Zoning Bylaw Timeline

There’s a lot being packed into the last couple weeks before our Annual Town Meeting, including a Planning Board hearing on a proposed Zoning Bylaw change and a Special Town Meeting to consider a couple of Zoning Bylaw changes.  We’ve heard from several of you with concerns about the proposed Bylaw changes and the timing.  I thought it might be helpful to provide a timeline and explanation of what’s coming and why.

As you know, the Select Board recently conducted a poll asking how people felt about changing the frontage requirements in our current Zoning Bylaws.  The Planning Board had inquiries about that, and we thought it was a good idea to gauge town interest.  The results were mixed, with a little less than half the responses in favor of leaving it the way it is at 400’ of road frontage, and a little over half in favor of changing it.  The results, however, were mixed as to what to change it to.  So the Planning Board has taken that under advisement and was planning to work on the issue over the next year or so.

In the meantime, a citizen petition was presented to the Select Board, as is allowed by state law, to place an article on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant to change the frontage requirements to 280’.  Once a petition is received and the signatures are certified, we are required to put it on the Town Meeting warrant.  Since it’s a proposed change to the Zoning Bylaws, the Planning Board is also required to hold a public hearing prior to Town Meeting.  Given the time needed to post the Hearing and advertise it as required, we’re having a hearing on April 23, about a week before our Annual Town Meeting on May 1.

Meanwhile the Planning Board has been working on a couple of other Zoning Bylaw proposals.  I will quote Amy Wang, the Planning Board Chair, in her response to an inquiry about this.

The Medical and Adult Use Marijuana By-Law is a protective bylaw that concerns building of facilities in town for the sale and indoor growing of marijuana to keep any such facility more within the character of town. Eversource’s plans to provide 3-phase power coming from Peru makes it possible to have large scale commercial greenhouses, and the Planning Board began to get serious inquiries from companies as far away as California about the feasibility of locating in Worthington. With the help of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), we wrote the proposed By-Law. Our public hearing did not draw huge attendance, and the predominant query was what was prompting us to want this By-Law now. We explained that it was the coming of 3-phase power and the fact that we had no specific zoning regulations for any such facilities.

The revised and reorganized Zoning By-Laws were also prepared with the help of the PVPC, and are a tightening up of definitions, clarification of some parts, and a more logical placement and sequence of our existing Zoning By-Laws. The existing By-Laws were written and added to over a period of 37 years (1970 to 2017) and are somewhat disjointed. The Roman Numerals were also confusing for many people. Any changes, including adopting ordinary numbers and changing any language such as removing the word “to” and stating instead “the Board of Appeals shall” require a public hearing as well as passage at a town meeting. This public hearing was also not widely attended. Since these amount to edits, we have made public the marked up version of the existing By-Laws so that the changes would be noticed. If you look at them online you are looking for places with blue print (underlined to help to see it) and the changes in red with a red line striking through the part to be removed.”

Because these hearings were held last Fall in October & November, we had to vote on them at a Town Meeting within 6 months.  The intention was to hold that meeting earlier, but with Covid restrictions we ended up waiting till we could do this in a tent outside.  Thus, we’re holding the Special Town Meeting on Saturday, April 24, a week before the Annual Town Meeting which is the last possible Saturday to do it.  We don’t really expect either of these Bylaw changes to be particularly controversial.  Neither of them drew much interest at the Public Hearings last fall. Here is the announcement of the Special Town Meeting which includes the text of the Marijuana Bylaw and a link to the revision of the Bylaws.

So here’s a timeline for the next 2 weeks.  All of these are of course public meetings.  In the case of the next Finance Committee/Selectboard meeting and the Planning Board Hearing, they are virtual via GotoMeeting at the link below.  In both cases there is a phone number to call in if you would prefer.  The 2 Town Meetings will both be held in tents at the School with distancing and masks required.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 6:30 pm

Selectboard & Finance Committee meet jointly to finalize the warrant for the Annual Town Meeting on May 1.
Phone: +1 (646) 749-3112 – Access Code: 233-643-381

Friday, April 23, 2021 at 5:00 pm

Planning Board Public Hearing on proposed change to the Zoning Bylaws to reduce the amount of frontage required to build a residence to 280 feet.
To attend via phone dial 646-749-3112; access code: 700-268-037.

Saturday, April 24, 2021 at 9:30am

Special Town Meeting to consider the creation of a Shade Tree Committee, a new Marijuana Zoning Bylaw and a Revision of the Zoning Bylaws.  (In one of the tents on the Ballfield – Assistance will be available)

Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 9:30am

Town Elections and Annual Town Meeting.  Once the warrant is approved on Wed. 4/21, I’ll get the warrant posted on the website and it’ll be posted at Town Hall and at the Store.  You’ll find election information here. (In a tent in the parking lot at the school.)

Charley Rose
Worthington Select Board

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