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Dracut Voters Shoot Down Changes To Home Occupation Bylaw, Approve $1.1 Million For School Tech

Nov 08, 2016 08:43AM ● By Andrew Sylvia

Dracut voters resoundingly shot down a warrant article attempting to streamline the town’s home occupation bylaw on Monday night at Dracut High School, with several residents indicating that it didn’t go far enough to help small business owners. 

The article was spearheaded by Building Inspector Daniel McLaughlin, who noticed that his department had to deny several home business applications due to onerous bylaws that sprung up in the years following 9/11.

McLaughlin told the assembled Town Meeting audience that this initiative, Article 17, would bring Dracut in line with other town’s home occupation bylaws by allowing trucks weighing up to 12,000 lbs. to park in driveways along with other clarifications and amendments. 

Although Town Moderator George Malliaros urged those in attendance not to emulate the rancorous federal election ending on Tuesday, McLaughlin’s comments did elicit some boos and spontaneous negative remarks.

Others, such as Elgin Decker of Thistle Avenue, appreciated that McLaughlin was trying to alleviate regulations on business owners working out of their homes, but joined others in urging a complete repeal of the initial bylaws that arose in the first place.

“We’re just trying to make a living here,” said Decker. “This is a blue collar, hardworking town and I don’t want to be pushed out of it.” 

There were also concerns regarding a cap on the number of commercial vehicles allowed in residential driveways as well as the weight cap, which several residents indicated would prohibit commercially-used pickup trucks, a claim that McLaughlin disputed. 

After Article 17 was defeated, several members of the audience expressed concern with people leaving Special Town Meeting for fear that the meeting’s quorum would be lost.

Malliaros told the meeting that while a quorum count could be requested on any article up to an hour after any motion, if there wasn’t a request for a quorum count that the 241 voters in attendance at the beginning of the night would be enough to meet legal requirements for the meeting to proceed.

He also added that if a quorum count showed that fewer than 200 voters were left in attendance, the remainder of Special Town Meeting would need to be rescheduled, costing the town thousands of dollars. 

The debate took up just under a third of the 90-minute meeting, which saw 22 of the total 31 articles before voters approved.

In addition to Article 17, Article 30 was also defeated. That article, which asked if the town should abandon an easement on East Richardson Road, began to lose support as confusion arose over what its intent. 

Article 24, an article regulating yard sales, was referred to a committee that will be appointed by the Town Moderator. Article 6, 26, 27, 28, 29 and 31 were dismissed. 

Among the articles approved by voters:
  • Article 12: Voters increased the per diem for town employees from $100 to $200 on lodging and $25 to $50 on food for out of state travel required for town business.
  • Article 13: Voters approved a bylaw amendment that will now allow electronic illuminated signs  for businesses (with some exceptions.)
  •  Article 15: Voters approved changes to the permitting process for fast food restaurants. Permits will now be approved by the Planning Board. Town Manager Jim Duggan said it will expedite  expedite the approval process by up to six months.
  • Article 19: Voters approved using $750,000 in Community Preservation Funds to purchase the  development rights on a parcel of land owned by the Elm Terrace Family Trust at 52A Avis Ave.
  • Article 9: Voters appropriated $1,092,976 for technology upgrades at the schools. Officials are vying for a matching grant. However, If they don't get it, the town can get a 0% loan for the same amount from the state.
  • Article 22: Voters approved a bylaw change that will now allow museums in certain areas. The vote paves the way for creation of a new vintage automobile museum.

A full copy of the Special Town Meeting warrant is available on the Town of Dracut website. 

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