Three major construction projects in the Town of Marion will proceed with cautious optimism after key votes of citizen support at a well-attended Annual Town Meeting on Monday night at Sippican School.
Articles 10 and 11 of the warrant addressed the proposed operations center for the Department of Public Works and the harbormaster’s Marine Center, respectively.
Article 32, the reclassification of several lots off Wareham Street (Route 6) and Bournehurst Road near the Weweantic River as Residence Zone E (multifamily housing) carried by a whopping 157-36 margin.
“I’m glad we got the information out so everyone could make their own informed decision,” said developer Matt Zuker, who conducted informational sessions to promote his market-rate residential project to the townspeople.
Now he will go through a lengthy permitting process with the Planning Board.
Zuker’s attempt to rezone the land failed in October 2021, the vote needing a two-thirds majority but falling far short with 64 attendees evenly split. On Monday, the same measure needed only a simple majority after the Select Board supported a Planning Board decision to use a 2021 state law allowing the threshold. The measure played no role in the outcome.
The new DPW operations center at Benson Brook was the most substantial request because the vote authorized the town to borrow $3,000,000 toward a $4,500,000, three-building headquarters that will include repair bays and office space in one building, covered parking in another and the salt shed in a third.
However, the matter drew little in the way of controversy, save for questions about the future of the existing site on the other side of Route 6. Resident Steve Kokkins questioned if it’s in the town’s best interests to sell that property to fund the new site.
Jon Henry, former selectman and current Planning Board member, said he participated in a study years ago that determined selling that property is not feasible. Town Administrator Jay McGrail, meanwhile, said the town wants to maintain it for storage purposes. All but one structure there is to be razed, as it is considered woefully out of code and unfit for working conditions.
Article 11, a request to allocate $700,000 as the town’s share to comply with state grant funding toward the majority of the proposed Marine Center at Island Wharf, required a two-thirds majority and was passed almost unanimously.
In theory, the Marine Center will be built with no impact on taxpayers, a stipulation being that should the Seaport Economic Council not come through with the additional $2,000,000 in grant funding that it will take to construct the new harbormaster’s headquarters, the building will not be built.
Marion’s contributions are coming from the Waterways Account.
Citizen Jared Dourdeville stated objections to the project that Harbormaster Isaac Perry said were addressed in the design change.
The conversation carried on in many facets with different residents asking questions until voter Chris Washburn requested that the moderator “move the question, please.”
Residents of Village Drive and Fieldstone Lane held a citizens’ petition that their streets be absorbed as town ways for ownership and maintenance purposes.
Representative Shawn Batcheley argued on behalf of Article 40 that it costs roughly $30,000 a mile for the annual maintenance of town roads and that the total length of the roads in the petition add up to a small fraction thereof.
Town officials, in general, find the proposal problematic because of the road design, most notable the hammerhead end and the sudden drop-off in land around the road.
The Zoning Board of Appeals had granted developer Steen Realty more than 10 waivers.
Select Board member John Waterman told Batcheley, “We are not asking you to assume the costs, you’re asking the town to assume the costs. We don’t have as-built plans for the road.” Waterman also cited costs to maintain and plow, saying there is “enough burden on our sewer enterprise as well.”
McGrail added to the complexity, noting that Town Counsel suggested it is unclear whether the town would be accepting the utilities. “There’s no authority baked into the article,” he said.
A motion to table the article pending further research into the unresolved facts carried by a 121-50 margin.
Articles 33 and 34, relating to the “Water Supply and Aquifer Protection District” and “Water Supply Protection District” respectively, were both passed over.
The rest of the 46-article warrant of the regular Town Meeting and the two articles of the Special Town Meeting, all passed, including several capital projects.
Marion Town Meeting
By Mick Colageo