Town Meeting Revisits Marijuana Bylaw Amendments

            Before plowing into the long list of subjects that the Mattapoisett Finance Committee will be reviewing ahead of the October 21 Fall Special Town Meeting, Town Administrator Michael Gagne announced that amendments to the town’s Zoning Bylaws related to the industrial cultivation of marijuana and the production of marijuana products both for retail and medical purposes would once again be before the voters.

            To clarify how this matter has come and gone and now reappeared on the public stage, The Wanderer contacted Mattapoisett Town Clerk Catherine Heuberger.

            Heuberger stated that the recently advertised Planning Board hearings were for the “exact same amendments as before”, resulting from a citizens’ petition for the article to be placed on the special town meeting warrant. One petitioner, David McIntire, however, had requested that the amendment articles be withdrawn from the warrant, but Heuberger’s office later learned from town counsel that McIntyre’s request could not be carried out.

            “We learned from town counsel that one petitioner cannot withdraw on behalf of 200 petitioners,” she stated. Thus, all petitioners who signed in support of adding the article to the warrant would have also had to request withdrawal, which Heuberger said did not happen.

            “So we had to go through the public hearing process again and that will be in October with the Planning Board,” she confirmed.

            She said that a November 4 Special Town Meeting would be set if the matter reaches that point.

            The Mattapoisett Planning Board will hear the proposed zoning bylaw amendment article on October 7 at 7:00 pm at Old Hammondtown School.

            Gagne confirmed that a two-thirds vote was needed at town meeting for the amendments to pass.

            Getting back on track with topics for budget discussions, Gagne shared updates on the new fire station building. He said construction estimates were holding, and he was pleased with the work done by project manager Context. He said that bids are scheduled to be released in October with a return date of January 1 in anticipation of shovels in the ground by March 1.

            Gagne said that he wanted the FinCom to consider putting additional monies into a Reserve Fund for insurance deductibles in the amount of $25,000+, as well as establishing a reserve account for Mattapoisett’s share of ORR capital needs. On this later subject, he said that discussions were needed with Rochester and Marion to ensure the tri-towns were in agreement.

            Harborside assets were also mentioned, with Gagne emphasizing the need for a plan for Long Wharf repairs. Such details and engineered designs would position the town for grant monies, he said. Gagne also recommended establishing an account for long-term care and maintenance of the bike path. He suggested a starting point of $20,000 per year.

            Gagne also noted Capital Projects’ Debt Stabilization funding, saying, “We need to be putting what we can in there.”

            Road improvements will once again be addressed with Barry Denham, highway surveyor, who will meet with FinCom for a look at priorities. 

            Regarding municipals needs, Gagne said such matters as ADA compliance, town-wide security systems, and an analysis of town hall and local schools for available space were all on the list of things to be evaluated. Also, the school and library both need masonry maintenance work, Gagne reported, and a workplace safety program was “long overdue.”

            Gagne cautioned of the looming new Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act requirements for stormwater management, regulations that need to meet state MS4 compliance. He said that some cities and towns are being cited already for issues related to MS4 and that time was of the essence.

            “It will be one big undertaking,” said Gagne. “We have got to put money in there.”

            Military personnel were not forgotten as Gagne said he wanted to think about what he called a “Bronze Star” article for the warrant. The article would ask the voters to approve a waiver of property taxes for the families of service personnel whose ultimate sacrifice had been given. “We pay those taxes out of the abatement account,” he said.

             The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee is scheduled for September 26 at 3:00 pm in the Town Hall conference room.

Mattapoisett Finance Committee

By Marilou Newell

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