Light Night, Weighty Considerations

Despite an agenda that looked like it could sustain 15 minutes of meeting, the members of the Planning Board spent about an hour discussing the confluence of their responsibilities with bylaws and other boards and commissions.

Of particular note was SRPEDD. This stands for Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District. The agency was developed to serve 27 cities and towns in the region for land use, transportation, economic and environmental planning. It serves over a half million people in 808 square miles.

John Mathieu shared with the other members that during his recent meetings with SRPEDD’s Grant King precise detailed mapping of Mattapoisett is now available. From this Mathieu said they could overlay zoning maps and plans such as those being drawn up by the Open Space committee to better assess land use options. With all of this data, the lay of the land for Mattapoisett’s planners becomes easier to see allowing better land use for master plans and future generations.

Of particular interest to the Planning Board are areas that could generate revenue for the town. Ron Merlo and Mathieu concurred that “Mattapoisett is built out.” With very little in the way of parcels zoned for business, Mathieu wants the board to take a deeper dive into the current areas zoned as business districts. This, along with developing and updating bylaws, is sorely needed, it was pointed out. The current set of bylaws was last written thirteen years ago.

Mathieu suggested that the area from Fairhaven to Aucoot Road on Route 6 “should be re-zoned all business … maybe for cottage industries or light commercial … there is no space left for businesses.” He added that “our zoning bylaws need to be addressed; we need some smart planning.”

Regarding open space and watershed areas Merlo commented, “we’ve done well protecting land, but we’ve also removed the taxes.”

SRPEDD’s mapping shows that nearly 30% of all landmass in Mattapoisett is either wetlands, been purchased for open space, is state protected, or part of the Buzzards Bay Coalition and watershed areas.

In discussing bylaws, Karen Field asked, “if you are going to allow solar energy, are you going to allow wind also?” Neighboring Marion’s current scrutiny of solar energy and land use bylaws was noted, along with Mattapoisett’s recent approval of the industrial-scale solar farm scheduled for Tinkham Hill Road off North Street. Mathieu questioned, “Do we have several types of permits?”

This spurred the conversation toward the subject of which board has responsibility for special permits with Mathieu commenting that in conversations he has had with other boards, he believed the Planning Board should be the granting authority for most special use permits.

“We need to work on these things,” Merlo interjected. “We have a clean slate.”

The one agenda item the board heard earlier in the evening regarding a large Maple Tree on Beacon Street was postponed until June 3 to allow for public comment should the tree need to be removed. Beacon Street is a scenic byway.

And one other issue discussed was the necessity to seek legal counsel for action on the paving of Ocean Breeze, which was mandated as part of the development’s order of conditions. The required paving has not been completed in spite of a four-year time period having transpired. Merlo said, “the four residents pay taxes and they deserve a paved road.” The members approved a motion to seek legal action against the developer, Scott Snow, for the paving and the installation of a streetlight.

Minutes from the previous meeting were approved without correction, and the next meeting is set for June 3.

By Marilou Newell

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