Town Meeting: Potential articles on Town Manager, Zoning bylaw changes, Golf Course and more

by beth on February 12, 2018

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Last week, the Board of Selectmen discussed and closed the Warrant for Annual Town Meeting. Consider it a heads up on items you may want to stay tuned for more information on.

Notable Articles on the list include a charter to create a “Town Manager” position, articles to support keeping the golf course, and new zoning bylaws.

The work is far from complete, with several considered to be “placeholders” for articles that may not make the final cut. Over the next month, sponsors and Town officials will be working on final language and budget numbers and deciding which articles to yank.

I edited out the annual budget and general administrative items, and grouped them below by type. (Alternatively, you can look at the full list here.)

  • Charter – Town Manager: This is a placeholder as the Board of Selectmen revisit (six years later)* legislation proposed to give more authority to a Town Manager. At Chair Dan Kolenda’s request, the board will review a failed 2012 bylaw and discuss how/if they want to proceed at their February 27th meeting.

Background:
Opponents of the 2012 Article argued that language ceded too much control to the state. Town Meeting, voters indefinitely postponed the Article by a difference of 11 votes.

The following year, proponents of new articles for a “strong Town Administrator” sought to adopt some elements from the 2012 Article, while resolving concerns opponents had. That model (with an amendment) was overwhelmingly approved in April 2013.

Kolenda pitched that he’d like to see the Town Administrator have more authority to act without the board for efficiency (and shorter agendas).

  • Zoning bylaws:
    • Over-55 developments (sponsored by Planning): This one is a placeholder, as it may not be ready for April. In the past, Town Counsel asked to have language about non-profit owners struck. (It was determined invalid by the courts.) Meanwhile, the current bylaw has long been criticized for not encouraging the types of developments that the bylaw was written to incentivize. (You can read more on that here.) Planning had hoped to revise the article to deal with issues last year, but it didn’t pan out. And a citizen’s petition seeking to up the count for allowed projects was rescinded. Stay tuned to find out what Planning puts forward (or doesn’t) this year.
    • Rescind zoning for Recreational Marijuana (sponsored by Selectmen and Planning): This is a placeholder as Town Counsel finalizes a decision. Town Administrator Mark Purple explained that this article that passed last year may need to be rescinded based on recent state legislation. That would still keep in place the other article on marijuana passed last year – the General By-law prohibiting the operation of any marijuana establishment in Town. (Worth noting, he informed the Town that a Ballot question is no longer needed.)
    • Amend appeal process (sponsored by Selectmen and Planning): I’m not familiar with this one. But, I’ll definitely be looking to learn more. So, stay tuned.
  • Capital improvement projects (these are funding requests that aren’t bundled into the overall Town budgets):
    • Golf Course – approx. $200K: Expenses necessary to continue maintenance and operations of the St. Marks Golf Course. (These are just the costs that can’t be covered by the Public Safety Building budget or a CPA grant)
    • Recreation – approx. $980K: Restoring, maintaining and increasing useful playing areas of the Town’s Recreational fields. You can read a preview of what they’re pursuing in my post from December. At that time, Rec still had more work to do in preparation for public presentations to gain support. So, stay tuned for more details as the meeting gets closer.
    • Senior Center renovation Feasibility Study/Design work – approx. $30K: Request is first step in renovating the center, including expanding out front and increasing bathroom facilities and program space. Stay tuned for more on that.
  • Community Preservation Act projects (These are projects funded by CPA funds. Approving them doesn’t add to your tax bill – for the most part*.):
    • Library: Historic Preservation of Building
    • Old Burial Ground Cemetery: Historic Restoration
    • Golf Course: Restoring Holes 1 & 9; parking area; and retaining wall. (Read more.) Last week, the Golf Course Committee told selectmen that the CPC had re-opened the application window to allow them to apply. The application was still in process, so this is a placeholder. (The CPC posted an agenda this afternoon showing this as scheduled for presentation and vote at their meeting this Thursday night.)
  • General Bylaws:
    • Motion to reconsider a vote: What is allowed/required in order to reconsider a vote became a topic of confusion at Town Meetings over the past year. Presumably, this is meant to clarify the procedure.
    • Consent Agenda for TM warrant: I assume this is an effort to make Town Meeting run more efficiently.
    • Revolving Funds: I don’t know what this one is about. Consider it another “stay tuned”.
  • Establish new revolving funds
    • Regional School Stabilization Fund (sponsored by the School Committee)
    • Enterprise fund for Ambulance: Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf called for this measure. She argued that at last week’s budget discussion that money collected based on mileage of ambulance usage should be used for directly relevant costs like fuel and supplies. Instead those items were under other department budgets while the Ambulance Funds were being applied to other uses.

*In the past, some critics of projects have pointed out projects funded reduce the available pool for future projects through the CPA. And in the long term, that could effect your wallet if needed projects require funding by non-CPA taxes.

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