Stormwater and firewater central issues
By Thomas D’Agostino
It seems the stormwater issue is still flooding towns with mixed feelings. One hundred and five residents were present at the Webster Town Meeting on October 15 at the Bartlett High School to vote on article 18, a new bylaw that would allow the town to move forward in complying with government regulations in regard to stormwater management. Board of Selectmen Vice Chairman Deborah Keefe was sworn on as temporary Moderator for the evening. Town Administrator John McAuliffe addressed the crowd stating, “Stormwater has become one of the most significant issues being regulated by the federal government… I can assure there is a lot of other things I’d love to spend money on other than new drainage.”
Mr. McAuliffe went on to state that in his 20 years of service, he has never seen the government push an issue as adamantly, saying, “This is here to stay.”
Mike Schrader of Tighe and Bond Inc., the company has been working with the town on the project, spoke on behalf of the article. Mr. Schrader, in addressing the crowd in regard to questions of resident cost and regulations, stated that there is no fee structure and the bylaw is just a legal framework required by the government. Major construction sites would require work performed in phases. Any property where 25% of the land will be disrupted would also fall under the rules and regulations. Businesses and residential property in the Lake Protected Zone are already covered by such rules and regulations. The bylaw would create equal protection throughout the town. This will not affect storm drainage on roads. At present, Webster is five years behind compliance with the government.
Some municipalities have been fined for not “moving forward” on the issue. According to J.T. Gaucher, Fitchburg was fined $100,000 and Canton, $40,000.
Webster residents also questioned the 10,000 square foot section of the bylaw in contrast to the federal government standard of one acre. Paul Laframboise explained that the town is densely populated so 10,000 square feet is a more reasonable size than one acre. A motion was made to amend section 570-4 B-1 to one acre. One resident stated, “If that satisfies the Federal Government, than it should satisfy Webster.”
Michael Finamore made a motion to pass over the article until the May Town Meeting so residents could better acquaint themselves with the issue. J.T. Gaucher stated that if a bylaw is not in place by then, and the federal permit is updated, the town could face fines.
Both motions were voted down and the bylaw passed as written. Information is available online at www.webster-ma.gov.
Articles 21 and 23 also came under debate. Article 21, to see if the town would authorize the Board of Selectmen to petition the General Court for special legislation in regard to issuing Price Chopper a full liquor license was met with much opposition. Residents felt that such a large establishment would hurt the small businesses in town. At present, the town has four full liquor licenses. The number of full licenses issued to a town is based on population. The article did not pass.
Article 23, a full license for Jimmy’s Convenience Store met with the same opposition and fate.
Article 16, a bylaw in regard to hawking, peddling, and soliciting passed unanimously. Finance Committee Chairman Michael Finamore made a motion to amend the article, adding section 505-10 A, titled “ Penalties”, adding $100 fine for non-compliance. Mr. Finamore stated that without such a section, the bylaw would have “no teeth.” The amendment also passed unanimously.
Articles 2-17 passed unanimously.
Mr. Finamore sponsored Article 22, a bylaw stating that no establishment, private or municipal shall park any automobiles on their property for a fee without a license to do so. The original wording called for a twenty dollar per space per year with the size of the space being determined by the Town Engineering Department. Mr. Finamore gave argument that they are running a business situation at that point and should be subject to licensing as any other business in town.
The article was primarily directed to address parking near Indian Ranch during its summer concerts. Several residents who park cars during events gave arguments to the article, stating that such a cost would make it impossible for them to continue their business as often they do not charge people they know and parking on the streets would become a dangerous situation. The article was voted down.