Halifax residents at Monday’s annual town meeting approved the Silver Lake Regional School District’s fiscal year 2019 operating budget of $4,456,412 despite the town’s Finance Committee requesting a budget $21,000 less. This particular line item was the only contested part of Article 4, Halifax’s operating budget.
Speaking on behalf of the entire Finance Committee, Chair Gordon Andrews said he doesn’t believe the current pay distribution between municipalities and the state is sustainable. However, school committee members from both Silver Lake and Halifax Elementary did not agree.
“I believe money in the levy is available to approve this budget,” said Silver Lake School Committee Chair Paula Hatch. “We cannot obviously control what the state funds.”
As of Monday night, Kingston had already approved the regional school districts operating budget. Halifax School Committee Chair Summer Schmaling said both Plympton’s Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee were recommending the budget at its town meeting on Wednesday.
She asked what would happen if the other two towns approve the budget and Halifax approves the amended budget proposed by the Finance Committee. According to the Finance Committee, if the other two towns in the school district pass the operating budget, Halifax has to pay regardless. The rest of the money would have to be allocated at a future special town meeting.
The Finance Committee asked for a hold on this line item and attempted to amend it at town meeting. The amended budget of $4,431,412 failed by majority vote. The original figure then passed unanimously.
Article 53: Marijuana Zoning Kept As Is
Under current Halifax zoning laws, recreational marijuana facilities are only allowed in districts designated for industrial zoning.
If Article 53 were to pass, it would have allowed recreational marijuana cultivation and growing facilities in business zones as well. The article failed via a majority voice vote.
Hatch wanted to make sure any new zoning would be far enough away from schools. She asked how far away they would have to be.
According to Town Administrator Charles Seelig, “It’s 500 feet from lot line to lot line.” He said this makes the zoning requirement a little farther than just a straight 500 feet.
One resident speaker said she wants to keep things the way they are and just start in the industrial zone. Others voiced agreement, including members of the Finance Committee who expressed wanting to keep facilities zoned outside of the middle of town.
Halifax did however make one change to their marijuana laws. Residents unanimously voted to raise the recreation sales tax from two percent to three percent under Article 52.
Article 57 Passes, Changes Regulations for Outdoor Events, and Settles Mud Fest Law Suit
Article 57 changes Halifax’s zoning regulations for outdoor events to allow amusements and recreational events (such as Mud Fest) in the agricultural residential district via a special permit.
The new zoning bylaw includes specific requirements for these types of events including a minimum size parcel of 5 acres, bathroom and parking requirements, and noise regulations.
According to Seelig, voting for this warrant article settles the current law suit involving Mud fest. He said both parties see this as a “reasonable compromise.” The planning board also recommended the article.
Some residents expressed concern about precedent with Article 57. Resident Dan Borsari said, “This article is going to fundamentally change the complexion and the tenor of our town.”
Borsari said he doesn’t believe settling the law suit now would provide the town any long-term protection. He said, “You’d be voting away your property protection.” The protection Borsari believes a yes vote takes away is the right to vote away large events in the residential zone. He said he sees this as voting for property rights.
Seelig said applicants would still have to go through a special zoning permit through the Zoning Board of Appeals. He said additional site review with the planning board would also be a requirement.
While Borsari was concerned about the article’s precedent, Seelig said he’s concerned about the precedent a court ruling in the law suit could set. Seelig said that if the courts rule Mud Fest an agricultural event, it would be hard to prove other events like large concerts are not.
Selectmen Chair Thomas Millias said he personally doesn’t like the change to the zoning law the article makes but supports it because of what a court ruling could do.
He said, “I have not been in favor of this particular change, but there is a huge argument to be made, that Mr. Seelig presented, that the control could be given to the courts.”
Being a zoning article, passage required a two-thirds vote. A decision wasn’t clear on voice vote but passed 102-83 on a counted vote.
Article 55 Fails: Multi-development Homes Must Remain on Single Lots
Halifax voters failed to pass Article 55, which would have removed a section of the zoning bylaw requiring any multi-family homes to be built only on a single lot.
