services provided and the future of our community. Please plan on attending and let your voice be heard!