The Manchester Community Center will remain where it is after the Manchester-by-the-Sea Fall Town Meeting agreed to accept a 10-year lease with Harbor’s Point Associates.
That was one of several contentious issues that Town Meeting dealt with on Monday night at Manchester Memorial School. More than 450 residents attended the three-hour meeting.
The meeting had to be paused in the first hour when some of the vote-counting clickers stopped working. After attempts were made to replace the non-working clickers, Moderator Alan Wilson chose to use voice votes and raised-hand votes for the rest of the meeting.
Select Board member Brian Sollosy explained that Article 8, the lease agreement with Harbor’s Point Associates, was the result of a private tenant-landlord dispute.
“Normally, a municipality would not be involved in such a dispute,” said Sollosy. “However, the MCC has asked the town to intervene on their behalf.”
The dispute was a result of Harbor’s Point Associates, which owns the land Community Center sits on, seeking more money from the MCC. Their discussions broke down on September 12, and as of November 12, the MCC faced either moving its building to a new location or turning the building over to the tenant’s association.
But the town stepped in and negotiated a deal where it would take over the lease from the MCC. As part of the lease, the town would install the harbormaster’s office on the second floor, use some space for board meetings and other gatherings and create much-needed public bathrooms in the building. But otherwise, the rest of the building would be sublet to the MCC.
Resident Bill Shipman asked about the financial implications of the town taking over the lease. Town Administrator Greg Federspiel said that the town was asking for $10,000 to cover its share of the building’s expenses for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Tim Gates of 2 Desmond Ave. asked who would be assessed the property taxes on the building under the new lease. Federspiel said that it would be up to the town’s assessors to determine if it would be assessed, but if it were, then Harbor Point’s Associates would be getting the property tax bill.
Susan Halpern of 3 Bell Court, who teaches a tai chi class at MCC, said that quiet was needed for the class and was concerned that public bathrooms would be a disturbance to the class. Federspiel said that the public bathrooms would be kept separate from the MCC classes.
Patrick Meehan of 384 Summer St., co-president of the MCC, asked that Town Meeting support the lease agreement and said they planned to have Santa Claus arrive by lobster boat on December 2.
“We are happy to keep all these traditions alive,” said Meehan. “We will withdraw Article 11 and encourage everyone to vote yes on Article 8 to save the MCC.”
Article 11 asked for the Town Meeting to approve funds for the town to take the property the Community Center by eminent domain.
A loud cheer went up from Town Meeting when Meehan announced the withdrawal of Article 11.
Town Meeting overwhelmingly approved the lease agreement by a voice vote.
Several other articles faced debate on the Town Meeting floor.
Article 3, which asked for $80,000 for the School District to conduct an operational review to see if greater efficiencies and cost savings could be found in the school budget, was rejected by a vote of 118-237. Resident Lindsay Banks said that the two towns that make up the School District should let the School Committee do its job and find areas where the budget can be cut.
Article 4, a Zoning Bylaw change, would have allowed people with existing outbuildings to use them to house anyone, not just employees, as currently listed in the bylaws. Sarah Creighton of the Planning Board explained that the board had sought an opinion from town counsel if it could change the bylaw from employees to family members, to allow “in-law apartments” in these outbuildings. But town counsel said that would be problematic and conflict with fair housing rules.
But several residents pointed out that neighboring communities, including Hamilton, Beverly and Danvers, all have bylaws limiting Accessory Dwelling Units (or ADUs) to family members.
Planning Board member Mary Foley said, “A more comprehensive bylaw was needed.” Planning Board member Christine Delisio said the bylaw should incorporate family members.
Article 4, which needed a two-thirds majority to be approved, did not get that majority with 235 for and 162 against.
Article 12, a citizen’s petition, which would have required that any zoning change would need to be approved at the ballot as well as Town Meeting.
Resident Morgan Evans said this article would ensure that bylaw changes got a full debate and increase the people voting for or against a zoning change, noting that 500 people voted at Town Meeting, while up to 3,000 voted in ballot elections.
Neither the Select Board or the Planning Board backed the change, saying it would make zoning bylaw changes too difficult. Robin Stein of KP Law, the town’s counsel, said the change was likely to be rejected by the state’s Attorney General, since it was inconsistent with all other town’s rules on zoning bylaws.
Tom Kehoe of 20 Lincoln St. said the change would undercut the significance of Town Meeting. He called Town Meeting “one of most precious forms of our democracy,” noting that Town Meetings preceded the United States.
But Select Board member Catherin Bilotta said that too many people were unable to attend Town Meeting but could vote at the ballot, meaning that they didn’t have a say in zoning changes.
In a voice vote, Town Meeting rejected Article 12.
Roundup of remaining articles:
Article 1, which would change the date of the annual Town Meeting to the fourth Monday in April was approved, 344 to 13.
Article 2, appropriated $30,000 in funds to enhance security to the town’s computer network, was approved 354-8
Article 5, which would pay back $916 to people who were wrongly given parking tickets, due to the location of their parking sticker, was approved 350 to 29.
Article 6, which would allow the Fire Department to purchase a new sports utility vehicle for $64,000 from unused funds, was approved.
Article 7, which would transfer funds from two accounts to a new Professional Services account to pay for contracted services for a Conservation Agent and Town Planner, was approved.
Article 9, which would delete the location resident parking stickers were to be placed, amend the process for obtaining stickers, clarify where parking placards may be used and allow the Select Board to decide which streets would be “Resident only” parking, was approved.
No action was taken on Article 11.
Article 13, which would provide Article 97 protection to three lots of land at the Powder House Hill Reservation, was approved. Select Board member John Round said it was likely that the parcels already had Article 97 protection but that the Town Meeting vote would confirm this.
Article 14, a citizen’s petition, asked that the lots of land discussed in Article 13 at Powder House Hill, be transferred to a charitable corporation to protect the land from ever being developed. The article, which needed a two-thirds vote to be approved, was rejected.