Athol Fall Town Meeting set for Monday

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 10/18/2019 9:45:19 PM
Modified: 10/18/2019 9:45:07 PM

ATHOL – Voters will gather Monday night for the annual fall town meeting. The gathering gets under way at 7 p.m. at the town hall. Five of the seven articles on the warrant call for amending the town’s zoning bylaws, two for amendments to general bylaws.

The first article asks voters to expand the number of businesses allowed under the definition of “home occupations” as enumerated in Article III, Section 3.4. Light service and general repair of motor vehicles, boats, or farm equipment would, if the article passes, be allowed in the Residential C zone with the issuance of a special permit from the Planning Board. Other occupations, including home-based internet and computer/software repair businesses would be allowed in all residential zones.

Article 2 would amend Article III, Section 3.4 by requiring adequate off-street parking for home businesses, and that any home occupation is determined to not be “detrimental to a residential neighborhood, and the existing character of the neighborhood is preserved.”

Article 3 has been described by Athol Town Counsel John Barrett as an “insurance policy” in the event the state Attorney General’s Office vetoes a year-long moratorium on the construction of ground-mounted solar arrays approved earlier this year at a special town meeting. The proposed amendment to Article III, Section 2.3 would allow solar farms in zone Residential C only with the issuance of a special permit. Under the current bylaw, solar facilities are allowed “by right,” leaving little opportunity for review by the Planning Board.

At a meeting in September, Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith told the Selectboard that Barrett “thinks it’s an insurance policy to put this on the warrant because we don’t have the AG’s approval of the moratorium as of today. So, I think we should pass this.”

The fourth article voters will wrestle with is a proposed amendment to Chapter V, Section 27 of the Zoning Bylaws that would limit to one the number of unregistered motor vehicles that would be allowed on personal property, and then only with a permit issued by the Selectboard.

Article 5 calls for deleting Section 20 of Chapter V of the General Bylaws in its entirety and replacing it with new verbiage limiting the size of signs that may be posted on public property – such as political signs, event announcements, and fundraisers – to nothing larger than 16 square feet. Signs could be posted for one week only, and must be removed within 48 hours of the event being publicized. Signs left up longer than allowed will be removed at the owner’s expense.

The final two articles on the warrant would: amend the town’s Adaptive Overlay District by allowing multifamily dwellings to be established via special permit, and; create a new definition for mobile food vendors, respectively.

At its meeting on Sept. 17, the Selectboard removed from the warrant a proposed article which would have required property owners to remove snow from sidewalks abutting their property within 48 hours of a snowfall.

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