Great Barrington Town Hall. Photo courtesy of the Town of Great Barrington.

At annual town meeting citizen petitions on HWW, short-term rental bylaw, cell phone tower regulations

Five citizen petitions—ranging in topics from Housatonic Water Works, adjustments to the short-term rental bylaw, and an addition to cell phone tower regulations—have been certified for this year's annual town meeting.

Great Barrington — Five citizen petitions for this year’s annual town meeting have been certified by Town Clerk Jennifer Messina. The articles will be on the warrant on the annual town meeting agenda, which, on the citizen’s article petitions, is listed as scheduled for May 1.

According to the Town Clerk’s office, each petition needs at least 10 signatures from registered voters to get onto the annual town meeting agenda. The petitions vary on topics from Housatonic Water Works, adjustments to the short-term rental bylaw, and an addition to cell phone tower regulations. Messina provided copies of the certified citizen petitions to The Berkshire Edge.

A petition for the town to purchase, own, and operate “the Housatonic Water company” was submitted by Housatonic resident William Nappo and received 16 signatures from residents. Over the past several years, customers of the troubled Housatonic Water Works company have dealt with various water quality issues.

At a Selectboard meeting on November 21, 2022, members of the Fire District Prudential Committee made it clear that the district is not interested in operating or managing the HWW system. It is not known if the town can be forced into purchasing HWW by a vote of residents at the annual town meeting, or the legalities that a vote may entail.

Meanwhile, three citizen petitions have been submitted to amend the short-term rental bylaw that was adopted at last year’s annual town meeting. One citizen’s petition asks town meeting voters to approve the addition of a new section of a bylaw concerning inspections. The petition has been submitted by resident Daniel Seitz and received 17 signatures. If approved by town meeting voters, the following section would be added to the bylaw:

“Monitoring short-term rentals. The town of Great Barrington may not hire, contract with, or otherwise engage the services of a private company, firm, individual or other entity to monitor the use of home/dwellings that may be being used as a short-term rentals in order to ascertain compliance with the short-term rental bylaw; this includes, but is not limited to, entities that provide a system that encourages and directs neighbors to report on each other regarding the use of their homes/dwellings, and that gathers data on the use of homes/dwellings to provide to the Town of Great Barrington.”

Another petition submitted by Seitz, which also received 17 signatures, would significantly alter the section in the short-term rental bylaw that dictates its regulations. The petition asks to delete the second and third paragraphs under the regulation section, which currently reads:

“An Owner may register to operate only one dwelling unit as a Short-Term Rental. If a person owns two properties, or owns one and is listed as a manager or agent for a second that is owed by an LLC, for example, that person must choose one or the other to be registered as a Short-Term Rental. No person shall have more than one legal or equitable title or beneficial interest in any dwelling unit used for a Short-Term Rental except as provided for above.

“An Owner may hire a property management company to list and manage Short-Term Rentals, but the registration must be in the Owner’s name. Up to two bedrooms in a dwelling unit or an entire secondary unit on the same parcel may be registered and rented as a Short-Term Rental by right. The registered Short-Term Rental may be rented for an unlimited number of days per year, provided that the Owner is residing in one of the dwelling units on premises at the time of the rental. In cases where the Owner is not residing on premises at the time of the rental, no unit or portion thereof may be rented more than 150 days per year.”

Another petition asking for an alteration to the bylaw has been submitted by resident Jonathan Hankin and has received 15 signatures. The petition, if approved by town meeting voters, would alter the bylaw text that begins with “An owner shall not register or offer a rental unit subject to a long-term lease as a short-term rental” by taking out the words “nor shall a tenant offer his/her/their rental unit as a short term rental.” If approved, it would add the following words to the bylaw:

“A long-term tenant, for whom it is a primary residence, may, if allowed by the property owner, do Short-Term Rental subject to the same rules and regulations as a resident Owner.”

Finally, a citizen’s petition to add a new section under the town’s zoning bylaws concerning the Wireless Telecommunications Overlay District has been submitted by resident Krystyna Kurzyca and has received 16 signatures. If approved by town meeting voters, the article would add a “Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) application requirement for completeness” to the zoning bylaw in section 9.3.16. The proposed addition reads as follows:

“WTF applications, will be considered incomplete until the FCC completes the DC Circuit court-mandated Environmental Review of the entire 800,000 to 1 million WTF roll out to the conditions as stated in the NEPA Policy Act 1969 including studies from scientists independent from industry, who have fully investigated millimeter wave 5G small cell technology safety; and that the FCC regulations have been updated to include measures that comply with the results of this review; and, that the Town of Great Barrington shall consider reasonable alternatives such as fiber optic.

Click here for PDF copies of submitted citizen petitions.