Seelig said this bylaw was adopted after places like Twin Lakes and Halifax Meadows were built. The town wanted to prevent these types of homes from being built in the future. Seelig said this article would update the policy to not require multi-families to be built only on a single lot.
Article 55 was proposed by the Board of Selectmen, but neither the Finance Committee nor the Planning Board recommended the article. The Planning Board couldn’t come to an agreement and had a 2-2 vote.
According to a flier given out with the town meeting warrant to all resident voters, “The current interpretation of this bylaw has landed the town in land court, Gordon C. Andrews vs Town of Halifax Zoning Board of Appeals.” The flier went on to say, “A yes vote on this article will resolve this litigation in favor of the town.”
The handout also said since Andrews is suing the town, he’s expecting to get attorney fees and damages. It said, “he is the only person that will have a financial gain if this article is defeated.
Andrews, speaking not on behalf of the Finance Committee, but on his own behalf, said his concerns have to do with whether the town or subdivision has control over these types of developments.
“The major concern I have with this is removing all the requirements for the building…” He added, “They’re not here, they’re under subdivision control.” One speaker said he disagreed with Andrews, saying he believes subdivision is the proper place for control.
Seelig said the town wouldn’t lose control because any future development would be required to go through site-plan review and would need special town permitting.
Others expressed concerns regarding the impact of removing part of the bylaw was studied beforehand. Resident Kimberly King asked how this would affect the school system and public works financially.
Seelig said, “We don’t do an individual study for each development. We don’t go through that process because it’s an allowable use.” He also said the Zoning Board of Appeals is allowed to place restrictions based on the concerns that King brought up.
Schmalling also expressed concerns over how this change would affect school populations. She said she wasn’t speaking for or against the article, but she said, “I personally like that my kid is in a classroom of 20 kids and not 40.” Schmalling was also concerned multi-developments could affect rural community grants by increasing population.
“Why would we reverse overcrowding policies now?” asked resident Amy Troup.
Article 55 failed to receive the required two-thirds vote from the residents. Members of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals said this is something that they would like to look at more before just removing an entire section of the bylaw.
Fire Department and Highway Department Show Sense of Community with Three Warrant Articles
Article 27 funds purchasing and equipping a new flat-bed truck for the fire department. It will be used for forest fire fighting and will cost $150,000. Viveiros said the vehicle being replaced is 18 years old and the frame holding the pump is rotting.
The old truck will not be going to waste though; it will be donated to another department in need. The highway department will be taking the old forest fire-fighting vehicle.
Article 28 appropriates $15,000 for repairs to the donated vehicle’s hook lift system. Working together like this allowed the Highway Department to make sacrifices in other areas, since Heyward said the town is faced with a tight budget.
Article 17, which would have appropriated $48,000 for a new Kubota tractor was passed over. Heyward moved its being passed over and said the department can make do with what it has for another year for the good of the town.
Resident Brings Street Light Issue to Town Meeting
Resident Joseph Parmeggiani asked that something be done about three powerless streetlights on Kestral Lane.
He’s doing this through warrant article 41. They include the ones at the corner of Kestrel Lane and Summit Street.
Parmeggiani said he’s not asking for the lights to be reloaded, but just for their power to be restored. The residents voted unanimously to approve Article 41.
Annual Town Meeting Articles Approved by Residents
Articles 1 through 4 start off every town meeting. The order for the rest is done using a lottery system that randomizes the order. Article 1 allows the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee to give their reports and start the annual town meeting.
Article 2 addressed the pay of several government positions for the town. Many of them were regraded by the town meeting vote. Other nonunion positions received two percent raises.
Some of the re-gradings, including the health inspector and building inspector brought questions from Finance Committee.
Andrews said, “We should be looking at everyone at the same time and not jumping into these individually.” He thinks all reclassifications for wages should be done at the same time.
Selectman Kim Roy said, “You can only make requests at the public hearing.” She said these individual positions were done prior to the public hearing. According to Roy, who serves on Wage and Personnel Board, “All the department head positions were not in line (with average salaries).”
When the department head raises were voted on, the health inspector voice vote failed to provide a clear result. A counted vote had this part of the article passing with a 78-34 vote. All other raises outlined in Article 2 ended up passing by at least majority with the residents.
