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More Concerns Over Cheshire Town Meeting Articles

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — Cheshire may have to hit the brakes on road maintenance and marijuana town meeting articles.
 
After whittling down the town meeting warrant this past Tuesday and going over articles connected with Cheshire Elementary School, Town Counsel Edmund St. John III said the town may not be able to codify a longtime policy to maintain private roads.
 
"It is not as simple as just adopting," he said. 
 
Historically, the town has plowed and minimally maintained private roads so emergency vehicles can reach homes. Mostly lake roads have benefited from this.
 
Because of complaints, the town decided to turn the past practice into policy and were told by the attorney general to continue the past practice unless town meeting says otherwise.  
 
St. John said adopting a snow control policy is standard in many communities for emergency vehicle purposes but passing a bylaw to maintain private roads is far more complicated.
 
He said the bylaw would have to specify maintenance items as well as roads the town will grade, pave or add drainage to.
 
Town Clerk Christine Emerson said the town would also have to hold public hearings for the bylaw change and there is simply not enough time.
 
Department of Public Works Director Blair Crane said he was uneasy about not having something in place especially when the town has historically maintained the roads so they were at least plowable.
 
"In the past, we have done XYZ and it has set a precedent," he said. "It is a big fuzzy gray area." 
 
The other warrant article the Selectmen may have to cross out was the marijuana zoning bylaw amendment that would put a moratorium on medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries until the state can figure out the guidelines.
 
Planning Board Chairwoman Donna DeFino said public hearings would have to be held to amend the zoning bylaws, which there is not time to do.
 
DeFino said the town should be OK without the amendment because the Planning Board has enough power to control what comes into town and can deny special permits.  
 
"We seem to have breaks in place already and the amendment would only add to this," she said. "We essentially have something in place through the Planning Board and if this can't be added to town meeting I don't think it will be a problem." 
 
Emerson asked if she could do some research before nixing the article because she believed there was a way to put the moratorium article on the warrant as an emergency article.
 
"It's a stop-gap kind of thing until the town can set the state standards," she said. "Zoning and planning may have a say about businesses coming in but a DBA can come to me and say they are using one room in their house. It could be Johnny's Feel Good Shop kind of thing and I can't stop that ... they could be making funny cookies for all I know."  
 
In other business, the board tabled a request from a Hoosac Valley High School physics teacher to hold a "Recycled Regatta" at Cheshire Reservoir.
 
Town Administrator Mark Webber said it is a quarterly engineering contest and students will have to build boats and navigate a course in the lake.
 
He read from the letter that 80 percent of the craft needs to be made from recycled materials and only 20 percent of the craft can be made out of duct tape.
 
The ships must be self-propelled.
 
The selectmen were unclear if the students would be in the boat but Webber read that students receive extra points if they make their own paddles out of recycled materials
 
"They are in the boats but are required to wear life jackets," he said. "Good thing the lake is only six feet deep."
 
Webber read that each craft will be fixed with a red distress flag.
 
Although perplexed by the race the board though it would be fun and just asked to see some proof of insurance coverage before approving the use.

Tags: town meeting 2017,   town meeting warrant,   

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