A Tri-Town Year in Review

Marion, Mattapoisett, and Rochester – three very different towns that have united as one Tri-Town – have passed through yet another year in time, with each community seeing its own issues emerge and enter the distinctive zeitgeists of their respective towns.

As we pass from one year into the next, we at The Wanderer like to take a look back to see where we have come from, where we have been, and where, with any guess, we might go in the coming year.

So let’s take a look back and remember the main topics that topped town hall business and dominated the conversations amongst neighbors! Here, we now give you the year 2016.

In Marion, the most recent major event on collective history is, by far, the acquisition of the VFW Post 2425 Benjamin D. Cushing building, which selectmen just this month officially designated as a senior center/community center to the delight of Marion seniors who have been anticipating a senior center of their very own.

However, there was a steep price to pay for this gain. VFW Post 2425 disbanded due to dwindling membership, which is a loss in itself for the entire community. On December 7, Post Commander Demi Barros and VFW member Rodney Hunt signed the deed to the building over to the Town.

The Marion Board of Health has taken up arms this year against Big Tobacco with its intent to categorize menthol cigarettes as ‘flavored tobacco’ and ban it from sale in town.

With the help of various nonprofit organizations that oppose tobacco use, the town may receive some legal assistance to help win its fight, but a fight is coming indeed, as has warned the attorney for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Only time will tell now if the Town can win its fight against Big Tobacco.

Also in the news, Hollywood actor James Spader attended one of the Board of Selectmen meetings in July and spoke out against Shea Doonan’s last aquaculture proposal off Meadow Island. Although the actor’s appearance was likely more exciting for local news reporters than selectmen, the Planting Island residents were far more excited when selectmen voted against the aquaculture farm. In 2017, Chris Bryant will undergo hearings with selectmen and the Conservation Commission to determine the fate of his proposed aquaculture farm off Meadow Island, a proposal that Planting Island residents have already begun to speak out against.

Speaking of selectmen, Marion said farewell to former Selectman Jon Henry and said ‘hello’ to new Selectman Steve Gonsalves, who beat Norm Hills during the election. Gonsalves continues to serve on the Planning Board, as well.

Also, Marion was the first to acquire through state grant funds a fleet of electric vehicles, which has enabled the Town to phase out a couple of gas-guzzling clunkers.

Overall, it was a relatively quiet year in Marion.

Mattapoisett, likewise, enjoyed a relatively quiet year of its own – that is, unless you are one of the neighbors to the Inn at Shipyard Park who are fighting against a special permit to allow the inn to increase capacity and live entertainment.

Neighbor Maureen Butler, with her attorney, appealed the Zoning Board of Appeals decision to grant the special permit to allow the inn’s growth.

The matter is currently in litigation and has not yet been resolved.

There was certainly an uptick in the upgrading of certain historic village streets, with new infrastructure work, new sidewalks, plus water and gas main upgrades on streets such as Church, Water, Pearl, and Hammond. The town is seeking further grants for increased infrastructure upgrading in the coming New Year.

However, if you asked Animal Control Officer Kathy Massey, she probably wouldn’t agree that it has been a quiet year in Mattapoisett. Take the rabid raccoon from back on July 8, for example.

Massey is a natural storyteller and when she told the tale of the rabid raccoon and its shifty, fluttering eyes, you felt a chill go up your spine.

The raccoon attacked a woman working in her garden before Massey cornered the rabid creature up a tree and captured it.

“I’ll never forget the eyes,” Massey stated.

Rochester also had a fine year, with many residents celebrating the sun setting on the proposed solar farm in the historic center of town.

Neither the Planning Board nor voters at the Annual Town Meeting were aware that a vote to adopt a new solar bylaw amendment would stop the project in its tracks back in June.

In its June 28 letter to the Planning Board, after months of slogging through the permitting process against the opposition of many an abutter, solar developer Renewable Generation LLC cited its reason for withdrawing its application due to “extenuating permitting challenges.”

Will 2017 bring a new application for a developer of some other commercial or light industrial establishment?

Rochester Town Meeting voters in 2016 not only said ‘no’ to a new town annex building, they also said a definite ‘no’ to construction for a new town hall of any fashion.

Selectmen are now heading towards exploring town hall annex only options, which should begin to solidify more in the coming year once the town hall annex building subcommittee comes up with a new plan of action for the Town and taxpayers alike.

Overall in Tri-Town, the drought hit the area pretty significantly. A drought ‘watch’ back in late August quickly escalated into a drought ‘warning’ in mid-September. Mandatory outdoor water restrictions were implemented, many of which have yet to be lifted even in December. As of December 1, the region still remains in a drought watch.

The closing of Buzzards Bay to shellfishing back in October was a pretty big deal, especially for those who relish the opening of the shellfishing season. The closure, due to a high concentration of toxic phytoplankton, remained in effect until the ban was lifted October 31.

What will 2017 bring the three towns next? Anyone care to guess? Solar farms? Aquaculture? More rabid raccoon chases?

There is one thing that is for certain, however. The Wanderer, which is officially 25 years old this year, will continue to deliver all the happenings, events, and news within the Tri-Town to you for at least another year. We are delighted to serve our three communities and every one of us here at The Wanderer wishes all of you in Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester, and beyond, a happy and healthy New Year!

By Jean Perry


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