Article 3 passed unanimously. It set the salaries for the elected officials in Halifax.
Article 5 fixed maximum spending limits for the town’s revolving funds such as Conservation Commission and CPR Classes. The article passed unanimously.
Article 6 creates the $75,000 reserve fund. The Finance Committee said this is an annual warrant that is done every year in case emergency funds are needed. It passed unanimously.
The following warrant articles fund the raises approved in Article 2.
Article 7 appropriates $14,653 to fund provisions of the collective bargaining agreement for firefighter unions and the town. It passed unanimously.
Article 8 raises and appropriates $7,597 for collective bargaining between the town and the highway/cemetery workers union. The article was approved unanimously.
A total of $6,886 was raised and appropriated for collective bargaining between the town and police sergeant union. Article 9 passed unanimously.
Article 10 raises and appropriates $13,773 for collective bargaining between the Town of Halifax and the police patrolmen. The article passed unanimously.
Article 11 funded $2,358 for collective bargaining provisions between Halifax and Police Chief Edward Broderick. It passed unanimously.
Article 12 raises and appropriates $2,080 for the collective bargaining between the town and Fire Chief Jason Viveiros. It passed unanimously.
Public safety, whether the fire department or police department, were given funds from the following warrant articles. All of them were approved by the residents.
Article 24 raises and appropriates $80,000 for two new marked police vehicles for patrol. The funding also covers equipping the vehicles. It passed unanimously.
Article 25 passed unanimously, appropriating $150,000 to rehabilitate and equip a fire engine.
Article 26 funds a new jaws of life for the Halifax fire department. According to Viveiros, the new equipment will cost $35,000. The article was approved unanimously.
Article 32 was approved unanimously. The article raises and appropriates $50,000 to repair and replace the HVAC units at the police station.
Article 33 appropriates $2,550 to purchase pump staging for building repair work. It passed unanimously.
Article 34 passed unanimously. It appropriates $780 for solar lights for town flag poles.
An appropriation of $8,400 was approved under Article 35 to fund the purchase and installation of a swap shed and shelving for the recycling center.
The following warrant articles fund support for outside organizations that provide a public good to Halifax. All of the articles were approved.
Article 36 appropriates $9,500 for the purchase and installation of a compacter for the recycling center. It passed unanimously.
Article 37 was approved unanimously. It appropriates $3,500 to support South Coastal Legal Services Inc. The organization provides free legal services for elders, low income families, and their children.
Article 38 appropriates $3,500 to support South Shore Women’s Resource Center. The organization does work with victims of domestic violence and also does prevention services. It passed unanimously.
Article 39 appropriates $3,500 to support the South Shore Community Action Council. It passed unanimously.
Other approved items include the following warrant articles.
Article 13 was approved unanimously. It raises and appropriates $150 for the Board of Selectmen to appoint a town director within 15 days.
Article 14 appropriated $269,439 for repairs and improvements for county ways, bridges, and sidewalks, and bikeways. It passed unanimously.
Article 15 passed unanimously. It appropriates $150,000 for town road maintenance.
A total of $186,000 was raised and appropriated for a hook lift system and truck for the highway department. Article 16 passed unanimously.
Article 18 raises and appropriates $29,000 for a truck lift and four pneumatic jack stands. Highway Surveyor Steven Heyward said the lift failed inspection for safety reasons. The article passed unanimously.
Article 19 passed unanimously. It raises and appropriates $75,000 for a cab over engine truck for the highway department. It will replace the old plow and sander used previously.
Article 20 raises and appropriates $560,000 for the principal payment of the Water Town painting and Repair Debt and $7,539 for the interest on that debt. It passed unanimously.
Article 21 passed unanimously. It raises and appropriates $14,750 for the Assessors’ recertification account.
Article 22 appropriates $7,500 for additional hours for the Conservation Commission secretary. Specifically, this is for her wetland protection work. The article passed unanimously.
Article 23 raises and appropriates $14,000 for two new copy machines for the Halifax Town Hall. It was approved unanimously.
