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Rochester Election and Meeting Results

Rochester Special Town Meeting
October 29, 2007

A Special Town Meeting for the Town of Rochester was called to order on Monday, October 29 at 7:00 pm in the cafetorium of Rochester Memorial School by Town Moderator Greenwood "Woody" Hartley having noted the presence of a quorum of 50 voters.

After a Salute to the Flag and a moment of silence for those serving our country oveseas, Mr. Hartley noted all zoning by-law changes on the warrant this evening would require a two-thirds majority vote to pass, while all others would only need a simple majority.

Under ARTICLE 1, voters were asked to amend the town's Personnel By-Laws so as to reduce the number of members on the Personnel Board from six to four with each member serving three-year terms. The reason for making the change, according to members of the Personnel Board, was that recent history has dictated that it has been difficult to achieve a quorum and allow the board to function.

Article 1 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 2, voters were asked to amend the town's so-called Backlot By-Law. Legal interpretation of the current by-law requires no further subdivision of the remaining property. This change would relieve the constraint and make explicit a backlot requirement that such a lot could be achieved by subdivision.

Article 2 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 3, voters were asked to amend the town's Common Driveway By-Law.

As currently written, it is not possible to apply this by-law to achieve a Common Driveway within a subdivision application. The proposed change would rectify this. Since the by-law was under consideration, the Planning Board saw the opportunity to remove detailed design criteria as these are now properly codified in the "Rules and Regulations Governing Subdivisions." In addition, signage and street address protocol is updated to be consistent with new "911" guidelines.

Article 3 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 4, voters were asked to amend the Flexible Development By-Law.

For Flexible Development projects there have been difficulties in defining the "Basic Maximum Number" of lots allowable during Special Permit proceedings. The recent 115-lot Connet Woods application on the Striar property led to this proposal. In addition, some difficulties experienced with disposition of the Open Space for Bogview Estates, which is the Thistle Lane community permitted under this by-law, led to expansion and refinement of the options. During review, the board found some other features, which needed updates.

According to Town Planner Randall Kunz, adoption of Article 4 would allow the Planning Board to review development projects in terms of "allowable density" and determine individual lot sizes. "We had some difficulty with flexible development in town ... with having the property deeded," Mr. Kunz said.

Tax Collector Tom Gayoski questioned how liens on such property would be enforced if the town needed to.

Town Counsel Blair Bailey noted the town could file suit and would have to be more proactive in going after such liens in the future.

With that, Article 4 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 5, voters were asked to amend the Zoning By-Laws to permit Special Residential Development.

The Special Residential Development by-law enabled The Pines at Hathaway Pond and Trailside Estates which has "broken ground" on the north end of Snipatuit Road. The by-law itself works well but the Planning Board seeks to add landscaping requirements to be certain future projects come out at least as attractive as The Pines.

Article 5 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 6, voters were asked to amend the Soil By-Law to require a $200 filing fee and agricultural plan be submitted for all projects. The Soil Board needs a plan to comprehend the extent of an application and to determine when a project is completed, according to Town Planner Randall Kunz.

Selectmen Chairman Brad Morse asked if this would be the requirement for all agricultural projects since this might be cost-prohibitive for small earth removal jobs. "Once you make it a by-law, there's no exceptions to it," he said. "That's just my issue with this."

"The Soil Board has found it really awkward to approve an application when they have no designation of how large or small a job is and they have no way to determine when a job is complete," Mr. Kunz said.

"We have eight to ten permits open in town right now ... this is for people who are removing sand and selling it," said Soil Board member Ron Belrose. "This is not for small projects. We, as members of the Soil Board, need some type of document to follow, not just something drawn up on the back of an envelope."

In order to accommodate smaller earth removal projects, a motion was made to amend the article by adding "for applications exceeding 10,000 cubic yards" at the end of the wording.

The motion to amend carried via majority vote, 30 to 10.

"We have to have something in our hand to guide us so when we vote and approve Earth Removal Permits, we have something to fall back on," said Soil Board member Gary Florindo.

"I'm getting the feeling not everyone understands this (by-law), so I think we should table it," suggested resident Lena Bourque.

With that, Article 6 was table indefinitely.

Under ARTICLE 7, voters were asked to modify the Soil By-Law so as to limit the amount of heavy truck traffic associated with various earth removal projects by prohibiting the importing of materials other than those needed for restoration purposes.

Heavy truck traffic for soil removal is an imposition on the surrounding residents. Importation of material for the purpose of mixing with indigenous material to make it more salable simply adds to the imposition.

"This would give us some type of by-law to protect us from this situation," said Soil Board member Gary Florindo. "If we don't have some sort of by-law, the Earth Removal Permit can go from 10,000 to 20,000 cubic yards. Projects will last a year instead of the five months as requested in the hearing."

Article 7 passed via majority vote.

Under ARTICLE 8, voters were asked to amend the Soil By-Law to limit legitimate restoration of an approved project requiring stone in the form of rip-rap for retention of slopes and sidewalls.

Approval of the proposed amendment might limit legitimate restoration of an approved project requiring stone in the form of rip-rap.

"We are now seeking to add ... where when your project calls for rip-rap and retention walls, you're not importing inappropriate materials, you're importing materials that are part of the (planned project)," Mr. Kunz said.

Mr. Hartley suggested Article 8 might be redundant given the wording in Article 7.

However, Article 8 ultimately passed as moved via majority vote.

Under ARTICLE 9, voters were asked to amend the Soil By-Law to allow the Soil Board to retain technical consulting advice or legal advice at the expense of an applicant in situations where they have limited experience as needed.

Article 9 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 10, voters were asked to amend the Zoning By-Laws to delete reference to a "half story." The Town of Rochester Zoning By-Law does not currently support a definition for a half story. The Massachusetts State Building Code, CMR 780, does not support a definition of a half story. Effectively, this by-law is unenforceable.

Article 10 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 11, voters were asked to amend the Wetlands By-Law to establish a "25-Foot No Disturb Zone" from wetlands as proposed by the Conservation Commission (ConCom).

According to ConCon Chairman Rosemary Smith, a buffer of natural vegetation along a wetland is essential to protect drinking water and wildlife habitat. This zone is intended mainly for new development and construction projects and would not include existing landscaped beds, existing lawns, existing gardens and agricultural fields, existing cart paths, or existing utilities and stormwater management systems.

"This has been an informal policy (in town) for the past three years," added Conservation Agent Laurell J. Farinon, "and in that time we have had 250 projects approved near wetlands."

Selectman Morse questioned if this has been a ConCom policy for years why it needed to become a by-law now.

Ms. Farinon noted it would give the ConCom greater enforcement authority.

With that, Article 11 passed via majority vote.

There being no further articles to consider, the Special Town Meeting was adjourned at 8:27 pm.