Lengthy agenda might require two nights for Mattapoisett Town Meeting

Apr 26, 2015

With a total of 51 items on the Town Meetings agenda, Moderator Jack Eklund expects voters will need two nights to conduct business.

“For the past three years, Annual Town Meeting was finished in one night,” Eklund said. “I don’t think that will be likely this year. I think voters might find it difficult with what’s on the warrant.”

Eklund, along with Town Administrator Mike Gagne and Town Clerk Catherine Heuberger, reviewed the agenda at an informational session sponsored by the Tri-Town League of Women Voters on Sunday afternoon.

Mattapoisett’s Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for May 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Old Rochester Regional High School auditorium.

Two sets of agenda items are likely to spark debate based on the high level of interest the issues have already generated. One is related to a wetlands bylaw amendment and the other would bring changes to how “cluster subdivisions” are laid out.

A cluster subdivision is a housing development in which homes are built closer together than a regular division. This allows for more community open space in the development.

Brad Saunders of D + E Management LLC is a land planning consultant who represents some Bay Club landowners. He brought the changes to the Planning Board and members sponsored the three articles.

Saunders explained that changing the bylaw would allow for smaller homes and duplexes to be built in a cluster subdivision. He said these homes would appeal to a different demographic – mainly seniors, seasonal residents and couples looking to downsize once their children leave home.

The second bylaw would allow land zoned as light industrial to be used as open space in a subdivision. Saunders said the change wouldn’t allow home construction in a light industrial area. The light industrial zone is located near the Bay Club development.

The third bylaw proposal change would permit cluster subdivisions in the general business district. As all other residential housing is allowed to be built in that zone, Saunders said he believed leaving cluster developments off the approved list was a mistake.

“It’s, I think, probably an oversight,” Saunders said.

Bill Cantor asked how many properties in town would qualify as cluster subdivisions if the changes were approved.

Saunders said he was unsure, and pointed out that a minimum of eight acres is required for a property to be named a cluster subdivision. He said landowners are free to consolidate property for a cluster or normal subdivision already.

“Anyone can assemble eight acres,” Saunders said.

The other set of bylaw changes that may prove to be contentious include an agenda item from the Conservation Commission.

The bylaw is designed to prevent Conservation Commission decisions from being overruled by the Department of Environmental Protection. Ideally, the town would have more say in decisions as opposed to the state.

Adopting the bylaw means appeals would go to superior court instead of the current method of holding several appeals through the DEP.

At a recent public hearing, many expressed concerns that the bylaw would give the commission more tools to restrict projects in town.

In an effort to make passing the bylaw more difficult, a group of residents petitioned for an agenda item that would require a two-thirds majority vote for it to pass.

Generally, only zoning bylaw changes require a two-thirds majority, Gagne said.

“The people who petitioned for this article believe it rises to the level of importance of a zoning bylaw,” Gagne said.

In an effort to ensure the meeting runs smoothly, Eklund encouraged residents who might introduce amendments on Town Meeting floor to meet with him beforehand. Eklund wants to ensure amendments are worded correctly. Also, anyone making a presentation will be kept to a 10-minute time limit, Eklund said. For the moderator’s contact information, call the Town Clerk’s office at 508-758-4103.