Spring 2013 Annual Town Meeting Highlights
Spring Town Meeting voters gave overwhelming approval for creation of three playing fields that will be located on a portion of 35-acres of town-owned land near the Cow Pond Brook fields- known as Ledge Rock Fields - following a comprehensive presentation by Parks Department Chairman Jon Strauss. Approval included $309K from the Community Preservation Fund, $50K from Groton-Dunstable Recreation Association, and a state PARC grant for $400K and an estimated $100K from the town. Strauss assured voters that no funds would be spent until the town has received commitment on the grant. If the PARC grant is unsuccessful, Strauss said that the application would be re-submitted to 2014 Spring Town Meeting for funding. The badly needed playing fields will provide space for some 2000 athletes including space for soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball and football.
With strong support from a number of Groton business groups and the Planning Board, the concept plan for the P.C. Myette property at 120 Boston Road was approved by a tw0-thirds vote. Planning Board Chairman John Giger advised voters that the concept plan was just the initial step in moving forward on plans to demolish the two existing buildings on the site and to construct two, two-story medical office buildings; one with an 8305 sq. ft. footprint and the second 2400 sq. ft. footprint.
Giger said that Myette and his team will now begin the engineering and permitting process will all relevant boards. An abutter to the property, Dorothy Janes, expressed concern regarding the easement she has over Myette's land and their shared septic system. Myette plans to hook up to the municipal sewer system, and Janes said she cannot afford to do it. She also is concerned with the potential siting of the new building because the backside of the new structure would face the entrance to her tile business.
Voters approved by a two-thirds majority, changes to the Groton zoning code that defines the schedule of use regulations for agriculture, floriculture and horticulture, essentially bringing local law into compliance with state law. The local bylaw placed a limitation of 15 on the number of pigs and poultry allowed, and the amendment removes this limitation. In addition, it removes the need for special permits for things like roadside stands barns or stables for breeding or boarding, because the state does not permit regulation of these by special permit.
According to Meredith Scarlet, a Groton farmer and member of the Agricultural Commission, citizens of the town do not lose any protections that they currently have available to them. Farmers still have to secure stable licenses; they have to pass Animal Inspectors requirements; and they still need to comply with Board of Health regulations. Should there be any problems with a farm abutting a residential area, the Ag Commission, Animal inspector and Board of Health have the power to ensure that good farm management plans are in place to reduce any problems.
Lost Lake Resident Debra Mendel moved to amend the article to re-instate limitations on pigs and poultry to not more than 15 of each on a farm. She cited the density of some areas such as Lost Lake, West Groton and Forge Village Road as areas that need protection from the change in the bylaw. Although there was sympathy from some voters for the situation, the amendment failed and the new bylaw stands. Town officials did hear some suggestions that perhaps some sections of the town should be designated as residential only and other areas as agricultural only.
The FY14 Town Budget was approved without change for $30,158,433. The balanced budget is prepared by Town Manager Mark Haddad, which is reviewed by the Finance Committee and discussed at public hearings prior to making recommendations to Town Meeting.
Although Selectman Josh Degen presented a clear explanation of the components, operating budget and capital budget, Groton Pool and Golf Center came in for its annual public thrashing. Degen stressed that the Center was breaking even in its operating revenue but that long-overdue capital improvements were not covered by revenues.
Groton Pool & Golf Center Manager Bob Whalen told voters, "There has been no capital investment for 25 years, as long as it has been owned by the town. You can't turn this around in a few years...It should never have gotten to this point. The only way the club can survive is to grow the golf and pool memberships. We have had no marketing to do this.
"The truth be told, the pool, golf and the summer camp are profitable," he said.
Finance Committee Chairman Jay Prager cautioned voters, "Seven percent of citizens subsidize three percent of those who play golf. The pool and golf center should be self-supporting." But a number of voters pointed out that there are other areas that the town has spent money on, such as replacement of Fitch's Bridge, that also are used by a very small number of residents.
In the two sessions of Annual Spring Town Meeting, voters acted upon and approved all 29 articles.