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Leyden voters approve subdivision changes

LEYDEN — Voters approved several zoning changes that will change the way the town deals with proposed subdivisions.

One of the changes makes it easier for housing subdivisions to be approved, provided that about 80 percent of the total property is placed in a conservation restriction. Under the previous zoning, subdivisions were allowed by-right, as long as builders met criteria for minimum frontage and lot size. Now, such developments would be subject to a special permit.

Though the new regulations allow for smaller minimum lot and frontage sizes, proponents said the open space requirements would reduce the possible amount of homes on a parcel by about half.

Another zoning change will allow multiple houses to be served by a single driveway, by special permit. This would reduce the number of curb cuts needed for clustered housing. The bylaw also provides “flexible frontage” standards, which allow development on the rear portions of lots which already have a house near their frontage.

Town buildings will get some repairs, thanks to a handful of approved articles.

Town Hall will get a new roof for up to $20,000, kitchen upgrades for a maximum $20,000, and 20 new windows for $12,000 at most, after voters approved the use of stabilization money for the projects.

Voters also approved the deposit of $20,000 into a town building stabilization fund, and an equal amount to a Highway Department stabilization fund.

Several stabilization accounts received a boost of nearly $200,000 Saturday morning, thanks to the efforts of town workers.

“The reason we had $190,000 in free cash this year is because the tax collector, Selectboard and (Accountant) Tracey Baronas — everyone — worked diligently to get back taxes paid,” said Finance Committee member Carol Johnson.

All of the free cash was put into general and specific stabilization funds during a special town meeting directly before the annual meeting. Those accounts were then used to fund several capital articles during the annual meeting.

The town will not spend $80,000 to buy a house for a town museum. The Historical Commission told voters that an inspection of the building turned up the need for major repairs, with a price tag upwards of $250,000, and recommended the article be passed over. The Commission is not giving up hope, and is exploring other possible museum locations.

School budget

Voters approved the town’s $865,551 share of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District. For the budget to stand, however, it must be approved by three of the district’s four towns.

The school budget now hinges on votes in Northfield and Bernardston. Though Northfield’s annual town meeting approved the full amount, the funding hinges on the approval of a Proposition 2 1/ 2 override vote.

Bernardston will vote on the school budget at its Wednesday annual town meeting. The town’s officials have urged voters to approve an assessment under the district’s request, but the full amount also appears on the warrant, after the district petitioned to have it listed in a separate article.

Warwick voters approved their share of the full budget at their May 5 annual town meeting.

Leyden approved the district’s plans to borrow $400,000 for computer and software upgrades, to be paid back over five years, beginning in fiscal year 2016. Northfield voters approved the borrowing, and Warwick passed over a motion regarding it. It only takes one town to defeat the borrowing, and Bernardston will decide the matter Wednesday.

Voters approved $35,000 for a heating system upgrade at Pearl Rhodes Elementary School. The building’s three oil-burning furnaces will be replaced by two high-efficiency propane burners.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 @RecorderRain

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