Special Town Meeting ’20: Spending, zoning articles on the agenda

Special Town Meeting voters on Monday night will be asked to approve more than $1.2 million in additional spending, as well as a dozen changes to the town’s general and zoning bylaws. 

The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at the Middle/High School Auditorium. The same social distancing rules that applied during the Annual Town Meeting in June will apply Monday night.

Here’s a quick rundown on what voters will be asked to weigh in on:

ARTICLE 1

This would allocate $890,000 to make needed repairs to the Central Street Bridge, which goes across the Shumatuscacant River near Island Grove Park. (Have you seen the orange cones in the gutter along Central Street? That’s the bridge) The original capital budget for this year included about $430,000 to make fixes to the bridge, but it was cut as part of an effort to trim about $1.2 million from the town’s budget in the middle of the COVID-10 pandemic. Since then bridge inspectors, including those from the state, have taken another look at the 22-foot span and determined it has deteriorated further. Bridges are graded on a scale of 0 to 9, with “0” meaning a bridge has failed, and “9” meaning the bridge is in excellent condition. The Central Street Bridge currently is graded a “3” which means “serious.” “It’s getting to the point where we have to do something right away, or risk MassHighway downgrading the weight limit of the bridge,” Acting Town Manager Scott Lambiase said. If the weight limit was downgraded to, say four tons, it means the town’s fire trucks couldn’t drive over the bridge. 

COST: $980,000 

FUNDING SOURCE: Borrowing

ARTICLES 2, 3 & 4

These three articles ask voters to accept Cook Way, Belcher Street, and a portion of Crabtree Lane as “public ways.” Cook Way and Belcher Street make up the Veteran’s Place subdevelopment off Plymouth Street. The section of Crabtree Lane under consideration starts at Shaw Avenue and runs to the single-lane emergency access road that connects to the rest of Crabtree Lane. Technically, even though homes located on these roadways are already occupied — and in the case of Crabtree Lane, been occupied for many years — they remain privately-owned roadways until Town Meeting formally votes to accept them as public ways. Once public ways, the town becomes responsible for maintenance and upkeep. Before they are accepted, the roadway owners have to prove the ways are in good condition. The Crabtree Lane roadway may get some questions as neighbors have been complaining about the number of vehicles illegally using the emergency access road to cut through the neighborhood. The town installed a chain across the road last month to try and stop the illegal use. 

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A   

ARTICLE 5

This is the first of several proposed changes to the town’s zoning bylaws by the Planning Board following a review of the bylaws by an outside consultant. This one would require businesses to include the physical street address on all standalone signs, similar to how homes are required to display street numbers to help emergency responders easily identify properties.

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 6

The Planning Board has asked this article be “passed over,” meaning it won’t be taken up for consideration. 

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 7

This article would add the term “Accessory Apartment” to the list of definitions in the town’s zoning bylaws. The town already allows accessory apartments, also known as “in-law apartments.”

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 8

Owners of homes with accessory apartments are required to annually file a notarized statement with the building department stating that the in-law unit is occupied by an immediate family member or members. This article would tweak the language of that rule to specify that the statement homeowners have to file is called the “annual in law affidavit.”

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 9

Stick with me because this is complicated… 

Some parcels of land may be zoned two different ways. For example, one part of a property may be zoned for commercial highway uses, and the other part zoned for residential. Currently, property owners can choose to have the larger zoning district’s regulations apply for up to 50 feet over the zoning boundary line. This amendment would extend that flexibility to 100 feet over the zoning district line.   

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 10

A number of years ago, the town voted to prohibit solid waste facilities from the “Technology Business” zoning district, which was located along the northern end of Adams Street and Bedford Street. Two years ago, Town Meeting voted to rename the “Technology Business” zoning district the “Business Development” zoning district. The change also updated what’s allowed to be built in that area of town, but maintained the prohibition of solid waste facilities. In making this change, however, the article failed to delete a footnote referencing the solid waste prohibition within the “Technology Business” district. This article would delete the now-superfluous footnote.   

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 11

The Planning Board has asked this article be “passed over,” meaning it won’t be taken up for consideration. 

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 12

Under current zoning rules, when developers build housing developments of 12 units or more that are spread across multiple buildings, the buildings have to be spaced at least 50 feet apart from any other building, including garages, utility sheds, or other residential buildings. This article would change that rule to state that residential buildings have to be spaced 50 feet apart from other residential buildings only.     

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 13

Currently, to build in the town’s Multiple Use Planned Development District – which largely abuts Abington’s border with Weymouth along Hancock and Chestnut Streets – the property needs to be at least 10 acres in size and contain 200 feet of frontage along one of those two roadways. Getting around those requirements needs a variance from the zoning board. This article would reduce the minimum lot size to three acres, and allow the planning board to approve projects that don’t meet those requirements by special permit, which is a lower threshold than a zoning variance. 

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 14

The Planning Board has asked this article be “passed over,” meaning it won’t be taken up for consideration.

