May 12, 2008 Select Board Meeting

Monday, May 12, 2008, 6:15 p.m. Music/Language Room at the Middle School

Present:  Select Board members Gerry Weiss, Anne Awad, Alisa Brewer, Diana Stein and Stephanie O’Keeffe; Town Manager Larry Shaffer


Mr. Weiss:  Announced last week’s death of Jarrod Weston, son of Gail Weston, who works in the Town Manager’s office, and called for a moment of silence.  Also announced that Ms. Weston’s daughter had a baby on Sunday.

Ms. Awad:  Announced a public hearing to be held May 29th at 12:30 p.m. at the Bangs Center regarding planned PVTA fare increases.  Users are encouraged to attend or send written/e-mailed comments.  Full schedule for all area public hearings and contact info is here.  Noted that PVTA fuel costs are $1.5 million over budget, and that there are no plans to cut bus routes.

Public Comment  (6:23)

Rob Kusner:  Talked about this week being Bike Commute Week, with a breakfast on the Town Common on Friday morning.  Full schedule of Bike Week events in Amherst and other local communities is here.  Requested that the Select Board support forward-funding of PVTA in the State Legislature, and follow-up on a parking policy proposal he made and the Select Board supported at a February meeting.

Article 47 – False Alarm Fees  (6:27)

Article 47 seeks to impose graduated fees for repeat false security alarms, after warnings are given for the first three occurrences.  The bylaw deals only with security/burglar alarms, not fire alarms.  For the text of the article, see the Town Meeting Warrant. 

Petitioner Stan Gawle referenced information from his original presentation to the Select Board in February, regarding the intent of his proposed bylaw change, and data on false alarms.  Police Chief Charles Scherpa said that 99.9% of residential alarms are false, and that 75% of those are repeats.  Mr. Gawle and the Chief spoke about the safety issues involved in two police cruisers responding in an emergency fashion to every alarm call, tying up officers who may be needed elsewhere, the expense of those efforts, and how the proposed fee penalties would be a false alarm deterrent and would raise some revenue.

The Chief said that if the bylaw is approved, there would be a few months of publicity and warnings, and that the new law would probably begin to be implemented in January.  He said that a software system for tracking repeat violations might eventually be sought.  He said that the bylaws would apply to all buildings in town, including churches, schools and municipal building, which he said are among the biggest repeat offenders. 

The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend Article 47.

Article 46 – Right to Farm  (6:37)

Article 46 seeks to affirm at a local level the language in the Massachusetts State constitution regarding support for farming and agriculture, and to promote peaceful coexistence and dispute resolution between farmers and their neighbors. 

Ruth Hazzard, Vice Chair of the Agricultural Commission spoke to the different sections of the proposed bylaw:  its purpose, definitions, the “Right to Farm Declaration,” its effective date, disclosure notification to Real Estate Buyers, resolution of disputes and a severability clause.  David Ziomek, Director of Conservation and Planning, and staff liaison to the Agriculture Commission, said that 62 towns in Massachusetts have passed similar bylaws.  He said that Town Counsel had reviewed the draft, that his suggestions had been incorporated.

The Select Board raised several concerns about definitions of farming and to whom the bylaw would apply, and the Town Manager suggested that the dispute resolution portion needed more clarity regarding what body would have decision and enforcement authority on such matters. 

Ms. Hazzard and Mr. Ziomek agreed to bring the matter back to the Select Board after more research and clarification of the issues raised. 

Article 39 – Rescind Recombinant DNA Bylaw  (7:02)

Article 39 seeks to rescind a 1978 bylaw regarding regulation of recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology.  The bylaw is outdated and is superseded by more stringent Board of Health regulations. 

Board of Health Chair Sandra Sulsky and Town Health Director Epi Bodhi spoke about the need to rescind the 1978 bylaw, the process the Board of Health has undergone to create new regulations, and the potential confusion of having both a Town bylaw and Board of Health regulations on the same subject.  Mr. Shaffer provided a written opinion from Town Counsel saying that if both sets of regulations were in effect, the more stringent one would apply, and that if both exist, they should be synchronized.  It was noted that Town bylaws require Town Meeting action to change them, while Board of Health regulations are more easily updated.  It was also noted that neither the existing bylaw nor Board of Health regulations apply to UMass, because the Town has no authority over Federal or State institutions, but that the Board of Health has worked in coordination with the University in establishing its regulations.

There was discussion about the pros (as back-up, and to make the general public more aware) and cons (potential confusion, redundancy and inefficiency) of having a new Town bylaw address rDNA issues in the future, in addition to the Board of Health regulations, but Article 39 addresses only the rescinding the 1978 bylaw. 

Dick Mudgett had wanted to make a presentation to the Select Board before its vote on Article 39, but time did not allow for that, and the sense of the body was that such a presentation was unlikely to alter the clear support for rescinding the outdated bylaw.  It was agreed that his presentation should be made to Town Meeting, and that the Select Board members could change their votes on the matter then if they saw fit.

The vote to recommend Article 39 was unanimous.

Article 33 – Requesting Zoning Bylaw Amendment on LEED Standards

Article 33 seeks to have the Planning Board develop a zoning bylaw amendment to require that some new development projects meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. For the text of the article, see the Town Meeting Warrant. 

Petitioner Nina Weyl explained her article and the short-term and long-term benefits of “green” building, including environmental benefits, improved health and efficiency among workers, lower energy and insurance costs, and so forth.  She said that she would like the Planning Board to look into this and to consider such a requirement, something that other municipalities have already done. 

I expressed concern that while her intent is to have the Planning Board look into this, the language of the article requires a certain outcome.  I suggested that it might instead “encourage” or “recommend.”  Mr. Kusner said he would assist her in changing the language, and it was agreed that she would return to seek the Select Board’s recommendation when that is done. 

The meeting adjourned at 7:40 p.m.  The next Select Board meeting will be held at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14th, in the music/language room at the Middle School, prior to Town Meeting.    



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