Housing density restriction shot down at Marion Town Meeting

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May 10, 2021

MARION — A bylaw change which would restrict the density of housing allowed to be constructed in town was shot down at the May 10 Town Meeting.

The change, which did not receive a necessary two-thirds majority of voters at the meeting, would have cut the allowable number of housing units in land zoned for high-density housing from 12 units per acre to six.

Voters passed every other question at the meeting, including one to spend $2.7 million more on the wastewater lagoon lining project and another to change the name of the Board of Selectmen to a gender-inclusive moniker, Select Board.

The housing density bylaw change was shot down after both Sharon Matzek and Sherman Briggs advocated against it.

Matzek said the measure would inhibit the town’s ability to provide affordable housing, “detracting from the ability of people who don't own $1 million houses or $800,000 houses, and their ability to live in the community.”

Briggs noted that developers might not be willing to work with the town to create housing if the allowable density is too low. Instead, he figured developers would find it easier to circumvent the town and develop under 40B.

Selectman and Planning Board member Norm Hills and Planning Board Chair Will Saltonstall both noted that six units per acre is about the same density as seen on Main Street.

But Matzek said that not every part of town is like Main Street, and there are some areas outside the center of town where more dense housing could be viable.

Matzek said there “should be a way for people to rent or own smaller houses in a condensed area.”

When it came to a vote, the bylaw change did not have the necessary two-thirds majority to pass.

Wastewater lagoon funding, on the other hand, passed with little discussion.

The additional $2.7 million is needed to bring the sewage lagoons up to current standards designed to prevent wastewater from seeping into nearby Aucoot Cove and from there to Buzzards Bay.

The project, which has already cost the town about $9.5 million, involves draining the lagoon, removing the biosolid waste from the bottom, and relining with an impervious liner. The $2.47 million, Town Administrator Jay McGrail said, would complete both the biosolid waste removal and lining.

Originally, it was estimated by consulting engineers Camp, Dresser and McKee, Inc. that there were around 350 tons of sludge at the bottom. That number has since gone up twice, and is currently estimated at over 1,000 tons.

At the meeting, voters also approved:

A $3.4 million sewer enterprise budget, including a $220,000 allocation from free cash. 

$81,000 for a new garage at the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center, to be used for storage of items which are currency being held in trailers in the community center parking lot.

$36,000 for resurfacing pathways to equipment at the Sippican School playground, making the playground handicap accessible.

$90,000 to complete the ongoing renovation of the Town House’s facade.

And, with no comment from the public, a name change of the Board of Selectmen to the Select board.