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Spending, receiving on STM agenda

By Debbie Gardner

PRIME Editor

HAMPDEN Voters will be asked to consider a total of seventeen articles -- ranging from securing additional monies for the reserve fund to amending the existing Flexible Residential Open Space Development zoning bylaw -- at Hampden's upcoming Special Town Meeting.

The meeting is slated for 7 p.m. on Oct. 30 in the auditorium of Thorton W. Burgess Middle School.

"I'd like to see the voters of the town turn out and express their wishes," said Duane Mosier, chairman of the Hampden Board of Selectmen. "I think its important that voters participate. We're trying to represent them and if only a few voters show up, that's all that is being represented."

Spending issues

Three of the articles address actions that have already occurred. For example, Article 2, which, if passed, will accept a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to fund improvements to the recently-reopened Senior Center.

"This article is to inform the town of our good fortune," Mosier said. "Senator Brian Less was successful, at the end of the legislature, in obtaining a grant for the senior center. This article itself is just to provide cash flow, to utilize the money."

Mosier said Articles 3 and 4 are to inform voters about the status of the bond that was recently issued to fund a renovation project at Green Meadow Elementary School.

"The week of Oct. 13 the regional school district issued the bond and the issuance cost was approximately $31,000 and [Article 3] is to pay for that issuance cost," Mosier said.

According to Mosier, Article 4 informs the town that the first interest payment on this bond is due in the early spring.

Article 5 addresses the potential need to immediately fund septic system repairs at Green Meadow School.

"We've been doing some actions [at the school] to see if they resolve the issue," Mosier said. "But if they do not, we may have to replace or repair the field, and that money [in the article] is to see that we can move forward."

Other appropriations in the warrant include: Article 1, which reallocates money to the Reserve Fund; Article 6, which will fund repairs to the Town House Roof; Article 7, which will fund repairs to the drainage system on South Ridge Road; and Article 8, which will fund the purchase of a new police cruiser.

"We did get one in the spring, but our vehicles are very high mileage, and we have one that will be facing high repair costs," Mosier said.

Voters will also be asked to increase funding for the Hampden Free Public Library (Article 9), which reopened this July after being closed for fiscal year 2006 due to a lack of town support; appropriate monies to turn on additional street lights (Article 10); and increase the monies in the town's Stabilization Fund (Article 11).

"That is an absolute must," Mosier said of Article 11.

Bylaw issues

Article 12 asks the town to reaffirm Chapter 40A Section 3 of the Massachusetts General Law, which gives all citizens in the town the right to practice agriculture in all forms.

Mosier explained that this article was prompted by the receipt of a grant.

"We received a smart growth grant from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to study our town bylaws, and one of the requirements was that we had to bring forward to Town Meeting and ask the voters to reaffirm this bylaw that it is a right," he said.

Article 13 asks the town to accept and adopt Massachusetts General Law -- Chapter 39 Section 23D -- which allows members of a committee who have missed a meeting to vote on an issue at the following meeting, provided they have been given the background on the issue.

Mosier explained that, under current Massachusetts General Law, if a member of a board misses a meeting in which an issue such as a special permit or a variance is discussed, the meeting must be reconvened and the applicant must present his request again before a vote can be taken.

"This is a new general law that was passed recently and if the town adopts it, it will allow committees that consist of part-time or volunteer members, which most of our boards are, voting rights which were not allowed in the past," he said.

Mosier said he felt this law would reduce the burden on both applicants and on committee members who "have other obligations and are giving of themselves."

"[Article 13] allows more people to participate in the vote without having to do another hearing, and reduces the burden on the applicant," he said.

Article 14 asks the town to amend the existing Flexible Residential Open Space Development (FROSD) bylaw, removing the requirement that developers apply for a FROSD development by special permit.

According to Mosier, land that is developed under FROSD guidelines is more community-friendly and "encourages better use of the land, encourages open space and takes on cluster housing."

That open space in a development might be used for such purposes as agriculture or recreation, Mosier added.

Acceptance of Article 14 will make it easier for a developer to apply for FROSD.

"In the past, if you had land and you wanted to do a subdivision, if this subdivision was something that might fall under a FROSD, the developer had to take it to Town Meeting as an article and the voters had to authorize the Planning Board to issue a special permit allowing the development under the terms of FROSD," Mosier said.

The time frame for approval of a special permit is usually one year, according to Mosier.

"If this passes, developers will be allowed to submit to the Planning Board either a subdivision plan or a FROSD plan," he said.

Article 15 asks the town to insert a new provision in the town zoning bylaw requiring a special permit from the Planning Board that requires 10 percent of all new housing be affordable to low and moderate income households.

"Article 15 is another one added because of the Smart Growth Grant," Mosier said. "It's very progressive and maybe, not appropriate for Hampden, but part of the funding requirement was to bring it to the voters," Mosier said.

Article 16 requests the Town approve a revision to the town zoning map, to show the change of a parcel from business to residential, that was first requested and previously approved at the Nov. 5, 2005 Town Meeting.

Article 17 asks voters to approve a mutual aid agreement between the Town of Hampden and surrounding towns in relation to the Boards of Health and Department of Public Works.

According to a spokesperson at the Selectmen's Office, the town already has existing mutual aid agreements with surrounding towns in the areas of fire fighting and police support, and approval of this article will increase the scope of these agreements.