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 15

Federal and state environmental regulators are requiring every city and town in Massachusetts to adopt stricter stormwater runoff management rules governing construction sites. The new regulations mostly apply to new construction projects that involve clearing large swaths of land or changing land elevations.  

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 16

This article would allocate $68,000 as part of Abington Police Chief David Majenski’s upcoming retirement payout, which includes compensating him for unused vacation time.

COST: $68,000

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 17

Between COVID-19, contact tracing, flu clinics, and managing the town’s trash contract, the Board of Health is busy. This article would allocate $15,000 to temporarily upgrade the part-time assistant position to a full-time position. “They’re inundated down at the health department,” Lambiase said.

COST: $15,000

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 18

The Abington Fire Department is hoping to build a new central fire station to replace its two aging stations. But even if town voters approve the multi-million dollar project — which won’t come up for consideration until next year at the earliest — it will be at least three years, and closer to five, before firefighters can move in. Meanwhile the boilers in both existing stations are obsolete and frequently break down. Aside from hoping to keep firefighters warm during the winter months, Lambiase said the department also wants to protect the millions of dollars worth of equipment  and gear stored in the buildings. “A lot of these vehicles have water in them,” he said. “We can’t have [firefighters] come home to a firehouse after being outside for two to three hours on an emergency call to find the heat’s been out for a couple hours, and now they’re waiting for someone to come fix it.” Fire Chief John Nuttall told the Finance Committee last month that replacing the boilers will also increase the value of the buildings when it’s time to sell them down the road. Some town voters, however, will recall that the town is still paying the bond for new windows at the old Abington High School building that has since been torn down. 

COST: $70,000

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 19

FEMA has approved a $200,000 grant for the Abington Fire Department to buy a new brush truck. The department’s existing brush truck is a 1992 4×4 pickup truck originally used as a U.S. Navy ambulance. This article would allocate $11,000 for the town’s share of the grant. The brush truck is used to fight fires in wooded areas such as Ames Nowell State Park.   

COST: $11,000

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 20

This article appropriates $30,000 to cover unexpected costs associated with the recent Senior Center parking lot repaving project. Town Meeting had previously approved money to pay the lot; however, when contractors started grinding up the old pavement, they found the subsurface was in terrible shape. “If they had put blacktop back onto that subsurface, it would have gone back to the existing condition,” Lambiase said. 

COST: $30,000

FUNDING SOURCE: Program funds 

ARTICLE 21

This article will allow the Town of Abington to offer additional property tax exemptions to seniors.

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A

ARTICLE 22

This article will allow Strawberry Valley Golf Course to buy a new machine that cuts the greens, as well as replace the protective netting between the second hole and the clubhouse.  

COST: $30,645

FUNDING SOURCE: Golf course revenue 

ARTICLE 23

The town has entered into an agreement to pay an injured town employee $22,000. This article would fund that settlement.

COST: $22,000

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 24

Without knowing how much aid the state would be sending down to cities and towns this year, Abington budget writers this spring made the decision to be conservative and cut the proposed FY ‘21 budget by more than $1 million. The biggest chunk of that reduction came from the school department’s budget. State aid numbers ended up coming in higher than expected. This article gives the school department an additional $416,487 to add some staff and cover unexpected costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (see breakdown below)

COST: $416,487

FUNDING SOURCE: Chapter 70 (state aid to school districts) 

ARTICLE 25

Town Meeting in June voted to put $153,000 in Community Preservation money into an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. This article creates an Affordable Housing Trust Fund Committee that will control the fund’s pursestrings. Lambiase said the committee will likely consist of members of the existing Affordable Housing Committee. The first project he hopes the group takes on is investigating housing possibilities at the former Center School building.

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 26

Currently, under the town charter, the police chief is hired for “an indefinite term.” This article would change that to read “for such a term as the parties mutually agree upon.”

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

ARTICLE 27

When Town Meeting approved a zoning bylaw allowing recreational marijuana shops in town, they capped the number of licenses allowed at 20 percent the number of liquor stores in town. There’s nine liquor stores in town which means the town allowed two recreational marijuana shops. Both of those licenses have been awarded, but a third company would like to open up not only a recreational shop, but a delivery service, and a cultivation and manufacturing operation — all in Abington. This article would lift the cap from 20 percent of the number of liquor stores to 50 percent, effectively allowing as many as five recreational marijuana shops or delivery services to operate in the land of the Green Wave.   

COST: N/A

FUNDING SOURCE: N/A 

SPENDING ITEMAMOUNT
ELL Support K-12
PT Floating Nurse
Expenses for Secondary Virtual School
Additional Daily Substitute Teachers
Hall/Lunch/Recess/Bathroom Monitors
Certified Nurse Assistants
Long-term subs for FLMA/EFMLEA
Decrease in bus collection fee
Increase in bus/van disinfecting
Increase SPED transportation costs
$25,000
$20,000
$100,000
$25,000
$15,000
$20,000
$20,000
$65,000
$20,000
$100,000
PROPOSED SUPPLEMENTAL SCHOOL SPENDING

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