May 5, 2008 Select Board Meeting

Monday, May 5, 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; Assistant Town Manager John Musante, Town Manager Larry Shaffer

The meeting began at 6:22.  There was still confusion over whether we were meeting at 6:15, as was the intention, or 6:30, as the agenda stated.  Ms. Awad expected a 6:30 start and arrived for that, while Mr. Shaffer was at a reception to welcome the new UMass Chancellor, so he would arrive later, while John Musante filled in for him at the meeting.


Mr. Weiss announced that donations are being accepted to pay for flowers in downtown flower pots, and that checks could be made out to Andrew’s Greenhouse and sent there directly or given to Mr. Weiss.  He also announced that the 2008 Regional Sustainable Energy Summit will be held at the UMass Campus Center on June 20 and 21, with a keynote speech by David Morris of the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

Ms. Brewer announced a “One Massachusetts” meeting about revenues, taxes and the role of government, May 8th from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in room 917 at the UMass Campus Center.   She also announced that the State Senate would be addressing the meals tax and poles and wires tax during Tuesday deliberations, and urged those who know folks in other parts of the State to have them contact their State Senators in support of these measures.

Public Comment  (6:26)

Stanley Maron of the Committee on Homelessness talked about that group’s difficulty in making progress because it is having trouble achieving a quorum with its Friday morning meetings.  He said he thought there were two vacancies on the committee, and that filling them might help.  Mr. Weiss encouraged more people to apply for the committee.  Ms. Brewer said she believes that there is only one vacancy.  Mr. Weiss said that there is not currently a Select Board liaison to that committee, and that he would try to get a Select Board member to attend the next meeting of the committee – June 6, at 10:30 a.m. – to help it sort out its issues.

Special Liquor License  (6:33)

The Select Board voted unanimously to approve a special liquor license for a May 13th event at the UMass Studio Arts Building.

Taxi Driver License  (6:35)

The Select Board voted unanimously to approve a Taxi Driver License to Jan Sobiech. 

Terry Forrest talked about the need for wheelchair-accessible taxis and said that there are tax credits available to businesses that make their services accessible.  Ms. Brewer suggested that the Select Board office supply the names of the local taxi companies to Mr. Forrest so that he can follow-up with them on that issue.

Tietjen Property APR  (6:40)

In keeping with standard procedure, Conservation Director David Ziomek requested that the Select Board read in to the record an announcement of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ interest in obtaining an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) on the Tietjen property in South Amherst, and to announce the Town’s willingness to reduce the notification period on such a transaction from 120 days to 60 days.  I asked if it is appropriate to do this before Town Meeting has dealt with Article 21, approving money for this APR, and Mr. Ziomek said that Town Meeting is not bound in any way by such announcements, and even if Town Meeting rejects Article 21, the State would still be interested in the APR, but the Town would need to find a different funding source.  He said that the State is hoping to close on the property by June 30th.

The Select Board read and signed all the appropriate documents for these announcements.

Article 29 Petition – Steep Slopes  (6:47)

Vince O’Connor talked about his goals in bringing forth his petition article seeking restrictions on development in areas with steep slopes.  He said that development can undermine such slopes, and said he wanted to prevent density in such areas, citing a project on Pine Street as the impetus for his concern on the matter.  He discussed various technicalities of determining the grade of a slope and wanting certain grades to be considered unusable in calculating the allowable density on a building lot.  He said that he was told that Town Counsel found his article to not be viable, but that Town Counsel’s written opinion said it was viable with certain edits and changes. 

Jonathan O’Keeffe, a member of the Planning Board, (and my husband), said that the Planning Board had voted 7 to 0 to recommend referring the article back to that body for further consideration.  (The Planning Board’s position is outlined in this report on the article.)  He said that proposed changes that Mr. O’Connor and Planning Director Jonathan Tucker had discussed and which the Moderator had determined to be allowable and within the scope of the article, had policy implications that the Planning Board had not yet had the opportunity to analyze.  He said referral to the Planning Board would allow that group to put the issue into its pipeline to be dealt with more comprehensively at a later date.

Ms. Awad said that she was concerned that this issue had to come in as a petition, and said that steep-slope building has been a problem for eight to ten years and had not yet been dealt with. Mr. Tucker said the issue has long been in the pipeline, but that the pipeline is long and growing, that the items have to be prioritized, and that much time is spent responding to well-intentioned petition articles.  He suggested that Town Meeting have a discussion about the issue, and that that would help determined how much of a priority this is for the community and in what locations it is so prioritized, and that those determinations would guide the Planning Board’s subsequent consideration of the matter. 

I said that the matter at hand was what the Select Board’s recommendation would be, and that given the Planning Board’s original recommendation to refer, and given that they have not yet considered the amended motion language Mr. Tucker and Mr. O’Connor discussed, we should probably wait for the Planning Board to weigh in on that new motion before we do.  Mr. Tucker said that to give a new recommendation based on the revised language would require that the Planning Board schedule and hold a new public hearing.

Ms. Awad expressed skepticism about Town Meeting having substantive discussion on a matter that is being recommended for referral.  Mr. O’Connor said he would be making a positive recommendation on the article, not referral, and he said he thought the Planning Board could reopen the previous public hearing to deal with the Town Counsel’s opinion.  Mr. O’Keeffe said that the Planning Board’s concerns about the article went beyond issues addressed by Town Counsel regarding its structure. 

It was determined that the Select Board would wait to hear back from the Planning Board before making a recommendation.

Resolution for National Train Day  (7:15)

Mr. Weiss read a resolution proclaiming May 10th as National Train Day in Amherst.  Sudro Brown, President of the Amherst Railway Society, spoke in favor of the resolution and train travel.  The Select Board voted unanimously to support the Train Day proclamation.

Article 30 and 31 – Inclusionary Zoning  (7:23)

Article 30 is a petition article brought by Mr. O’Connor seeking to increase the number of units in inclusionary zoning projects that meet affordability standards qualifying them as countable under the State’s 40B law; to require “visitability” access among neighbors for those in wheelchairs in such units; and to address the recreational needs of those living in such units.  He agreed to have the article referred to the Planning Board and the Leisure Services Commission.

Article 31 is an attempt by the Planning Board to fine-tune Mr. O’Connor’s concept, and address his concerns.  Mr. O’Keeffe explained that the Planning Board supported the affordability threshold, which he explained would be amended to 49% rather than 50% (Click here for the Planning Board report detailing both articles.)  He said there would also be technical changes to language in that section of the bylaw, and that the visitability and recreation portions would be recommended for referral. 

The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend the motions as outlined by Mr. O’Connor (dismiss the introductory paragraph, and the next three paragraphs, and to refer the fourth paragraph) for Article 30 and the Planning Board Report for Article 31 (four motions, complicated and amended.) 

Article 32 – Petition to Re-zone Main/Dickinson/High Streets  (7:35)

Mr. O’Connor said he is satisfied that the issue of addressing new zoning for parts of Main Street, Dickinson Street and High Street is on the Planning Board’s priority list, and that he will move to have this article referred to that body.  The Planning Board’s report on Article 32 is here.

The Select Board voted unanimously to recommend referral. 

The meeting adjourned at about 7:40.  The next Select Board meeting will be Monday, May 12th, at 6:15 p.m. in the music/language room of the Middle School, prior to Town Meeting.  There is no Select Board meeting nor Town Meeting on Wednesday, May 7. 


who runs the town said:

mr. o'connor seems to have an opion on everyhthing, sort of a jack of all trades and a master of none. why does he get to monopolize town time so much?



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