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Town Meeting Bypasses Bylaws

Mattapoisett Town Meeting

By Marilou Newell

Mattapoisett's voters zipped through 15 articles at the Special Town Meeting on October 20 until they reached Articles 16, 17, and 18 dealing with changes to the current zoning bylaws regulating cluster housing projects.

Those articles, which had previously been vetted through the public hearing process by the Planning Board, were brought to the voters by Brad Saunders of D + E Management LLC, a Bay Club Partner.

Article 16 would allow for "zero-lot line lots in cluster subdivisions served by public sewer," Article 17 would include "limited industrial district lands" in open space requirements in subdivisions, and Article 18 would "allow development of land for single family housing, to encourage the preservation of open space and promote the more efficient use of the land in harmony with its natural features."

But before Articles 17 and 18 could be considered, several voters stood to voice their concerns regarding Article 16.

Bonnie DaSousa questioned why bylaw changes were inserted in the Special Town Meeting Warrant versus the Annual Town Meeting, and asked for their indefinite postponement.

Brad Hathaway said, "Friends, I don't think we have all the information we need."

Resident William Cantor said that more information was necessary, including maps of the town that would help illustrate the districts affected by the proposed bylaw changes.

Mattapoisett Highway Surveyor Barry Denham spoke to act on the articles in the Special Town Meeting forum, noting that in previous years such articles had been handled at this venue.

Selectman Paul Silva asked if any members of the Mattapoisett Planning Board were in attendance, but none were there to support or shed light on the articles. The Planning Board had submitted a letter to the selectmen that was read into the evening's proceedings in support of the changes. The absence of any members from the Planning Board didn't help Saunders' presentation.

One by one, DaSousa made motions to indefinitely postpone acting on each of the bylaws. When Article 18 came up, she said, "I have particular concern (with this article) because of the sizeable tracts of land along the Route 6 corridor..." She said she was not comfortable making these motions and that she understood how difficult it was to construct anything in town, but felt it was necessary regarding these articles.

In the end, all three bylaw articles were postponed.

Those articles passing easily were:

Article 1: Property tax deferrals for active duty residents enlisted with the U.S. National Guard and Reserves until their return home, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, section 5L.

Article 2: Interest reduction on senior deferred taxes from 8% to 4% beginning on or after July 1, 2015 for eligible taxpayers, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, section 5, clause 41.

Article 3: Petition for special enabling legislation that would allow the Board of Selectmen to credit 100% of collected boat excise taxes to the municipal waterways fund instead of only 50%.

Article 4: Prior year bills that would allow the appropriation of $10,416 from free cash for the purpose of paying outstanding legal expenses from FY14.

Article 5: Regional agricultural school expense appropriation for the sum of $72,000 from the Regional School Expense Stabilization Fund to pay tuition to Bristol Agricultural High School for Mattapoisett students.

Article 6: Funding of road repairs in the amount of $275,000 from free cash for roads, drainage and sidewalks, including engineering and incidental costs.

Article 7: Contribution to capital equipment stabilization fund in the amount of $100,000 from free cash.

Article 8: Contribution to stabilization fund in the amount of $50,000 from free cash to support funding of this account.

Article 9: Funding of easement for bike path in the amount of $25,000 from free cash to pay compensation for taking land for the purpose of the multi-use bike path.

Article 10: Supplemental budget appropriation for the water and sewer department in the amount of $9,200 for FY15 annual operating budget of which $4,600 will be transferred from water retained earnings and $4,600 from sewer retained earnings.

Article 11: Sewer operating budget FY15 to transfer $261,000 from sewer retained earnings to cover projected revenue shortfall.

Article 12: Fairhaven sewer apportionment of sewer costs for Mattapoisett in the amount of $185,915 from Sewer Enterprise Retained Earnings to Sewer Enterprise Fund Budget as voted on May 12, 2014 annual meeting to pay Town's share of annual sewer system costs to Fairhaven.

Article 13: Sewer project and grant for Industrial Drive in the amount of $1,200,000 by borrowing or transferring from any available state, federal or grant sourced monies to pay for the costs of installing sanitary sewer to Industrial Drive; 100% of the cost of the project shall be assessed as betterments and shall be borne by the owner(s) benefitting from the project.

Article 14: Water main design and engineering costs of unspecified amount from water retained earnings for the purposes of engineering and designing the replacement of the water main on Mechanic Street.

Article 15: Authority to negotiate "PILOT" agreement with solar power generation companies for the purpose of having a 'payment in lieu of taxes' as governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, subsection 38H.

In a supplement handed out at town meeting from the office of the Selectmen was a report of the current fund balances listed in two categories: 'Free Cash and Retained Earnings' and 'Stabilization Funds.' In the first category, the following were listed: certified free cash - $842,135; waterfront retained earnings - $18,347; sewer retained earnings - $2,468,537; water retained earnings - $186,227; solid waste retained earnings - $22,325. In the second category, the following were listed: general stabilization fund - $1,725,494; capital improvement stabilization fund - $200,272; regional schools assessment stabilization fund - $409,840; SPED cost stabilization fund - $190,755.

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