Zoning revamp heads to Westhampton special TM on Monday

Westhampton Town Hall

Westhampton Town Hall


Staff Writer

Published: 11-05-2023 8:50 AM

WESTHAMPTON — In the last of seven articles on Monday’s special Town Meeting warrant, Westhampton residents will vote on whether to replace the existing Zoning Bylaw with a new document years in the making.

“For the past seven years, the Westhampton Zoning Bylaw Review Committee has been examining the Westhampton zoning bylaws, and has been considering upgrades or changes to them,” said Administrative Assistant Douglas Finn.

And in recent years, the committee has proposed and passed specific changes to the bylaw relative to large-scale solar, cell towers and marijuana retail establishments.

“But all along their goal has been a comprehensive review of the entirety of the Zoning Bylaw to make sure that all its separate parts worked, were consistent with state law, and basically did what town residents expect their Zoning Bylaw to do,” Finn said.

After multiple public hearings, consideration of public comment, and revisions relative to those comments, the new Zoning Bylaws document was recommended by the Planning Board in September.

Finn said that broadly speaking, the new document “is a cleanup of the language and a tightening of the language from a legal perspective” that “modernizes the bylaw,” since its last major revision occurred in 1995.

“I’m hopeful that most of the bugs have been worked out,” Finn added.

Other articles

Also on the warrant is an article relative to a Massachusetts Department of Transportation proposal to rebuild a bridge on Perry Hill Road Extension.

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Though the road has been used as a town road since 1835, it had never been officially surveyed and laid out in a plan. Now, a recent plan developed by MassDOT, based on the description of the road, cuts through the front sitting room of a resident’s home.

“What this plan is doing is adjusting that road layout to make sure that the person’s house is actually on their own land,” Finn said, adding it means the town will give away around 16 to 20 square feet of town property to make the adjustment.

In short, approval of the plan layout by the town is necessary in order for repairs on the bridge to proceed.

Article 5 adds a “Treasurer” section to the “Municipal Officers” section of the General Bylaw.

Under state law, the town has been required to have a treasurer since it was established, but approval of the article would essentially add the job description of treasurer into the town’s general bylaws.

The article would also authorize the treasurer to enter into tax repayment agreements with a delinquent taxpayer.

“So if you’re a single person living on a fixed income and you have a medical condition that you’ve been dealing with for the past two years, and you simply haven’t been able to pay your property tax, you can go to the treasurer and enter into a tax repayment agreement, which forgives a lot of the statutory interest and allows you to pay that outstanding amount over the course of five years,” said Finn.

The fourth article on the warrant requires that all articles be filed with the Select Board at least 45 days in advance of the scheduled Town Meeting. The requirement can be waived by the Select Board if a proposed article is determined to pose a detriment to the town.

Article 3 would remove all gendered language from the town’s bylaws, replacing it with gender-neutral pronouns. For instance, in section 1-7-2, “he” would be changed to “the moderator.”

“It falls in line with the town’s inclusion policies,” said Finn.

In another minor language change, Article 2 clarifies elected and municipal officials in the General Bylaw.

And finally, Article 1 permits the town to pay bills from the previous fiscal year.

Special Town Meeting is set for Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall, 1 South Road. A quorum of 15 people will be required to get started.

Maddie Fabian can be reached at mfabian@gazettenet.com.