Athol Selectmen move 5 zoning articles to fall meeting warrant

  • Town Manager Shaun Suhoski discussing the town meeting warrant at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen. From left, Board Chair Rebecca Bialecki, Lee Chauvette, Holly Young, and Suhoski. Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 5/1/2019 9:55:24 PM

ATHOL – The Athol selectmen removed five articles from what had been a 33-article draft warrant for the upcoming annual town meeting June 10. The articles deleted by the board Tuesday night proposed changes in the town’s general and zoning bylaws. Members also weighed the possibility of lifting an article, proposed by citizen petition, that calls for a town-wide ban on “polystyrene and other non-recyclable food service ware,’ but ultimately decided to leave the proposal on the warrant.

Selectman Lee Chauvette was the first to raise concerns over the proposed zoning changes.

“I want to echo the concerns of the Finance Committee chairman, as well as the Town Moderator and also the Athol Town Clerk, who all feel the warrant articles dealing with zoning and/or town bylaw changes need to be held at the fall town meeting. There is nothing that’s going to be earth-shattering. I’m not sure why we wouldn’t take those articles and put them at the fall town meeting where they belong by charter. The people of Athol voted the charter and it states in there that these types of things should be handled at the fall town meeting.”

“We have side-stepped that ourselves on a couple of occasions,” said Chauvette, “when we had to consider time-sensitive permitting and zoning related to the plaza and to the siting of marijuana facilities. I don’t know what the time-sensitive material is here.”

Select Board Chair Rebecca Bialecki asked Town Counsel John Barrett if the board was prohibited in allowing zoning-related articles on the annual town meeting warrant. She also wanted to know how a proposed solar array on Conant Road would be affected if the tightening of the permitting process for such facilities, as proposed in one of the articles, was delayed until this fall.

“Answering the second question first,” said Barrett, “it would not. If this is adopted it would not apply to anything that’s already been applied for. Even though they haven’t been approved yet. They applied for it before this bylaw change was proposed. They would proceed under the regulations in place when they applied.”

Barrett went on to say he disagreed with those who believe zoning and bylaw changes may only be considered at the fall town meeting.

“As I interpret the charter and bylaws, it’s more advisory and it’s something that, obviously, in the past the board has exercised the ability to put something on (the annual town meeting warrant) under circumstances which the board felt was urgent. I suggest that it’s not prohibited.”

Chauvette also expressed reservations about including the petition article on the warrant because Barrett had not had a chance to review it.

“Town Counsel hasn’t even read or seen the petition article yet,” said Chauvette. “I’m not saying ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ to the article but moving that to the fall would certainly give him more time to deal with it.”

Barrett gave the opinion, however, that the proposal on polystyrene and other non-recyclables needed to stay on the warrant because it had been placed there by citizen petition.

In addition to articles relative zoning and permitting for solar arrays, the board also voted to pull articles from the warrant that would have amended the bylaw governing unregistered vehicles, provided a new definition for mobile food vendors, and restricted where those vendors could operate.

An initial motion to recommend the warrant with all proposed articles intact was defeated by a 3-2 motion, with board Chair Bialecki and member Holly Young voting in favor, and Chauvette, Bill Chiasson, and Stephen Raymond opposed. A motion subsequent motion to move the warrant minus the zoning and bylaw articles was then passed 3-2.


In other action Tuesday night, the selectmen made the following appointments:

Downtown Vitality Committee: Althea Bramhall, Daphna “Diane” DiPietro, Mary Holtorf, Paula Robinson, Herbert Wheeler, Anne Willhite, Holly Young, and; associate member David Small.

Shade Tree Commission: Anthony Brighenti, Sharon Brighenti, Margaret Feldman, Travis Knetchel, Robert Mallet, Paula Robinson, Jared Robinson, and; associate member, David Small.

Zoning Board of Appeals: Kala Fisher, Marc Freeman, Harry Haldt.

Registrar of Voters: Gerard Lozier.

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