Zoning and selectmen-name changes approved at Town Meeting


More than 300 residents attended the Manchester-by-the-Sea Town Meeting at the Memorial Elementary School Monday evening. 

In the end, all 12 articles on the warrant were approved by the voters over the course of two and a half hours. 

But several issues resulted in a lot of debate, including zoning changes for the Limited Commercial District, changing the name of the Board of Selectmen and capital expenditures for a Village Parking Study and tasers for the police. 

Zoning Changes 

Planning Board member Gary Gilbert said the reasoning behind the zoning changes for the Limited Commercial District, the area north of Route 128, was to allow reasonable development, particularly east of School Street, and increase “much-needed tax revenue” for the town. 

The changes would also allow buildings to be 55 feet high, often needed in laboratories. 

“Taller buildings also have smaller footprints,” said Gilbert. “And this also accomplishes a sustainable goal of using up less land for a given building, thus protecting more open space and minimizing impact on ground and surface water.” 

 “When you speak of lab uses requiring a special permit, we mean that absolutely nothing can be built as ‘a right’ and we retain the right to veto or deny any plan that is submitted to us that is detrimental to the town or the environment,” added Gilbert. 

Board of Selectmen member Becky Jaques, who spoke in favor of the changes, said that as a former member of the Planning Board, she knew that the special permitting process to be long and thorough.  

Sandy Rogers of 82 Old Essex Road, said that sections of the changes did not require special permits, only site review. If buildings were allowed to be 55 feet tall, they would “tower over conservation land, would tower over (Route) 128 and would be visible from some of the neighborhoods in town.”  

A couple of residents asked if Cell Signaling, which has shown interest in building a research lab on land east of School Street but has not submitted any plans to the town, was involved in creating microchips.  

But another resident explained that Cell Signaling is not involved in microchips but works in biotechnology. 

Paul Gudonis of 56 Masconomo said, “Here’s an opportunity to use land that has been fallow … and an opportunity to bring clean commercial businesses, not manufacturing, but laboratory space, good jobs to the area, that won’t impact the commute into downtown … and can help us alleviate the size of future tax increases.” 

The article for the zoning changes, which required a two-thirds vote to pass, was approved 253-31 with four abstentions. 

Changing names 

Selectman Jeffrey Bodmer-Turner explained that over time language evolves. While women serve on many of the boards and commissions in town, over time the use of chairman has changed to just chair, referring to the person leading that board. 

“The more people use it, the more it becomes the norm,” said Bodmer-Turner. “The majority of the Board of Selectmen see this is the time to update the name to Select Board and Select Board member, … and the change in language recognizes the significant contributions that women have made to our governing board since 1985.” 

But Selectman Ann Harrison disagreed. “I ask you not to abandon history. History doesn’t change,” said Harrison. “The composition of the Board of Selectmen can change without changing the name of the board. 

Former Selectman Sue Thorne listed many of the current and previous women who served on the board. “I don’t for one minute believe that any one of us ever gave a moment’s thought to being called a selectman.” 

Nelly Bowling, 99 Pleasant St., said “while history remains the same, we must evolve. We must continue to change and grow.” She said that the new name would be more inclusive to people who do not identify as man or women. 

In the closest vote of the night, the article passed 116-83 with six abstentions. 

Capital expenditures 

Questions were raised about two of the 27 capital expenditures on the warrant – $20,000 for a Village Parking Study and $12,600 for tasers for the Police Department.  

Christine Delisio, 6 Lincoln Ave., said a similar parking study was proposed a couple of years ago for $50,000 and wondered what the town was now getting for only $20,000? 

Town Administrator Greg Federspiel said that volunteer help by residents as well as a grant by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council was reducing the cost of the study.  

 “My concern is not the parking study,” said Delisio. “My concern is who is doing the parking study.” She said the MAPC’s goal is to increase housing density in already dense downtowns. She requested that an independent contractor be hired to do the study. 

An amendment to eliminate the study from the warrant article was voted down, 220-80 with eight abstentions. 

Sylvia Vriesendorp, 52 Masconomo St. asked why in a “peaceful, quiet place like Manchester-By-The-Sea" the police needed tasers. 

Lt. Mark McCoy of the Manchester Police Department said that the department now has three tasers that are shared by the on-duty officers. He said tasers were used two to three times in the last year.  The request would purchase 12 new tasers, and include training for each of the officers so that officers would not have to constantly exchange the tasers with whoever was on duty.  

Edward Martin of 25 Bennett St. said the purchase of the non-lethal weapons was a valuable investment for the town.  

The capital expenditures, which in total included $3,356,425 in purchases, were approved by a vote of 242-41-12. 

Other items 

  • The town approved the 2023 budget of $15.2 million with very debate. It was approved by a vote of 256-24. 
  • Likewise, the operating budget for the Manchester-Essex Regional School District was also approved. 
  • A tax of 3 percent was approved for any short-term rental, from a single room to a bed and breakfast to a motel or hotel room.  Bodmer-Turner explained that the money will be collected by the state and repaid to the town quarterly. 
  • At the start of the Town Meeting, Selectman Eli Bowling was honored for his nine years on the Board of Selectmen and presented with a Manchester chair. 

local government in massachusetts, board of selectmen, cell signaling, jeffrey bodmer-turner, eli bowling, nelly bowling, becky jaques, mark mccoy, edward martin, gary gilbert, greg federspiel, paul gudonis, sandy rogers, planning board, ann harrison, manchester police department, sylvia vriesendorp, sue thorne, christine delisio