The Annual Town Meeting (ATM) is almost here. Plan on coming to the Hyland Athletic Field at the Middle High School on June 21 for the 6:30 p.m. start. (The “gates” open at 5:30 p.m. so come early to get a choice seat!)
Our regular administrative and budgetary articles, 1-10, will take up the first part of the meeting. Articles 11 – 16 are special articles which are summarized here.
Article 11 comes to us via a request from the Town of Hamilton to relocate a portion of Chebacco Road in Hamilton that lies within conservation land owned by Manchester. The current gravel road runs along the bank just above Gravely Pond, part of our drinking water supply. Hamilton proposes to relocate this portion of the road some 200 feet further away from Gravely Pond. This will better serve the handful of residents in the area and will afford better protection to the Pond. Hamilton proposes to pave this section of relocated road and install up to date stormwater management measures which will further improve water quality in our water supply reservoir. There will remain a stretch of gravel road in Manchester just past the transfer station and before this newly paved road in Hamilton. The existing road easement and another road easement that was created but never used will be discontinued and a new easement for the proposed road will be created. There is a net gain of roughly one acre of conservation land free of any easements. Because this is conservation land, the discontinuance of the old easements and the creation of the new easement requires state legislative approval under Article 97 of the State Constitution. The Selectmen recommend voter approval of this article.
Articles 12-16 are citizen petition articles. Article 12 is a non-binding article with two parts. Part (a) asks voters to express their opposition to the multi-family apartment complex proposed by Strategic Land Ventures (SLV) at Shingle Hill. Part (b) asks voters to express support for the production of more affordable housing in Manchester that is in keeping with the character of the Town and following the recommendations of our Housing Production Plan.
Article 13 seeks to amend the Town’s Earth Removal By-law by placing additional requirements for blasting related to large projects (over 20 housing units or 100,000 square feet of commercial space.) It requires the Planning Board to craft blasting guidelines and to approve blasting for larger projects by a 2/3rds majority vote. The Planning Board, concluding that blasting is highly regulated by the State, does not feel this amendment is necessary.
Another citizen petition proposing an amendment to Town By-laws concerns access to large developments. In Article 14 voters are asked to approve an addition to our General By-laws by adding to Article X a new Section 46 that would require housing projects over 100 units or 75,000 square feet to have two paved access roads open at all times. This type of regulation is more typically associated with zoning regulations thus, if the voters approve the article, we will have to see if the Attorney General approves it as a General By-law. (The AG’s Office must approve all local by-laws.)
The fourth petition article, Article 15, is another non-binding vote that asks voters to express their preference for maintaining our public safety dispatch services in-house, that is, to keep it within our local police station and not obtain the services through the North Shore Regional 911 Center. Proponents feel that the Town is better served by having our own dispatch operations that we control locally. Others feel that we can obtain more robust dispatch services through the regional center for a lower cost.
Finally, Article 16 is a citizen petition article that asks voters to pass over any proposed zoning amendments at this ATM. At the time the petition was submitted there was the possibility of proposed zoning amendments and the proponents of this article felt that it would be premature to take such votes. However, it turns out no such proposals are before the voters at this time thus it may be that we simply pass over this article.
These six articles are likely to generate much of the debate at the upcoming ATM. Please let me know if you would like additional information about any of them as you prepare for June 21. And keep an eye out for the delivery of the Annual Report and the Finance Committee Report containing all the articles to your doorstep this week.