Zoning bylaw revisions, school repairs on tap for Whately Town Meeting

  • Whately’s annual Town Meeting will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. outside Whately Elementary School, pictured. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 6/11/2021 12:02:52 PM

WHATELY — Residents will be asked to vote on a series of zoning bylaw revisions and Whately Elementary School repairs among other issues in a 38-article warrant at Tuesday’s annual Town Meeting.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. outside Whately Elementary School at 273 Long Plain Road. Town officials say chairs will be provided but they encourage residents to bring insect repellent and their own chairs if they wish.

In regards to one zoning bylaw, voters will be asked to amend the requirement that accessory dwelling units be part of an existing structure to instead allow them to also exist as new structures of no more than 600 square feet.

Planning Board Chairman Donald Sluter said the point of the revision is to create more “affordable” living opportunities throughout Whately.

“Because Whately has been a farming community for so long, there just isn’t a lot of places for people to rent affordably,” Sluter said. “What we’re trying to do is broaden that base so people can take an old barn or shed and rehab it into an apartment.”

The Planning Board also has recommended a bylaw revision to clarify that the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board have the authority to hire experts to monitor and inspect marijuana facilities after they open. Sluter said the proposal was made to “tighten up regulations” that weren’t caught in previous versions of the bylaw.

“It’s just to make sure that we have the control that we need to make sure odor doesn’t become a problem, a bunch of little stuff,” Sluter said. “Whenever you write a new bylaw, you find out fairly soon if it is effective or not.”

The town operating budget for fiscal year 2022 is proposed at about $5.42 million which is a 3.23% increase from the current fiscal year. Whately Elementary School’s budget is proposed to be increased by 2.5% to $1.83 million, while Whately’s contribution toward Frontier Regional School’s budget will decrease by 6.53% to $916,815.

Select Board member Joyce Palmer-Fortune said the budget meets the town’s needs while avoiding tax hikes. She also added that Frontier’s budget is decreasing because the number of students from Whately attending the regional school has decreased.

There are a series of elementary school improvements and repairs on the warrant as well.

Palmer-Fortune said the town is asking residents to continue to support the elementary school.

“It’s one of our biggest investments, so we want to keep it in good shape,” Palmer-Fortune said. “I would say most years there are some kind of repair- or upgrade-related articles for the elementary school.”

Specifically, Article 16 asks voters to transfer $21,000 of free cash to pay for a new oven in the cafeteria. Articles 17 and 18 ask for the transfer of $45,000 of free cash and $29,000 from the general stabilization fund to resurface the driveway and parking lot, while Article 19 asks for $20,000 from free cash for new tiles and rugs.

Other items up for a vote on the warrant include:

■Appropriating $406,909 for the Water Department Enterprise Fund;

■Appropriating $75,000 for a lift, wheelchair-accessible bathroom and other improvements for the S. White Dickinson Library;

■Approving the transfer of $20,000 in free cash for use in Whately’s 250th anniversary celebration;

■Creating a separate “Town Buildings Stabilization Fund,” which will be used for the construction and repair of town buildings;

■Transferring $30,000 for a generator at the town offices;

■And designating Poplar Hill Road, Strippe Road and Webber Road as “scenic roads,” which would prohibit tree removal or dismantling of stone walls without a public hearing.

The full annual Town Meeting warrant can be viewed at bit.ly/3cwuFBb.

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