Selectboard denies request to add article to TM Warrant

  • Local realtor Gerry Godin appealed to the Selectboard last week to re-open the fall town meeting warrant to seek a change in zoning that would allow him to develop property he owns off Spring Street Extension. Town Manager Shaun Suhoski listens to Godin’s presentation. Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 9/23/2019 9:55:12 PM
Modified: 9/23/2019 9:55:09 PM

ATHOL – At its meeting last Tuesday, the town’s Selectboard turned aside a request from long-time Athol-area realtor Gerry Godin to re-open the fall town meeting warrant in order to add another article for consideration. The town charter says proposed changes in the town’s zoning bylaws, which Godin was proposing, should be addressed at the fall conclave rather than the annual town meeting.

“I am familiar with the board,” Godin said, “that you have the authority to change whether the warrant for the town meeting is closed or not. It’s been explained to me by the town clerk. I’m hoping that somehow the Board of Selectmen will make a change to (the warrant) at my request.”

Godin presented the board with a copy of a proposed zoning change that was defeated at a town meeting several years ago when, Godin explained, he was attempting to change the designation on property he owns in town from Residential C to Residential B.

“In Residential C,” he went on, “you have to have one full acre to build a house. Residential B can be a half-acre or less, and that’s very important to my particular plan.”

Godin said he owns a parcel on Spring Street Extension, “And I have it subdivided for 13 house lots.”

“I haven’t been able to sell this property for almost 20 years now,” Godin continued. “I’ve gone to the town meeting twice, and every time I’ve appealed to the people of Athol for a favorable reply, I haven’t gotten anywhere. And it has been an injustice to me. It’s been an injustice because the town master plan says if land is located on town water and town sewer, it will be designated Residential C, and I’m right on that borderline.”

He further stated that most of the other lots in the area are designated Residential B, adding he granted an easement to the town to allow for the extension of municipal water and sewer to a large development on High Knob Road.

“I know it’s a non-conforming use and probably can be developed with a special permit, and I’m asking for that kind of decision on my land,” said Godin. “I’m pushing 89 years old and it’s time to downsize, you might say. It’s time to do something, and I’d like to straighten this mess out.”

He concluded by noting the town stands to earn more property tax revenue if his property is developed.

Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith told selectmen the Planning Board would be unable to hold a public hearing on the proposed bylaw change in time to place the article on the fall warrant.

Board member Lee Chauvette made a motion to re-open the warrant for the purpose of discussing Godin’s article, but the motion failed to receive a second, thus killing the proposal.

“There is no second,” said board Chair Rebecca Bialecki, “so we won’t be re-opening the warrant at this time.”

“It looks,” she told Godin, “like you’re going to have to start at the beginning and give enough time for this to be vetted through the Planning Board and go through the process the way it needs to happen. So, I’m very sorry.”

“I’m very disappointed in your decision,” Godin responded, “but I will abide by it and will be back, hopefully, if I’m still alive. Thank you for allowing me to make my presentation.”

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