Published: 9/18/2019 10:00:22 PM

Modified: 9/18/2019 10:00:11 PM

ATHOL — The Select Board Tuesday night set the warrant for the fall town meeting set to take place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21, in Memorial Hall. A total of seven articles will face voters.

Article 1 calls for changes in the town’s zoning bylaws by expanding the number of businesses which will be allowed under the definition of “home occupations.”

Light service of and general repairs of motor vehicles, boat or farm implements will be allowed in the Residential C zone and only with the issuance of a special permit by the Planning Board. Additional occupations, which will be allowed in all residential areas, include home-based internet businesses and computer/software repair businesses.

Article 2 would add further conditions for home businesses.

“They need to ensure adequate off-street parking is available,” said Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith. “And then the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) would have to make a finding that (businesses) would not be detrimental to the neighborhood and that the character of the neighborhood is preserved.”

The third article on the warrant would amend the zoning bylaws by setting restrictions on the construction of ground-mounted solar arrays. Under the current bylaw, solar farms can be built on property in the Residential C zone “by right.” The RC zone covers about two-thirds of the town. The proposed change would only allow arrays in the RC zone with a special permit.

The town voted at a special town meeting earlier this year to enact a year-long moratorium on the construction of any solar arrays until a comprehensive zoning proposal can be developed.

Smith said Town Counsel John Barrett “thinks it’s an insurance policy to put this on the warrant because we don’t have the AG’s (state Attorney General) approval of the moratorium as of today. So, I think we should pass this.”

“As Eric said,” Bennett explained, “it is an insurance policy. If the Attorney General does make a decision about the moratorium and approves it, we need take no action on this article. Because what we’re doing with the moratorium is saying ‘no ground-mounted solar’ until we vet this whole section of the bylaws and come up with something new.”

The board voted to remove from the warrant a proposed article which would have required property owners to clear snow from sidewalks abutting their property within 48 hours of the end of a snowfall.

Other articles to be included on the warrant would: limit to one the number of unregistered motor vehicles that will be allowed on personal property, with a permit from the Selectboard; limit the size of signs that may be posted on public property to 16 square feet, with the requirement they be posted for a week only; amend the town’s Adaptive Overlay District by allowing multifamily dwellings to be established, with a special permit, and establish a new definition for mobile food vendors.

Public hearings

The Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the proposed articles at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed zoning changes at 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 2. Both meetings will take place in Room 21 at Town Hall.





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