Voters ok NetZero goals, demolition permit delay heads back to Historical Commission
By Patricia Roy
Voters at the May 4 Annual Town Meeting breezed through approving an $83.5 million municipal budget along with some transfers from the town’s rainy day fund and bond approvals for town conservation properties.
A $450,000 transfer from General Stabilization Fund was given the go-head in line with a three year plan developed by the Finance Committee, Selectboard and School Committee at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to supplement town revenues for the general budget.
As the final year in the planned transfers, there will be no future transfer sought next year.
The article to fund the town’s municipal departments included $37.9 million for the town’s schools, up 4.83 percent over last year and $1.1 million for Keefe Vocational Technical High School, an amount that was down 14.8 percent from last year’s spending.
The police department budget was $3.8 million, an increase of just 1.7 percent and $2.8 million for the fire department, up 10.68 percent over last year.
The Water Enterprise Fund was approved at $3.1 million to be raised through water rates. The Sewer Enterprise Fund was likewise approved at $6.1 million to be raised through sewer users and Rubbish Collection Enterprise Fund was approved at $1.7 to be raised through solid waste rates.
Capital Authorizations passed unanimously for $1.5 million to fund a fire truck tower as well as $200,000 for renovations to girls and boys locker rooms Ashland Middle School.
An article to transfer $60K from the Economic Development Fund balance to the Economic Development Account was approved unanimously. A portion of the transfer will e used for the town’s business incentive program while the rest will be paid into an Economic Development salary account.
The following Revolving accounts (accounts that are funded by user fees) were approved unanimously in Article 7 on the town meeting warrant:
Senior programs, Council on Aging, $25K
Community Center rental (maintenance and expenses for the building),$25K
Holliston Animal Control, not to exceed $76K
Library materials replacement, $1500
Hazardous waste drop off program for televisions and computers, $15K
Sidewalk Construction Fund, $50K
Guidance Revolving Fund for payment of PSAT and Advanced Placement exams and proctors, not to exceed $40K
Food inspections, $45K, tobacco sales point inspections, $15K
Electrical, plumbing and gas inspections, $225K
Ambulance revolving fund, $625K.
In Article 8, the Community Preservation Act was unanimously approved for funding at $83.5K from fiscal year 2023 revenues.
The Oak Street Bond payment was appropriated at $148,275 from Community Preservation Act funds, while a bond payment for $314K was passed for the high school’s athletic fields.
The Warren Woods bond payment was also approved at $156.5K and the Valentine Estate bond was approved at $47K.
There were just two points of animated discussion in the meeting, one of which involved an article sponsored by the Historical Commission to amend the town’s demolition delay bylaw for historically or architecturally significant buildings.
The motion was eventually amended and passed to be referred back to the Historical Commission.
Jim Nielson, Historical Commission chair said, “specifically the nine months which is currently existing we feel is not strong enough.”
A number of builders and developers have gone through the motions of trying to abide by the bylaw who have pretty much built the nine month date into their calculations, he said.
Should the Historical Commission decide a building should be preferentially preserved, the building inspector will be notified in writing, no demolition permit shall be issued within 12 months of the determination to preserve the building. This timeline would replace the nine-month waiting period.
If the building is older than 100 years old, the Commission was seeking a 24 month wait on a possible demolition permit. If there is any violation of the bylaw, the waiting period would automatically become five years rather than two years.
The change specifically state that the cut-off date is any building that is older than 50 years from the date of the demolition permit application.
Among the challenges to the article were that a fifty year old building is not actually that old.
An article sponsored by the Sustainability Commission to adopt a framework to achieve NetZero emissions by 2040 was passed by a simple majority after a voter moved to send the article back to the committee.