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Dracut Selectmen Make Recommendations On Warrant Articles

May 10, 2017 04:56PM ● By Andrew Sylvia

Town Engineer Mark Hamel with a schematic of 144 Arlington St.

Dracut’s Annual Town Meeting is rapidly approaching. With that in mind, the Board of Selectmen made recommendations on the majority of Town Meeting’s warrant articles during their meeting on Tuesday night.

Among the 34 warrant articles discussed, only the final four did not obtain a recommendation of some sort from the Selectmen. Articles #30, #32 and #33 were petitioned warrant articles that may require amended wording to be enforceable. A recommendation on Article #31, a petitioned article requesting that a property on Hampson Street be rezoned from R1 to B3, was postponed pending advisement from the Planning Board.

Alison Hughes, chairman of the Dracut Board of Selectmen

 Perhaps the most extensive discussion came regarding Article #29, which proposes cutting Community Preservation Act, or CPA, surcharges from 2 percent to 1 percent of the town’s annual real estate tax levy.

The article also proposes no surcharge on the first $100,000 valued on each taxable property.

Article #29 petitioner Gordon Scott told the board that the change would retain the fund while also saving the average Dracut homeowner an average of $57 on their tax bill, something he believed necessary given the needed storm water management fees that home owners will soon face.

“While I understand the value of CPA, if I wanted to get rid of it, I would have put in a petition to put it to zero,” he said. “The taxpayer can use a small amount of taxes back in their pocket.”

Scott also told the board that the amount of the town’s CPA funding had doubled since 2002, stating that current accrued funds are sufficient for upcoming projects.

The four selectmen in attendance unanimously opposed recommendation of the article, citing the 36 community projects using CPA funding since the program began in 2002.

State matching funds were also noted, even though the state has reduced their match from 100 percent to 20.6 percent.

“If anyone could find me a 20.6 percent return on the dollar, I’d be happy to invest with you,” said Selectman Jesse Forcier.

If passed, Article #29 would reduce annual CPA funding in Dracut from $1.1 million to $360,000.

Outside of Article #29, the only articles the Selectmen did not recommend were Articles #26, Article #22 and Article #26 from 2016’s Fall Special Town Meeting, which was held over until this Town Meeting.

The held over warrant article, which would require anyone conducting a yard sale get a license from the town clerk, is expected to be withdrawn on the floor of the meeting.

The other Article #26, which discusses home occupation uses in the zoning bylaws, is also expected to be withdrawn on the floor.

Article #22, a request for $50,000 in CPA funds put toward the town’s revised master plan, was not recommended in expectation that the figure would be amended to $75,000 on the floor.

The rest of the articles obtained Selectmen recommendations without significant discussion, excluding Article #25, which would create a new storm water and erosion bylaw.

Coming in at 11 pages, Article 25 takes up approximately half of the warrant’s verbiage, and would allow the town to create a storm water management utility.

Over the past several months, Town Manager James Duggan has warned the need for such a utility, stating that severe federal fines could be levied upon the town if action is not taken.

Town legal counsel Jim Hall echoed those sentiments during Tuesday’s meeting.

“I don’t see any way around it,” he said. “This is not something everybody wants to do, but without doing it, we’d be fined eventually and it’d cost us much more to have someone in Boston to tell us to do it than do it. Either we’re going to have to come to the table voluntarily or we’ll be forced to it. So, we have little choice.”

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