Athol town meetings set for June 13

Recorder Staff
Published: 5/8/2016 10:45:12 PM

ATHOL — The annual town meeting is scheduled for June 13, and chicken is on the menu.

The evening begins at 6:30 p.m. with a special town meeting containing three articles that didn’t make it onto the regular meeting warrant, followed by the annual meeting at 7 p.m.

Among the business of the day are two articles intended to first permit poultry by right in the downtown residential district, and, second, to permit keeping chickens by special permit if the first article should fail. The Board of Selectmen were originally presented with two poultry-specific but informally phrased petitioned articles and two more inclusive but more formally phrased articles and opted to place the latter on the warrant, with the petitioner’s approval.

Ranee LaPointe of Sanders Street, also a member of the Agricultural Commission, said she crafted the petition and collected signatures after learning that local zoning prevented her from keeping chickens purchased for her son. LaPointe said neighbors also keep chickens and some non-chicken-owners seem to appreciate their help keeping the tick population in check.

The expansion of the “accessory agriculture” use would allow up to 12 chickens per property in the downtown zone, with a $10 permit from the building inspector under option one or a more expensive and time-consuming special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals under the backup option to be presented to voters. LaPointe said roosters would not be allowed on properties smaller than five acres.

While the informal petitioned articles sought permission for “chickens, turkey, ducks and other poultry,” the more formal version that will go to town voters is not so narrowly focused. Administrative Assistant Heather Brisette said she and Town Clerk Nancy Blackmer drafted the suggested articles as more likely to pass muster with the Attorney General. The articles would expand the “accessory agriculture” use, which includes horses and other farm animals, to the downtown residential district.

Also up for approval are the Athol-Royalston Regional School District and Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School assessments and a tuition payment to the Franklin County Technical School for two Athol students unexpectedly attending the school.

Other spending articles include a transfer to the Building Department for the purpose of demolishing and securing unsafe buildings, capital improvement spending, water and sewer system improvements and money toward a $275,000 settlement with the EPA over environmental cleanup at the former Rod and Gun Club.

The warrant includes no firm monetary figures; these are to be contained in the motions made at the meeting.

Land and buildings are also to be acquired and disposed of, with authority to sell or otherwise dispose of the Ellen Bigelow and Riverbend elementary school campuses and the Sanders Street Elementary School campus, made obsolete by the new Athol Community Elementary School. The new school is under budget and on time for a September opening, Town Manager Shaun Suhoski said. Suhoski said the hope is to find developers for the properties, perhaps for use as senior housing. The Pleasant Street school is not currently up for disposal because the land is divided and needed for access, he said.

The town is also seeking permission — first from residents and then from the state legislature — to discontinue a portion of Lake Ellis Road, sell that portion and another plot and buy or take land for a new road layout.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com




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