Term limits, Town House up for consideration at Marion's Town Meeting

May 9, 2018

Marion Town Meeting voters on May 14 will be asked to spend $7.8 million to renovate the Town House, to limit the number of boards an elected official can serve on, to approve a bylaw that would slow the demolition process for old, potentially historic buildings, and to reconsider a zoning proposition that was denied last year.

Town Meeting begins at 6:45 p.m. in the Sippican School auditorium. All registered Marion voters may attend and participate.


Town House renovation

Voters will decide whether to spend $7.9 million to renovate the Town House on Spring Street. The vote is somewhat controversial, after the Board of Selectmen chose to remove an article that would have given voters the option to choose to build a $5.1 million one-story Town House at the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center property. Also on the agenda is a citizens petition that would would have the town spend $5.4 million on renovations at a rate of $200,000 per year. For more, click here.

Proposed by the Town House Building Committee, the $7.9 million renovation would strip the interior of the building to its studs, completely gutting the interior to modernize it. The interior of the building would be completely rebuilt to meet current code, including adding insulation and energy-efficient windows, waterproofing the building's basement, and replacing the buildings HVAC, plumbing, electrical and technology systems.The renovated building would have three floors and an elevator, and T2 Architects, who designed the renovation, also hope to open up the building's main entrance once again.

The first floor of the building would house the most-visited town departments—the Town Clerk, offices of the Treasurer and Assessors, and the Harbormaster's office. In addition, the first floor would host a meeting room that would seat around 30 people.

The second floor would house the Board of Health, Town Planner, Public Health Nurse, Conservation Commission and Accounts Payable, while the third floor would cater to administrative needs, including the Town Administrator's office, as well as offices for the Board of Selectmen and Finance Director.

The octagonal annex building at the back of the Town House, where meetings are currently held, would also be demolished to make way for additional parking space.

The final size estimate of the renovated building is 11,255 square feet. With a 30-year note at five percent interest, the tax impact on the median household in Marion would be an additional $104 per year.

The Community Preservation Committee also agreed that the renovation project should be awarded Community Preservation funds, which are raised through a property tax surcharge and can only be used for historic preservation, recreation, open space, or affordable housing projects. The article also seeks approval from voters to transfer $860,000 worth of Community Preservation funds towards the renovation.



Spring Street rezoning

Expressing concerns about taxing the town's water and sewer systems, voters at Town Meeting last May denied a request to rezone several properties on Spring Street from general business/limited industrial to residential. The request will be back before voters this year.

If approved, the measure will precede a permitting request by resident Sherman Briggs to build a condominium complex on Spring Street. The condos would be comprised of mostly two- and three-bedroom units, all of which would have a master bedroom on the first floor in order to appeal to the town’s older residents.

Briggs has been working in collaboration with the Planning Board and Town Planner Gil Hilario to move the rezone forward. Planning Chair Eileen Marum said at a meeting in the fall that the project would help accomplish goals of the Master Plan, which calls for more senior housing in town.


"Preservation of Historic Buildings" bylaw

A proposed bylaw submitted by Judith Rosbe via citizens petition would require the Marion Historical Commission to approve the demolition of any building 75 years or older.

Additionally, the building would have to be either included in the Marion Massachusetts Historic Properties Survey, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or found by the commission to be historically or architecturally important or importantly associated with one or more historic persons or events.

"The bylaw is specifically meant to preserve very significant buildings in Marion, in terms of architecture or general history," Sippican Historical Society president Frank McNamee told Marion's Planning Board during a public forum on May 7.

To demolish an older building, the owner would have to submit an application and then be subject to a public hearing held by the Marion Historical Commission. Pending the results of the public hearing, the commission will make a determination whether or not the building should be preserved.

According to the bylaw, the Building Commissioner would not be allowed to issue a demolition permit for a building found to be “preferably preserved” until: the Historical Commission provides written notice of the unlikeliness of the owner or another person/group purchasing and restoring the building; the Commission provides notice that the owner has made reasonable but unsuccessful efforts to locate a purchaser to preserve the building;  a period of 12 months has passed since the commission’s determination that the building should be preserved.


Setting a limit on elected positions held

Marion resident Ted North has submitted a citizen's petition, hoping to add a bylaw that would limit the number of offices an elected official can hold.

His petition would limit town employees and elected officials from holding multiple elected positions. The proposed bylaw would also prohibit town employees from serving as selectmen, and if a selectman leaves the board, he or she would be required to wait a full year before being eligible to take any other town job.

“[The petition] precludes the concentration of power,” North said.


Public hearings on Town Meeting items

Ted North has also submitted a proposed bylaw that would require a public hearing if any board is making a decision on whether or not to include an item on the Town Meeting agenda.

The proposal was prompted after Selectmen, in favor of renovating the current Town House, decided to leave the option of building a new one off of the May Town Meeting agenda. Residents argued that voters should have the opportunity to choose.

In addition, the public hearing, according to the bylaw, would analyze the purpose, reason and cost of a proposal, including the aggregate cost of debt financing that would be required.

The bylaw would, beyond requiring a hearing, would also require notice of a public hearing at least 48 hours in advance of the hearing, according to Massachusetts' Open Meeting Law. The proposal also states that any communication between or among a quorum of a public body on any matter within its jurisdiction must be conducted during a noticed meeting.