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Charlemont OKs new village zoning

CHARLEMONT — Annual town meeting voters have OK’d village center zoning changes that will make it easier for new businesses and village center homeowners to make building improvements and build home businesses.

The smaller, denser “nonconforming” lots in the center of town are mostly “conforming” lots under the new dimensions spelled out by the town’s Village Center District Zoning Bylaw approved Tuesday.

Karen Hogness of Avery’s Store and of the town Economic Roundtable said the Roundtable unanimously supports the measure, which may help the village center to grow. The new bylaw reduces the minimum required lot size in the town center from 45,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet. More “conforming lots” means that property owners there will have more “by-right” uses of their properties, with a site-plan review process for proposed changes that formerly required special permits.

Voters also approved a Medical Marijuana Overlay District Zoning Bylaw, which would allow the siting of a medical marijuana treatment center along Route 2, outside of the zoned village center. This bylaw would allow the siting of a clinic within a two-mile stretch of Route 2 (between mile-markers 29 and 31), but prohibits such facilities from being sited within 300 feet of child care facilities, libraries, playgrounds and parks, churches or places in which children commonly congregate. The town has been under a year-long moratorium regarding development of a medical marijuana facility, to allow the Planning Board time to develop such a bylaw.

Voters also approved the Planning Board’s proposed General Bylaw for Earth Removal, despite some objections from residents who hold special permits to operate gravel pits in town. Planning Board Co-chairwoman Gisela Walker said the main difference between the old and new rules is that, instead of coming to the Planning Board for an earth removal permit, excavators would come to a new board, called the Earth Removal Committee, to get earth removal permits. The new committee would consist of a selectman, Board of Health member, Planning Board member and Conservation Commission member, plus a resident to be appointed by selectmen. Exemptions that would not require earth-removal permits include: removal of less than 500 cubic yards not for sale in an 18-month period; excavation for septic systems; excavation connected to construction of sidewalks, driveways, roads, or utilities; excavation for customary agricultural practices; the removal of earth in connection with any town, state or federal project.

Voters at Tuesday’s meeting unanimously approved a new Official Zoning Map and applauded the Planning Board for its year of work and special meetings to develop the new bylaws.

A citizens’ petition article for the town to establish an election recall procedure failed after much discussion about how such a recall policy would work. Sarah Reynolds said she thought the premise was good, but that there should be more definition — giving the reasons for letting a town official go.

Michael Kane said the town gave the Board of Selectmen authority over elected and appointed town boards in 2009, so that anyone unhappy with a town official’s job performance could go to the selectmen with the complaint.

“I would like to urge people to reject this,” said Camille White. “I think it could be very contentious in the future.”

“I think this is a bad idea,” said Ron Smith. “The town may need a recall law, but I think this law needs work.” He said, without giving any grounds for recall, the regulation could be misused. Referring to the high number of vacant town positions, Smith said, “As far as getting people out of office, how about getting people IN office? We need them.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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