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Great Barrington’s annual Town Meeting on May 6

There are 28 articles on this year's Town Meeting Warrant, including a ballot question and two citizen’s petitions. In comparison, last year's Town Meeting had 42 warrant articles, including five citizen's petitions.

Great Barrington — This year’s annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 6, at 6 p.m., at the Monument Mountain Regional High School auditorium. A second date, if necessary, has been added for Thursday, May 9, at 6 p.m., at the same location.

There are 28 articles on this year’s Town Meeting Warrant, including a ballot question and two citizen’s petitions. In comparison, last year’s Town Meeting had 42 warrant articles, including five citizen’s petitions.

The proposed town operating budget for fiscal 2025, contained in article four of this year’s Town Meeting Warrant, is about $16.4 million, an increase of $1.8 million over this fiscal year’s budget, as approved by Town Meeting voters last year, of about $14.6 million.

Article five is a capital spending authorization for $4.7 million. The spending includes various requested expenditures, including: $2 million for streets, bridge, and culvert work; $600,000 for street and bridge engineering work; $325,000 for architecture, engineering, and planning services; $241,000 for the town’s courthouse; $200,000 for Town Hall capital items; $188,000 for the town’s libraries; $150,000 for various emergencies and improvements to town-owned buildings; and $150,000 for the Great Barrington Fire Station. In comparison, the capital spending authorization approved at last year’s Town Meeting was about $8.2 million.

Article six is the town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant budget, which proposed at $3.15 million, a proposed $328,584 increase from this year’s budget.

Article eight is the town’s school district assessment, which was previously set by the Berkshire Hills Regional School District, and is proposed for fiscal 2025 at $21 million, a $770,139 increase from this fiscal year. Previous reporting by The Berkshire Edge on the full details of the proposed budgets can be found here.

Article 12 is to authorize $205,326 in the town’s free-cash line item to support the operation of the Southern Berkshire Volunteer Ambulance squad. The request is $54,032 higher than the request that was approved at Town Meeting last year.

Article 13 is a funding authorization to transfer $200,000 from the town’s Sale of Real Estate Fund to pay for courthouse upgrades.

Article 14 is funding authorization of $150,000, $125,000 from the Sale of Real Estate Fund and $25,000 from free cash, to fund planning-and-design phase services for Ramsdell Library improvements.

Article 18 asks residents to approve $800,000 in funding for various community preservation projects:

Article 19 asks residents to approve several amendments to the town’s zoning bylaws in regards to “Coliving Residential Development.” If approved, a new definition would be added to the town’s zoning bylaws:

Coliving residential development: A building or part thereof that contains sleeping units where residents share bathrooms or kitchen facilities or both.

Approval of the article would also add a section to the town’s Special Residential Regulations zoning bylaws in regards to coliving residential development, including regulations. As per the Town Meeting Warrant:

The purpose of this section is to encourage the development of Coliving, a housing option that generally is more affordable to residents because typical housekeeping facilities are shared in common with other residents. Coliving developments generally have no more than two persons per unit and typically comprise one or two rooms per unit.

More details can be found here on the annual Town Meeting Warrant.

Article 20 asks voters to approve a change in the town’s Table of Use Regulations in its zoning bylaws. The change would alter the permitted use status for Dwelling, single unit; Dwelling, multi-unit; and for Mixed use. More details can be found here on the annual Town Meeting Warrant.

Article 22 asks voters to authorize the Selectboard to grant to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council certain perpetual land-use rights, under a Trail Easement Agreement, for the construction, use, and maintenance of a recreational foot trail across portions of the town-owned cemetery property on Blue Hill Road and Rogers Road, with a connection from Rogers Road to the Thomas and Palmer Reserve.

Article 26, as proposed, would be an expansion of bylaws pertaining to tag sales within town. Currently, the town’s bylaw regarding tag sales reads as follows:

Tag sales and sales of similar nature within the Town of Great Barrington will be allowed by permit from the Board of Selectmen twice a year, two days each, within the calendar year, at any location.

The new bylaw, if approved, would regulate what is sold at tag sales, their hours of operation, signage, and parking and would regulate application and permit fees. More details can be found here on the annual Town Meeting Warrant.

Articles 27 and 28 are two citizen’s petitions whose legality were previously called into question at a Selectboard meeting on April 22. At the Selectboard meeting on Monday, April 29, Selectboard Chair Stephen Bannon said that both citizen’s petitions were reviewed by town counsel, who cleared them for the annual Town Meeting.

Article 27 reads as follows:

To promote and uphold the spirit and values of Community Policing to which the Great Barrington Police Department (GBPD) has committed, and to enable trained professionals to fulfill the stated missions of their respective schools, libraries, and educational organizations, the GBPD will follow best practices of referring questions and complaints about educational materials to the relevant oversight bodies and their appropriate legal counsel. Specifically, the GBPD will refer any and all initial assessments, investigations, and evaluations of materials utilized in the course of said trained professionals conducting recognized educational practices to the oversight bodies (district committees, trustees, boards) and their policies.

Article 28 asks residents to approve a zoning-bylaw change to amend a portion of Section 9.11, Mixed Use Traditional Zone, that, if approved by Town Meeting voters, would add several land parcels to the zone. The purpose of the amendment, as listed in the draft Town Meeting Warrant:

In order to address Great Barrington’s housing needs, the owners of the properties at 33 Silver Street and 35 Silver Street seek at town meeting to permit multi-unit dwellings on the properties. Prior to town meeting, the owners of each property shall record deed restrictions prohibiting non-residential commercial uses of the property.

The complete annual Town Meeting Warrant can be found here.

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