Numerous potential bylaw and permitting changes were discussed at Tuesday’s Halifax Board of Selectmen meeting with members of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board, including tying zoning permits to the property rather than the person.
Currently, when a special zoning permit is issued, the permit is issued to the owner of the property. However, if that owner sells their property, Town Administrator Charles Seelig said the next owner has to go through the zoning process again.
Since, the previous owner has the permit, Seelig said that owner has certain rights that the town cannot “unilaterally” take away. He said, “I think we can no longer tie the permits to the person; they have to be tied to the property.”
According to Seelig, no bylaw change is needed to make this sort of change. No changes are being made tonight, but Seelig said he’s willing to set up an appointment for the Zoning Board of Appeals and/or the Planning Board with Land Use Counsel for further discussions.
As far as bylaw changes, the three boards talked about ideas for changes to live entertainment events permits, affordable housing, and multi-family housing.
Live Entertainment Events
As of right now, the town has nothing in its bylaws that specifically allows for live entertainment event special permits. The court case surrounding Mud Fest however, brought about a potential willingness for both sides to allow for these events to go forth with some stipulations.
The Zoning Board of Appeals asks that these events have a minimum lot area of 5 acres. Additionally, a minimum of two events per calendar year was another stipulation Seelig suggested.
Selectmen Vice Chair Kim Roy asked if the Board of Selectmen have a right to say no to an event approved by the Zoning Board. Seelig said the Selectmen would only be able to do this with good reason, that there is a present danger to public safety that was overlooked in the initial approval and that this safety issue cannot otherwise be fixed.
Affordable Housing and Multi-Family Housing
Regarding affordable housing, the Zoning Board of Appeals discussed duplexes as an option. Members of the Zoning Board said that compared to other multi-family homes, duplexes are easier to code for the proper fire zoning.
Changing in-law apartment bylaws to apartment bylaws was also discussed. However, there were concerns among the boards over in-law apartments creating illegal sublets. In-law additions in Halifax are not allowed to have a separate kitchen area for this reason. Seelig suggested tying a periodic inspection to an in-law apartment special permit to ensure compliance.
Seelig said he’d also like to see the stipulation requiring multi-family development buildings to only allow one building per lot. He said he has not heard a good reason for why this exists and that Halifax is the only town in Massachusetts with this written in its bylaw.
Selectmen Chair Thomas Millias described the current law as “arbitrary”. The stipulation has existed since the ‘90s.
No changes were made on Tuesday as bylaw changes need to be voted at Town Meeting. Discussions will continue at future meetings.
River Street Marijuana Growing Facility Update
Selectmen Chair Thomas Millias said he’d like a draft of a community host agreement for a potential future public forum for the marijuana growing facility that could come to River Street.
The potential facility is not a retail shop, but a growing and processing facility. Millias said he didn’t vote for marijuana’s legalization and doesn’t believe anyone on the Board did either, however the board is considering the facility because of the revenue a community host agreement would bring to the town.
Millias said, “It’s a significant amount of revenue that we otherwise couldn’t replicate.”
Unregistered Vehicle Special Permits
Derek Dowling and Oscar Magnuson came before the Board of Selectmen asking for special permits for unregistered vehicles.
Dowling was seeking a 6-month permit for a 1997 Ford F350 truck he’s working on at his property. One neighbor in attendance said he didn’t have a problem with one vehicle. However, Dowling said this would not be the last time he’d be working on a car.
This raised concerns from the Board of Selectmen and others in attendance that the repairs are commercial in nature. Dowling disagreed, saying this wasn’t for commercial use. He said, “I have five registered vehicles on different properties.”
The Board of Selectmen approved the permit for one vehicle. Millias said that in order to stay consistent with other special permits, Dowling will have to put up a fence so that the unregistered vehicle isn’t visible from the property.
Dowling expressed displeasure with the process saying that the community he lives in isn’t a “white-picket community.” Selectmen Vice Chair Kim Roy said, “That’s a terrible thing to say.”
The Board of Selectmen voted to grant the six-month permit for only this one vehicle and that Dowling must put up a fence. Because of the frost on the ground, Dowling is being given 60 days to put up fencing.
Oscar Magnuson also requested special unregistered vehicle permits, but he asked for two permits. Magnuson said he’s taking two unregistered Ford Rangers and building one vehicle out of them.
Jim Gray, one of Magnuson’s neighbors at Hillside Avenue, said he had no problem with this. The cars will be in the backyard which neighbors said isn’t visible from the front of the property. The Board of Selectmen approved his permits for 6 months.
• Scott Materna was introduced as the new building maintenance director. The Board congratulated him, and Roy described the town as a “family environment.” She said, “If you need anything, let us know.”
• The Board of Selectmen voted to disband the Master Plan and Open Space Committees.
• A yard sale for Boy Scout Troop 39 was approved by the Board of Selectmen. It will take place on June 16, 2018 on the Town Green.
The next Halifax Board of Selectmen Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 1, 2018. Open session begins at 7:30 p.m.