Town Meeting: Electricity savings, green efforts, pooper scooper law and more (Updated)

My (hopefully) final recap of Town Meeting 2016. The number of people who made decisions on night two less than half that of Monday.*

About 242 voters showed up to vote on Main Street, Medical Marijuana, and more.  (I wonder how many couldn’t make a 2nd night in a row, vs showed up just for 84 Main St.)

About 40 voters skipped/abstained from the two counted votes. (Were they indecisive or only there to vote for a specific issue? The mass exodus didn’t happen until after those votes took place.)

There are a bunch of votes I haven’t covered yet. Here’s a list of what else voters approved, and didn’t.

Three Planning Board articles were “indefinitely postponed”. Two were pulled by the which is continuing to work through issues. One was pulled by a vote by residents, putting off changes to an elderly housing zoning bylaw. (More on those below.)

Approved Articles (bylaw changes and/or spending are effective July 1, 2016):

  • 19. CPA funding for a Southborough Library Historical Material Archival Project. (Freddie Gillespie, armed with a backup megaphone, made her final Community Preservation motion.) The project funds evaluating material stored in the Southborough Historical Society Museum, and developing a plan by a preservationist for storage and display of the material.  [Note: I mistakenly wrote that this article was approved Monday night. I’ll blame my error on poor acoustics after the sound system died!]
  • 21. Accept Land as a Water Easement
  • 22. Grant Sewer Easement – Washington Street
  • 23. Allowance for Town to Aggregate its Electrical Load – The Town will negotiate a reduced electricity rate with a power supplier. All property owners will automatically be included in the program unless they opt out. (National Grid will continue to maintain power lines and transmit electricity to all homes, regardless of the energy supplier. Click here to learn more.)
  • 24. & 25. Accept roads William Colleary Lane and Foxhill Drive
  • 28. Accept MA Board of Building Regulations and Standards Stretch Energy Code – As part of the effort to become a Green Community, the Town adopted the state’s program for more stringent building codes for energy efficiency. That means the Town must enforce codes that the state can change in 3-5 years. If future changes are too burdensome, voters will have to vote to reverse the Town’s involvement in the program. The upside is that the Town will be able to pursue Green Community standing and grants.
  • 20160413_solar overlay27. Solar Energy Systems Bylaw changes– the change to the bylaw allows by-right solar array installations (without granting of a special permit) on specific parcels within the Business Park and Industrial zones. (Click thumbnail for the map.) Once again, this allows the Town to pursue the Green Community standing and grants.
  • 32. Transfer Station Violations/Fines – Grants selectmen the authority to define fines on an annual bases.
  • 33. Pooper Scooper law (click here to learn more)
  • 34. Dog license fees, fines and process (click here to learn more)
  • 35. Changes to track committee minutes and communications via websites and social media (click here to learn more)
  • 36. Move the Town Election to Tuesdays (click here to learn more)

Indefinitely postponed

  • 26. Accept Open Space Parcel in Killam Farm – The Planning Board asked to postpone to pursue having it accepted by a nonprofit third party. (This is a parcel containing an apparently buried dump, near a tributary. The Open Space Preservation Commission objected to it as a potential liability.)
  • 29. Amend Article III of Zoning Code – Use Regulations – This postponement was by a motion made from the floor by resident David Parry. (Read more on the discussion below.)
  • 30. Accept by Grant a Conservation Restriction – Again, pulled by the Planning Board. This will allow them to work with the changing trustees. They plan to address in Planning Board meetings in May.

Article 29, recommended by Town Counsel, would have removed illegal language in zoning for elderly housing developments.

The motion was based on a court “dictum” advising that the bylaw can’t restrict the zoning concessions to non-profit owners. That ruling was issued during residents’ court appeal of a Zoning Board of Appeals decision.

The court informed Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano that the Town can only regulate use of property, not who owns it.

The article was brought to Town Meeting by the Planning Board. Based on information learned in public hearings, the Planning Board reconsidered their support. According to Chair Don Morris, a motion was made just prior to Town Meeting to pull the article. The result was split 2-2 with one abstention. So, it remained on the Warrant.

Some residents involved in the case have worried that the bylaw change would undermine their case. Last night, commenters pushed back on making the change before appeals are done.

Cipriano was irked by commenters’ arguments against the article. Advisory Member Sam Stivers argued for not doing “a band-aid fix”. He advised taking the time to rewrite the bylaw in concert with the Southborough Housing Plan. He was also concerned about undermining the residents’ appeal.

The attorney argued that the language wasn’t enforcable and hadn’t been followed since its inception. He also argued that residents’ presumption that the decision could be overturned was unrealistic.

(For more coverage on the action and details on the big votes from the past two nights, click here.)

*The night one count tally has been upped to 512.

Updated (4/13/16 4:45 pm): I added in the figures on voters and some links.

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