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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.