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Montague town meeting set for Saturday

TURNERS FALLS — Successive special and annual town meetings Saturday will decide whether to allow a decrease in the minimum apartment size, investigate broadband expansion and authorize liens for unpaid fees, among other decisions.

The day begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Turners Falls High School theater with the seven-article special town meeting, followed by the 30 articles of the annual meeting scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.

The question of apartment size arose during the permitting process for Mark Zaccheo’s proposed redevelopment of the former Montague Center School into 22 apartments. The zoning Board of Appeals granted Zaccheo a variance from the minimum size of 700 square feet for some of the proposed apartments.

A group of abutters has appealed that decision, as well as two accompanying special permits, with a lawsuit.

Following public hearings, the Planning Board voted to endorse a proposal to change the zoning bylaws to remove the general 700-square-foot minimum and replace it with a 500-square-foot minimum specific to multi-family dwellings. The minimum could also be relaxed through a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals, theoretically easier to obtain than a variance.

The Montague Center School also figures on the warrant with the usual request for $10,000 to maintain the building.

The final article on the regular meeting warrant calls for creation of a committee to investigate the possibility of expanding the broadband Internet access to under-served areas of town.

Residents from one under-served area of town had previously come before the Board of Selectmen, hoping for support for the idea of creating a municipal lighting district for the Chestnut Hill area, in order to create a fiber optical network to link to the network expansion in neighboring Leverett.

The final article on the special meeting warrant would create the option of placing liens on real estate for license, permit, inspection and court-related fees, dog fees, bounced check fees, and non-contested unpaid fines.

Up for debate again is the use of the $32,000 approved at last year’s special town meeting in May for the purpose of repairing the former Cumberland Farms building at the corner of Avenue A and Second Street. The building is under the control of the Montague Economic Development and Industrial Corp., which had promised the building to the local-access cable station.

Originally, the article allowed for spending to repair or demolish the building, and the $32,000 sum was based on a demolition estimate. Following a failed proposal at that meeting to limit the use of the funds to demolition, a proposal to strike demolition from the options passed.

The article on this year’s special town meeting warrant would restore demolition to the spending options for 38 Avenue A.

Significant monetary decisions include $731,659 for the Franklin Technical School and $7,965,557 for the Gill-Montague Regional School District, $1,953,363 for the for the sewage plant budget and $7,745,203 for the town’s operating budget.

Cumulatively, the Department of Public Works requests $318,055 in five separate articles for purchase of or payments on heavy equipment.

Also up for approval:

■ Transfer of $46,460 for the purpose of pre-development and permitting of the Turnpike Road Energy-Industrial Park.

■ $1,750 to install surveillance cameras at Unity Park.

■ $88,088 for operations, maintenance and debt service of the Colle Building.

■ $42,000 for the Turners Falls Airport budget.

■ $8,000 to replace windows at the Unity Park field house.

■ $20,000 for police equipment and repairs.

■ Authority for the Board of Selectmen to purchase or otherwise acquire easements in certain parcels of land along Greenfield Road for road improvements.

■ An article petitioning Baystate Health Systems to commit all necessary resources to Baystate Franklin Medical Center, on the warrant by petition.

■ $25,000 to supplement the Police Department budget for the current fiscal year.

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