FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
By Gregory T. Federspiel
With printing deadlines rapidly approaching, the work on the budget for next fiscal year (which starts July 1, 2018) and the Annual Town Meeting Warrant is entering the home stretch. The Selectmen will host a public forum on the proposed budget at their next regular meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 20 (a day after the President’s Day holiday) with a final deadline of March 5 to finalize numbers. Wednesday Finance Committee meetings will continue through early March as well. More budget information will be in next week’s Cricket and is also available on the Town’s web site.
Two citizen petitions were submitted by the January 30th deadline. One, spearheaded by High School Senior Faith Palermo, seeks funds for the Flowers for Freedom project, a community service project that aims to put carnations on veteran graves in Town cemeteries for Memorial Day. Faith started this project with successful fund raising work and hopes to have it continue by securing a funding source for it year to year. The Selectmen are very supportive of the project but are hopeful that they can establish a donation account to which citizens will contribute the needed $1000 rather than using tax payer funds. (The Town currently budgets $3000 for Memorial Day expenses, including the flags that are placed on veteran graves.)
A second petition article seeks voter approval for a zoning bylaw change that would prohibit the opening of all types of non-medical marijuana establishments in Manchester. Voters statewide approved a ballot initiative that legalized recreation use of marijuana as well as various types of establishments including retail shops, “cafes”, and cultivation centers. Subsequent legislation allows cities and towns to decide if they want to limit or ban outright the various establishments. However, if a town approved the original ballot initiative, which Manchester narrowly did, then any proposed ban must be approved at Town Meeting and at a Town Election.
Because the petition seeks an amendment to our zoning regulations, it must be approved by a 2/3rds majority at the Town Meeting. If so, it then needs a simple majority vote at the Town Election. In addition to the petition article banning non-medical marijuana establishments, the Selectmen may put forth as an alternative an article proposing limiting the location of non-medical marijuana establishments to the same area that medical marijuana establishments are currently allowed – in the Limit Commercial District which lies on the northern side of Route 128. A third option that may be presented is to seek voter approval of a general town bylaw that prohibits all non-medical marijuana establishments. A general bylaw requires a simple majority to pass rather than the 2/3rds that a zoning amendment requires. If the petition article is approved than the other two articles would be passed over. Approval by ballot is required before any of these three options become official.
None of these proposals impact the home cultivation and use of recreational marijuana that the new state law allows. Nor do they change the current regulations regarding medical marijuana establishments. As Town Meeting day draws closer, more information on the warrant questions will be provided.
Another non-budget related article up for consideration at the Annual Town Meeting is a possible amendment to the Town’s Wetlands Bylaw. The Conservation Commission is seeking to add the protection of unspoiled wetland scenery to their list of protected interest/values. The Commission has also developed regulations that would provide the specifics on how to evaluate whether a proposed project is negatively impacting unspoiled wetland scenery. An information packet on this proposal is available from the Conservation Commission Office or on-line.
Budgets, marijuana and wetland scenery are shaping up to be the star attractions for this year’s Annual Town Meeting scheduled for April 2. Save the date!