By Beth David, Editor
At its meeting on 10/16/19, the Fairhaven Selectboard reviewed and made its recommendations for the articles on the warrant of the special town meeting coming up on 11/12/19. TM members will face at least 19 articles, including spending articles and bylaws changes.
STM will also be asked to approve a land swap to facilitate the Oxford School building project, which calls for taking a sliver of Livesey Park out of park land status to use as parking. In order for park land to be taken for other purposes, a similarly sized piece of property must be swapped and used as park land. The town has identified a lot on Main Street, adjacent to Cushman Park to be swapped.
Article 10 asks TM to approved funding for land acquisition to buy the G. Bourne Knowles property for a public safety facility. The amount was not filled in because negotiations are ongoing for the property, said Town Administrator Mark Rees. The amount will be finalized by the STM.
TM will also be asked to appropriate funds for several water and sewer department compliance projects.
Public Works superintendent Vinnie Furtado told the board that article 7 is part of the ongoing efforts of the water department to comply with regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, which issues the MS4 permit allowing the town to discharge treated water into the environment.
Mr. Furtado said that the town had done much of the work that the EPA had required, but they had “upped the ante.”
The department will need to appropriate $35,000 to $50,000 each year, said Mr. Furtado. He had hoped he could use Chapter 90 funds, which are earmarked for road work, for some of the EPA work, but that is no longer allowed.
The board voted to support article 7, which allocates $50,000 for stormwater compliance.
Article 8 also involves the water department, and asks for money to repair a weakened force main on Pilgrim Avenue. Mr. Furtado told the board that new pumps may have blown out the old pipe.
The board voted to allocate $40,000 for the repair.
Town Meeting members will also be asked to allocate funds for a consultant to help the town decide if it wants to pursue a municipal fiber optic network in Fairhaven.
The Town Clerk got support from the board for a bylaws change prohibiting her from working on Saturdays. She asked for the change because sometimes the deadlines fall on Saturdays, and she prefers to move those deadlines to Friday. Some of the deadlines are set by the state. The article is being reviewed by Town Counsel.
Board member Bob Espindola expressed concern that town hall could never open on a Saturday, even if necessary, if the bylaw passed.
Selectboard chairperson Charles Murphy noted that the change includes a provision that allows the Town Administrator to direct that town hall be open if necessary.
The town clerk also asked for a change in the dates for dog license renewals. Mr. Rees said it would “even out her workload,” as the current deadline falls during her busiest time while she is preparing for the local town elections. The new dates would be January 31 to December 31 if passed by TM. The current licensing period is April 1 to March 31.
School Superintendent Robert Baldwin addressed the board, asking for an amendment to his budget, passed last May.
Dr. Baldwin told the board that the school department is short on funding for special education, especially transportation costs, which are not reimbursed by the state for students that have an out of district placement.
The board voted to support a $220,000 increase in the School Departments FY20 budget.
Town Meeting will also be asked to vote on a demolition delay bylaw and a rezoning of Benoit Square
The zoning bylaw would allow for mixed use in the Benoit Square area, which is, in effect, the way the area is already being used, said Planning Director Paul Foley.
He told the board that the change pretty much mirrors what is there, but businesses and buildings that are now “preexisting and nonconforming,” would be conforming.
He said it would give people the “impetus to reinvest in that area.”
The rezone would allow people to have a business on the ground floor and live on an upper floor. The area now is zoned residential with exceptions.
“It’s just a zoning change to allow them to do what they’re doing,” said Mr. Foley, but they would not have to get a special permit or variances.
TM will also be asked to approve a demolition delay bylaw, that would allow the Historical Commission to review any demolitions of buildings built before 1921.
Mr. Foley told the board that he would like to include incentives to get home owners to want to save their older homes. He said often it is a financial decision for a home owner to demolish an older house.
“But it really is the character of his town,” said Mr. Foley.
He said the town could give zoning relief to owners of older homes to get them to keep the houses intact.
He said the town would have to create a list of houses that would be subject to the bylaw.
The regulation would not prohibit the demolition of a house, it would just delay it, and, hopefully, the town could work out a deal with the owner to keep it, he said.
He gave several examples, including a house that was torn down on a large lot so the owner could build. He said maybe if the town had the flexibility to allow a rental on the lot, the old house could have been saved. He also said that sometimes it is a matter of not being able to bring a house up to code, like those old, narrow, winding stairs that would never be allowed today, but that mark the period of when the house was built. He said exceptions would be allowed for historical structures.
“We don’t want to be draconian, but there are criteria on how you decide what’s historical,” said Mr. Foley. “Just because it’s old, doesn’t mean it’s historic…it doesn’t mean you have to preserve it.”
The warrant is available on the town’s website. On the Selectboard’s page, click on “Town Meeting Warrant archives.
Support local journalism, donate to the Neighb News with PayPal.
Click here to download the entire 10/31/19 issue: 10-31-19 HalloweenHorribles