By Beth David, Editor
Acushnet Town Meeting approved all articles at the Special TM on Monday, 11/5/23, including the 55+ bylaw change and the additional Lake Street Recreation Area funding that caused a lot of chatter on social media.
Article 12 amends the bylaw that allows 55+ housing developments to include a host of regulations and restrictions. The article garnered lots of discussion and questions.
Town officials told voters that the changes put safeguards in place to make sure any new developments will be in keeping with the neighborhoods and the character of the town. The changes limit the number of units per acre, and the number of bedrooms per unit.
SB member David Wojnar, who has been under fire on social media about the bylaw, said for 20 years he has been hearing from people who want n affordable option for when they get older and do not want to maintain their large homes. He said the bylaw will require the developments to go before numerous boards for approval.
“I just ask that the source of truth is what you see in print,” said Mr. Wojnar. “Not on social media.”
Finance Committee Chairperson Mike Boucher said voters should watch the meetings themselves and not rely on social media. There is “may too much misinformation on there, nonsense, innuendo and slander,” he said. “It’s pretty disgusting to be honest.”
Peter Benoit, who is also on the Finance Committee said without the changes, the town is open to developers to do what they want.
Some voters had concerns with specific aspects and details of the changes.
Mr. Wojnar said the bylaw can always be changed at a future TM if they find it is not right.
“It’s a living, breathing document,” he said.
“If we don’t pass the 55+ bylaw, we’re screwed,” said SB Chairperson Kevin Gaspar.
He said any developer can put multiple units alongside any property now. The new law has safeguards. He said he personally insisted on certain changes.
“I’m proud of this bylaw,” said Mr. Gaspar.
Voters raised concerns about enforcement. What happens when a 55+ person has an adult child who suddenly needs to live with them, and brings a child along? What about if the owner dies?
Some of that is addressed in the bylaw, officials said, some will be an enforcement issue.
Discussion also went back and forth about the definition of “affordable,” but the bylaw does not specify affordable housing. It is for 55+, and by nature of the restrictions, should cost less than a single family home on a large lot.
Mike McLuskey went back and forth a bit with SB members, saying he has been asking questions for months and getting no answers.
“You don’t answer any of the questions,” said Mr. McLuskey
Planning Board member David Davignon said he endorsed the changes from the beginning because it puts restrictions in places.
“This comprehensive bylaw replaces something so basic and archaic,” said Mr. Davignon. “We’re fools if we don’t push it through.”
Anita Davis asked Mr. Wojnar if there were any projects in the works or being talked about behind closed doors.
“I know where you’re going with this,” said Mr. Wojnar.
“No you don’t,” said Ms. Davis.
“I don’t appreciate the innuendo you are trying to perpetuate on social media” said Mr. Wojnar. “They don’t know what they are talking about.”
“We don’t live in the lily white community we like to think we do,” said Ms. Davis, adding grandparents are raising grandchildren and the developments would “open a can of worms.”
In the end the article passed with very little opposition, at which point, many people left the meeting.
Article 5, which appropriated funds for a variety of capital expenses, got a bit of heated discussion. TM voted to split the article to vote on each item individually, although, in the end they all passed.
The Fire/EMS ambulance expenditure passed easily; the Fire Chief’s new Dodge Durango passed easily; and the Council on Aging new van passed easily. Not so the lease close-outs for the two Electric Vehicles (EVs) that the town has.
Mr. Gaspar explained that the town had three EVs, but turned in the one the building department had
because the new inspector did not use it. The two remaining EVs are used by the Health Agent and the Conservation agent. The cars also have low mileage and are in good condition, so the down decided to keep them.
Garry Rawcliffe got into his familiar rant-mode over the Electric Vehicles, saying if the town turned down the buyback of the leases, the $41K would become free cash.
“Don’t play these people for stupid,” said Mr. Rawcliffe.
“It’s already free cash,” noted Town Administrator Jamie Kelley, as the article is calling for the funds to come from Certified Free Cash.
In the end the vote was close enough to require a count; it passed 57 to 51.
The Golf Course appropriation also got a surprising amount of discussion, with Article 10 asking to transfer $125,000 from the Golf fund for various repairs and equipment.
Ms. Davis asked how many people actually played golf. She said it was a lot of money for something most of them never use, saying it is for the “elite.”
Ms. Gaspar noted that the money is from the Golf Enterprise fund that is from user fees, not taxation.
“The golf course is an actual gem for this town,” said Mr. Boucher, adding that the note will be paid in four years.
Golf Committee member John Abaray said the golf course is open to the public and anyone can use it to walk the paths. He said there is a lot going on there and encouraged people to go see it.
Discussion also revolved around possibly building a club house that would have food and drink to bring in non golfers.
In the end it passed with very little opposition.
Town Meeting also passed an additional $75,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the Lake Street Recreation Area. There was very little discussion and the article passed unanimously, despite a lot of chatter on social media criticizing the project.
Town Meeting also:
• Approved $92,000 for cardiac monitors for the Fire Department;
• Approved the transfer of $100,000 to the Capital Expense Stabilization Fund and $200,000 for the OPEB fund, both from free cash;
• Approved a bylaw change to return the special permit limit to two years, after the state mandated a change to three years due to the pandemic;
• Approved changes to the sewer assessment bylaw to make it more equitable for new tie-ins;
• Authorized the Selectboard to utilize the RPF process to sell or authorize reuse of the Russell Memorial Library Building, and to sell town owned parcels under 20,000 square feet;
The meeting is available on demand on the town’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQLn-V7X9rp0JdWXh445neQ
Click here to download the 11/9/23 issue: 11-09-23 PickleballLivesey
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