Pelham Town Meeting to vote on village center zoning

  • A vote is called at Pelham Town Meeting in 2014. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 5/8/2019 12:00:23 PM

PELHAM — Voters at annual Town Meeting Saturday will consider measures to prevent convenience stores and chain businesses in the village center zoning district, to make the town clerk an appointed position and to specify when dogs must be leashed.

The 37 articles on the warrant will be taken up starting at 9 a.m. at the Pelham Elementary School. Three days later, May 14, voters will head to the polls for the town election, with no contested elections on the ballot.

A revised zoning bylaw for the Village Center Neighborhood District seeks to prohibit convenience stores, and to reduce the size of allowed retail uses to under 2,000 square feet.

A memo from the Planning Board states that it is illegal to ban chain stores, but by defining certain types of retail with specific characteristics that would not be allowed, only businesses desirable to residents would be effectively allowed. “Retail as we define it envisions a smaller enterprise, home occupation, or proprietor-owned type shop,” planners write.

A citizen petition, though, aims to go further by prohibiting retail stores from the district, while another petition seeks to ban restaurants, bars and entertainment venues in buildings smaller than 2,500 square feet.

The Planning Board is offering its own amendment that revises the definition of restaurants to clarify that alcohol sales are allowed in restaurants, and to include catering under this use, but to ban bars and standalone entertainment venues.

Making the town clerk appointed, rather than elected, is seen by town officials as a way to increase the pool of people who can serve in that role. The idea is to petition the Legislature for special legislation changing the town clerk from an elected position, which would open the position up to non-residents.

For dog owners, one article would require people to have their dogs on a leash following one formal complaint about a dog’s behavior, while a second article would mandate leashing dogs at all times when on town property.

The fiscal year 2020 operating budget proposal is $4.6 million, which is $48,854, or 1.1 percent more, than this year’s $4.55 million budget. The Finance Committee, in a memo, notes that the budget falls well below the 2.5 percent limit, but cautions future budgets may not be so rosy. “It is time to seriously start discussing what should be the plan,” the committee writes. “The Town Center is a start but without some major economic development activity, it will not solve our problem.”

The budget includes $1.79 million for the elementary school, an increase of $21,828 from this year’s $1.76 million budget, and an assessment of $911,957 for the Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools, a drop of $35,239 from $947,186. That assessment is contingent on adopting a revised formula, which Amherst, Shutesbury and Leverett have already done.

There is also $246,948 in free cash spending, which includes $50,000 toward the future roof replacement at the Amherst Regional Middle School, $25,000 for road maintenance and $25,000 to repair or replace the HVAC system at the Community Building, which will be supplemented with a $250,000 Green Communities grant to pay for most of what is known as a variable refrigerant flow heat pump heating and cooling system and energy recovery ventilator ventilation system.

From the capital plan stabilization fund would come $25,000 to purchase a new or used vibratory asphalt roller for the Highway Department, $70,000 to repair and paint the exterior of the Old Town Hall, and $40,000 to install new energy efficient windows and paint the exterior of the Rhodes School.

From the Community Preservation Act account would come $125,000 to acquire a house site at 8 Amherst Road for the purpose of community housing, including a Habitat for Humanity house.

A petition article seeks to mandate all future Town Meetings begin with a progress report on municipal measures to conserve water and energy resources, and minimize carbon emissions, by Pelham boards and committees.

Town election

The town election will be held at the Ramsdell Room at the Pelham Library from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 14.

Incumbents seeking reelection include Alisa C. Pearson for Select Board, Robert N. Rowell for Board of Assessors, Richard M. Hall for Board of Health, Peter C. Wilson for Planning Board, Gayle R. Barton for library trustees, Scott L. Barton for Cemetery Commission, Daniel E. Robb for moderator and Cydnie Reiman for Community Preservation Committee.

Newcomers vying for elective office include Linda J. Spink for a one-year post on the Planning Board and Michael Hussin for three years on the library board of trustees.

No one took out papers to run for three-year seats on the School Committee and Council of Governments, and a one-year post as auditor.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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