Whately Town Meeting voters to consider marijuana bylaws, Haydenville Road project

  • Residents pictured at the 2021 Annual Town Meeting at Whately Elementary School. This year’s meeting will be held Tuesday, May 24, at 6 p.m. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/21/2022 9:45:28 PM
Modified: 5/21/2022 9:45:10 PM

WHATELY — Voters at Tuesday’s Annual Town Meeting will consider the approval of a $5.73 million budget and several marijuana zoning bylaws, as well as authorizing the Selectboard to move forward with the Haydenville Road reconstruction project.

Town Meeting will be held outside Whately Elementary School at 6 p.m. In the event of rain, the meeting will be moved inside the school.

The 26-article warrant is available at bit.ly/3lkyHAE. Explanations for the articles can be found at bit.ly/3NlYdBy.

Town officials will present Whately’s $5.73 million operating budget for fiscal year 2023, which is 5.73% higher than last year’s $5.42 million budget. The greatest increases in the budget come from higher costs to operate Whately Elementary School and the town’s assessments for Frontier Regional School and Franklin County Technical School, much of which is due to enrollment changes.

For Frontier, the town’s assessment has increased by $131,967 to nearly $1.05 million. In February, the school district’s Director of Business Administration Shelley Poreda said Whately’s increased assessment is not out of the ordinary, as each year typically sees one town with a drastic increase due to enrollment and other elements of the budget process.

“We have fluctuations like this every year. Sunderland saw it last year,” she said during February’s draft budget presentation. “Every year it is recalculated.”

Article 22 will ask voters to consider authorizing the Selectboard to undertake the approximately $9.6 million reconstruction of Haydenville Road, which will be paid for through the Federal Highway Administration.

The article seeks permission from voters to allow the Selectboard to acquire temporary and permanent easements for public way purposes on land adjacent to Haydenville Road. Anticipated easement locations are available to view at the Town Clerk’s Office. The article would also allow the Selectboard to petition the state Legislature to remove certain land from conservational protection so it can be used for roadway purposes, as well as enter into an agreement with Northampton if needed to secure easements on land owned by the city.

Articles 24 and 25 involve zoning changes, which would amend the town’s bylaws to include the terms “marijuana courier” and “marijuana delivery.” Planning Board Chair Donald Sluter said these changes would enable marijuana delivery services to operate in town. There are no retail marijuana dispensaries in Whately right now, although two stores have had special permits approved to open in the former Sugarloaf Shoppes on Routes 5 and 10.

“We figured it’d be better to get ahead of the curve rather than behind,” Sluter explained. “Whately doesn’t have any people that can sell yet. … If somebody wanted to start up a small business doing delivery, we would not have a problem with it.”

A marijuana courier, according to the bylaw’s language, would be allowed to deliver “finished” marijuana products, accessories and branded goods directly to consumers, but is not allowed to sell, process, repackage or label such items.

Marijuana delivery, however, would be entities licensed to purchase finished marijuana products and label, sell and deliver these products directly to consumers. These companies would not be authorized to repackage products or operate a storefront.

Other notable articles voters will be asked to consider are as follows:

■Article 14 asks residents to appropriate $55,000 from the town’s vehicle stabilization fund to pay for a new hybrid police cruiser for the Whately Police Department.

■Article 23 would reduce Planning Board terms from five years to three years.

■Article 10 asks voters to appropriate $255,000 from FY21 free cash to reduce the tax levy on residents. The town usually requests $200,000, but proposed an additional $55,000 to help reduce the burden of the increased budget on taxpayers.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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