The Marion Board of Selectmen on November 7 pledged their support to help pave the way for a zoning change that would allow Marion resident Sherman Briggs to develop property he owns north of Route 6 into a condominium development.
That support was represented by a unanimous vote to place a zoning bylaw amendment article on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant (date not yet scheduled) to change the current zoning status of the property from Commercial to Residential E.
An article on the 2017 Annual Town Meeting requesting the same zoning change was defeated, and other prior related zoning requests for this land were also denied by voters at other past town meetings.
Expressing her strong support for re-zoning was Marion Planning Board Chairman Eileen Marum, who said, “We’re here to support Mr. Sherman and his effort to get the property rezoned.
“It would be in keeping with what the residents of the town wanted (as stated in the Master Plan approved by voters during the October Special Town Meeting) as far as ‘village style housing,’ and I think this is an ideal location for Residential E zoning because of the amenities that are close by.…” Marum listed biking, walking, boating, and harbor recreation among other things as amenities.
“And many of the residents are at a point now where they expressed a desire to downsize,” said Marum. “Their houses are too big and they also want to stay in the community.… It would free up the big houses for young families to move in.” She added, “I think this would be very valuable and it would let the residents know that we are following through in their wishes.
“This is what they wanted,” said Marum.
Town Planner Gil Hilario echoed Marum’s sentiment, saying, “We’re kind of all for it.” In addition, he said, Route 6 has been an area designated for mixed use, and, “A housing development would anchor mixed-use activity in that area.”
Having recently worked closely with Sherman on the matter, Hilario said, “I think my impression of Sherman is I think he’s made it very clear. He wants to put a project and move forward with it,” saying it would be prudent to work “in open dialog with him as we go forward.”
Dorothy Burrill on behalf of the Marion Affordable Housing Trust says members fully support the zoning change, “And that I don’t see any downfalls to making this change. I think it’s only positive for the town.”
Selectmen Chairman Jody Dickerson said, “As you know, this is just the first of many steps,” which he said includes an affirmative Town Meeting vote and approval by the attorney general.
“We’ve got endless talk,” said Selectman Steve Gonsalves. “I think this is a chance to show us what we can do.” Gonsalves continued, “Mr. Sherman is a resident … and is going to do a great project for this town.” He called it a “win-win.”
Selectman, but also Planning Board member, Norm Hills said he supported rezoning Briggs’ property for housing development. “It supports the Master Plan, and we should seriously think about [moving] forward with it.”
Although the selectmen voted to place a re-zoning article on the agenda, the Planning Board would have to hold the public hearing when the time comes.
Marum suggested joint meetings between representatives of the BOS, Planning Board, Affordable Housing Trust, the Department of Public Works, and any other vested entities.
“An extension of the ‘village’ is key,” said Gonsalves. “You’re going to connect – finally – the village, and you’re going to bring it across Route 6. And you have to do it safely.
“It’s going to bring the village out past Route 6,” said Gonsalves. “I think it’s all good… We want him (Sherman) to come in.”
Having discussed all that, Town Administrator Paul Dawson said the selectmen should communicate with the State regarding the ongoing bike path project, saying, “extensive engineering” has already been completed on the bike path, including the three possible crosswalks that will cross Route 105.
“There is a plan in place as to where that path is going, and if it needs change, now is the time to get that going,” said Dawson.
In other important news, Dawson had good news about the town’s NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems) permit, saying the Environmental Protection Agency, after significant negotiations with the town and its engineers, approved a settlement agreement that Dawson said would result in “significant cost savings to the ratepayers.”
The most significant part of the agreement is the EPA’s shift from requiring the Town to line the town’s three wastewater lagoons down to only one, “and that we would cease placing sludge in Lagoons Two and Three,” Dawson said.
The town will also undergo a comprehensive study on the operations at the wastewater treatment facility and how the town could improve its efficiency.
In other matters, there were three Open Meeting Law complaints filed against the Town – two by a Ronald Beaty of West Barnstable against the Board of Selectmen, and one by Marion resident Dale Jones against the Energy Management Committee (EMC).
The two complaints against the selectmen pertained to the use of acronyms on the October 3 meeting agenda – specifically, CMWRRDD and MRC, the Carver Marion Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District and Marine Resources Commission, respectively. Dawson and all three selectmen maintain that no Open Meeting Law violation was committed, but considered, however, avoiding future use of acronyms in the agenda “in the spirit of best practices,” as Dawson put it.
Gonsalves’ stance was, “Ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and urged Dawson to remove any mention of discontinuing the use of acronyms in future agendas from the official response to the complaints. Both other selectmen agreed.
Jones’ October 23 complaint accuses the EMC of holding an executive session for a reason unpermitted by the Open Meeting Law. Dawson said town counsel would be attending a meeting of the EMC on November 15 to advise the committee on any immediate action that may need to be taken.
As a side note, Jones appeared on the October 17 BOS agenda requesting appointment to the EMC, but the selectmen passed him over for Mark Endsley. Jones had also recently sought appointment to the CMWRRDD, but was passed over for that seat as well.
A Fire Department boat was badly damaged during the recent storm, having been battered along with its motor after the dock was damaged and the boat broke free. Dawson said the Town is working with the insurance company, and that this was the only significant damage of Town-owned property reported.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled for November 28 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.
Marion Board of Selectmen
By Jean Perry