Article 29 raises and appropriates $43,000 for a truck for the Municipal and School Building Committee. It passed unanimously.
Article 30 passed unanimously. It appropriates $21,700 to repair and replace three garage doors at the highway department barn.
Article 31 appropriated $8,200 to replace and repair windows at the highway department barn. According to the department, water is leaking into the building causing damage and a loss of heat energy. The article passed unanimously.
Article 42 passed unanimously. It funds a sum of money for studies for the Monponsett Pond and projects to improve water quality.
Article 43 raises and appropriates a sum of money to repair or replace parking lot lights at the HOPS Playground. It passed unanimously.
Article 44 passed unanimously. It authorizes the Board of Selectmen to negotiate a PILOT agreement for solar energy with Green Apple Farms, IV, LLC. The article only approves negotiations. Article 45, which approves an agreement has been passed over. Millias said the contract isn’t ready so there isn’t anything to approve at this time.
Article 46 was a vote authorizing the Board of Selectmen to negotiate a PILOT agreement for solar energy with Halifax Solar, LLC. It passed unanimously. It does not give the authority to agree on a contract. This would be done through Article 47 which is being passed over at this time because there isn’t anything to approve yet.
Article 48 seeks approval in selling a parcel of town-owned land measuring 17.65 acres to the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. Millias said the town would be getting $250,000 for a piece of land the town can’t use. The article passed unanimously.
Article 50 authorizes borrowing of money to pay costs of capital projects in accordance with Massachusetts General Law Chapter 44, Section 20. It was approved unanimously.
Article 54 passed unanimously. It delted the following passage from the town’s zoning-estate lot bylaw. “The Planning Board is the SPGA. Each submission to the Board should and will be considered on its own merits and specific applicability. The plans generated for consideration should strictly adhere to the criteria set forth for plans not requiring approval.”
Article 56 passed unanimously. It amends alternate energy zoning to allow zoning in the second (I-2) industrial district.
Article 59 passed unanimously. It transferred the special permit for an in-law apartment from being granted to the applicant to being granted to the property.
Article 60 changes the current policy of the in-law special permits being renewed only at Zoning Board meetings. The article lets someone request a renewal within 90 days of expiration and have the zoning enforcement officer come inspect the in-law to ensure its following the bylaw rather than having to come in. Seelig said, “We’re trying to lessen the burden on the permit holder.” It passed unanimously.
The following articles were passed over for now. They may be brought up at a future annual town meeting.: • Article 40, 49, 51, 58, 61, and 62.
Special Town Meeting
A special town meeting also took place during the annual town meeting. A special town meeting addresses funds that must be used this fiscal year and cannot wait until fiscal year 2019.
.Article 5 funds a $39,000 repair and replacement of the data processing system. Seelig aid this includes new hardware and software. According to Seelig, other communities in Massachusetts have been victims of malware attacks. Addressing this now is for prevention.
Selectman Troy Garron said Article 4 appropriates $15,000 to pay for the expenses of hiring a new police chief. Garron said Police Chief Edward Broderick will be retiring within the next few months, so the funding is needed now.
Other Special Town Meeting Articles
Article 1 gives $250,000 of funding to remove the underground storage tanks at the highway barn and install a new aboveground system. Passed unanimously.Article 2 was passed over. It would have appropriated $1,360 to remove and re-install wireless access point cameras at Halifax Elementary School.
Article 3 raises $18,000 to repair fiber optic cables at Halifax Elementary School. It passed unanimously.
Article 6 passed unanimously. It approves an appropriation of a sum of money to be added to last year’s town meeting’s snow and ice removal line item.
Article 7 was passed over. It would have authorized the town’s purchase of several parcels of land. Millias said the town never received proper values for the parcels.
Article 8 was for the $977,000 for the fire suppression system at Halifax Elementary School. It was passed over because the town did not receive a successful bid.
Article 9 passed unanimously to pay outstanding electrical bills from FY18.
Article 10 passed unanimously. It authorized Seelig’s reimbursement of $345.47 for expenses incurred on behalf of the town.
Article 11 authorized the town to pay a $520 bill for Terminal Exchange Systems for working on the data processing network. It passed unanimously.