Building projects supported by Marion voters

May 10, 2022

MARION – The ayes had it at Marion Town Meeting Monday, May 9, with voters approving new buildings for the harbormaster and Department of Public Works and supporting a zoning change that would allow a 48-unit housing development on Wareham Road.

Here’s a look at the major issues approved by voters.

Wareham Road housing

This wasn’t developer Matthew Zuker’s first appearance before Town Meeting voters to request a zoning change to accommodate a housing development on Wareham Road.

He requested the same zoning change at a fall Special Town Meeting, asking for a change from residence D to E on the Wareham Road properties where he hopes to locate a development featuring 36 detached houses, 12 attached townhouses, with six buildings of two homes.

At the time, voters rejected the proposal. Zuker took another swing at the project this spring, hosting informational sessions and other public outreach. He also offered to pay $1.2 million for infrastructure work in the area.

The housing, which will be marketed for but not restricted to seniors, fills a need, resident Merry Conway said.

She cited a call in the master plan for a variety of housing, which she said this would offer.

Zuker’s company has signed a permanent deed restriction that would cap building on the 30-acre site to 48 units, under two per acre. 

Some questions were raised about whether this housing would bring in families with children in the schools that would add to the tax burden.

Select board member John Waterman said that the layout of the homes, on one floor and with no more than three bedrooms, would appeal more to seniors than to families who might seek more space.

But even some added school children would not be problematic, he said. Right now, since the school system is not at capacity, he noted there would be “zero net cost.’’ The development would likely bring in a “number [of students] that we can comfortably handle.’’

Some voters said the idea of bringing in more families would have a positive impact in town. “We do need more kids’’ in the community, Michael Russo said.

Resident Gaelle Hyppolite also hoped the project would attract more children. She said Marion is focused on “senior, senior, senior, senior. Our schools are losing kids. Do you want to keep Marion old and to a certain race?’’ she asked, adding that there are “no black or brown people’’ in the community.

DPW buildings

Voters agreed with officials who supported construction of new buildings on Benson Brook Road to provide better storage and security for town vehicles.

Several articles earlier, voters agreed to purchase a street sweeper for $330,000. Town Administrator Jay McGrail said the previous sweeper would have lasted longer if it had been kept under cover and cleaned regularly, two things that will happen with the new building construction.

“This is a ‘need,’ not a want,’’ resident Andrew Daniel said. “I’m embarrassed by the conditions. Vehicles are not just purchases, they’re investments.’’

He also said Marion is “the only town I know that keeps sand outside.’’ The new building would provide coverage for the sand, which is now kept in an open pile and runs off onto Route 6 and Evergreen Cemetery, McGrail said.

The change approved by voters would move the equipment and storage to Benson Brook Road, adjacent to the current DPW administrative offices and the wastewater treatment facility, and across the street from the transfer station. No residences are located in the immediate area. 

The new project would include a salt storage facility and a covered parking structure where machinery would be kept. There will also be an operations center with a lunchroom, bathrooms, lockers and three work bays where equipment can be washed and repaired.

The work will cost $4.456 million. Free cash will cover $1.5 million of the cost, McGrail said. The remaining $3 million would be borrowed. 

For the project to go forward, voters will have to also approve a debt exclusion at the town election Friday, May 13. This would allow the town to borrow for the project outside the confines of Proposition 2 1/2 taxation restrictions. 

Harbormaster office

Voters agreed to support a new building for the harbormaster, at a cost of about $2.9 million. The cost would be covered by grants and boating fees and not borne by taxpayers.

Boating fees would not increase as a result of the project, Harbormaster Isaac Perry said.

The current building’s size of 220 square feet cannot comfortably accommodate the department employees, Perry said. The proposed building would provide 1,430 square feet of office space.

“We owe it to our employees to have an adequate place to work,’’ Waterman said. He said the new building, which would be located in the northeast corner of the wharf, is “not over the top,’’ unlike previous plans that have been proposed.

He also noted that the state grants that are funding much of the work could end when a new governor is elected. “Now is the time to act,” he said.