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Bylaw changes could be come before residents at Town Meeting

Date: 1/7/2016

WILBRAHAM – The Bylaw Study Committee is looking to recommend potential changes to the town’s bylaws for the 2016 Annual Town Meeting in May.

Possible recommendations include adding a littering bylaw and another against the public consumption of marijuana.

Bylaw Committee Chair John Broderick told Reminder Publications the purpose of the bylaw review is to make sure the town’s bylaws make sense in 2016.

“A lot of the bylaws have to do with things like public conduct,” he explained. “We’re looking at having a littering bylaw, which is something we’ve never had that most towns do have. Public consumption of marijuana is another one that is sort of new.”

A bylaw prohibiting the public consumption of marijuana would be similar to one prohibiting drinking alcohol in public, Broderick said.

Although marijuana is an illegal substance, Massachusetts changed the law in 2009 to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug, which is why the committee hopes to add this bylaw, he noted.

The committee is also examining fees and fines throughout the town to see if the minimum amounts are appropriate, he said.

Broderick said another bylaw could combine the Board of Water Commission and the Sewer Advisory Committee into one entity.

“I believe the selectmen sort of act as the Sewer Advisory Committee so when there’s a sewer abatement or people who have a sprinkler system or use water that don’t necessarily go down the sewers,” he added. “That’s something that’s been on the [Department of Public Works’] and selectmen’s radar for a while.”

However, it might not be legal to combine the two public bodies, he noted.

Another bylaw addition the committee is examining would provide the town the ability to recall elected officials.

“We’re looking at the issue of recall elections, that’s something that people have brought up,” he added. “We don’t have a provision for that here in town for the recall of elected officials. I don’t know if we’ll have that one ready for Town Meeting.”

The committee also hopes to create a bylaw to address keeping chickens on residential parcels.

“The other issue that has come up over the years in different departments in town is regarding the keeping of chickens on smaller residential lots for your own personal consumption,” he noted. “So, raising chickens for their eggs. A lot of towns have bylaws regulating that. We don’t.”

Broderick said the committee would likely come forward in May with a list of recommended changes to the town’s bylaws prior to Town Meeting.

He added residents could also petition to include a change in the bylaw if it is supported by the selectmen.

“Changes to the bylaw or a new bylaw could come up any year,” Broderick said.