General and Zoning Bylaw Amendments on Tap for the ATM
By Gregory T. Federspiel
March 17, 2023
At this year’s Annual Town Meeting, scheduled for Monday, April 3, 6:30PM, at the Memorial Elementary School, nine of the twenty articles are proposing changes to accept a new local option provided by state law, adopt or change a general bylaw or amend our zoning regulations.
A general bylaw change to add a new revolving account is proposed in Article 10. The Board of Health seeks to establish a revolving account to handle the expenses related to conducting flu or other vaccination clinics. In the past it has been a bit of a guessing game as to how much money to appropriate for the clinics. A better way is to set up a revolving account that allows the acceptance of reimbursements from insurance and other funds that from time to time become available for clinics and to pay the expenses for the clinics directly from these funds. (Hence the revolving nature of the fund – moneys spent are from the funds collected.) Currently the reimbursements the Town receives goes into the general fund. We currently have a similar fund for the programming provided by the Parks and Recreation Department. The Board of Health has the support of the Select Board and the Finance Committee for this new revolving fund.
Article 12 asks voters to adopt a local option law offered by the state that allows Town Hall to remain closed on Saturdays despite certain state deadlines that might fall on a Saturday. For example, voter registration deadlines prior to a local election day typically fall on a Saturday and yet, when we have been open no one has come in. On-line registration has provided a convenient alternative making these Saturday hours unnecessary. By approving Article 12 we do not have to waste Town resources to be open on these Saturdays.
Years ago, voters accepted the state law that sets parking fines at $25.00. Article 13 seeks to rescind the adoption of this state law and adopt an alternative state law that sets parking fines at $50.00. The $25.00 fine has been in place for a long time and a refresh is in order. At the higher rate motorist should be less inclined to ignore the parking limits in town resulting in more turn-over of parking spaces.
Article 14 seeks approval of a local option provided by the state that requires new construction of multi-unit housing (4 or more units) as well as lodging and boarding houses, to install sprinkler systems. The Fire Department advocates for adoption of this new provision to provide an added measure of protection for those who reside in such structures. Sprinkler systems can provide more time to evacuate a building that is on fire, saving lives. The most economical time to install sprinkler systems is at the time of construction.
If Article 15 is approved, the Select Board will be authorized to pursue aggregating the purchasing of electricity for all residents and businesses in town. Many communities have successfully pooled their purchasing power to save money on their electric bills as well as specify varying levels of “green” power options. Anyone who does not want to participate can opt out. National Grid remains our distribution company. Authorizing the Select Board to pursue aggregation starts a public process of soliciting bids from energy providers and choosing a vendor who administers the program. The state must approve any aggregation proposal.
Article 16 seeks to establish provisions for allowing private water lines to be upgraded by the property owners and paid for through a betterment – that is, a special surcharge on one’s property tax. We currently allow betterments for sewer lines, but water lines were not included at the time. We do not have any requests at this time for water betterments but the idea is to be ready if such requests materialize.
Lastly, the warrant contains three proposed zoning amendments aimed at improving our existing zoning regulations. However, due to the time it took the state to approve the amendments that were made last fall which, in turn limited the time available to mesh new proposals with those recently approved, the PB feels that it is best to hold off on any proposed changes to the rules governing Accessory Dwelling Units and a possible new section on Senior Housing. Thus, voters will be asked to pass over, take no action, on Articles 18 and 19. Article 17 seeks to establish guidelines for Adult Entertainment establishments. While these establishments must be allowed, we can restrict where they can be located (only in the Limited Commercial District to the north of Route 128) and regulate various aspects of how such establishments operate.
Next week’s article will focus on budgets that voters will be asked to approve at the April 3 ATM.