Voters approve library design, tax breaks, building code

Oct 19, 2016

Town Meeting members approved the design for the North Dartmouth Library, agreed to tax breaks that will allow a manufacturer to expand, and chose to adopt a new residential building code when the meeting convened on October 18.

In addition to approving the design for the new North Dartmouth Library, located at 211 Cross Road, voters supported officials' $700,000 request for funding for the project. The total cost of the project is $10.2 million.

Town Administrator David Cressman said the $700,000 funding request will be made each year for the next three years at Fall Town Meeting, alongside a yearly request for $1 million in bonds at Spring Town Meeting for the project. Cressman said an additional $150,000 will be raised from gifts or other grants.

Conrad Ello of Oudens Ello Architecture said the current facility at 1383 Tucker Road, which is being demolished so streets can be reconfigured, has inadequate spacing for programming and a dangerous parking lot. Those concerns were addressed in the new library's 14,000 square-foot design, he said.

The design includes a children’s wing, an adult wing, a centrally located circulation desk, improved sight lines to assist a small staff, and a 100-seat multi-purpose room that can be accessed after library hours.

Town Meeting voter Robert Michaud questioned the expense. “It’s mostly an open space with bookshelves,” he said.

Library Committee members replied that modern libraries function more as community centers, and the design will also help secure a $4.88 million state grant.

“We don’t look at this library as being based on books,” said Library Director Lynn Antunes. “It’s a gathering space for people,” she said, saying that she often has to turn away groups looking for meeting space.

Ello said the building will sit on a 10.5-acre parcel, allowing room for expansion or new developments in the future.

In related business, voters approved a $50,000 request to replace the Southworth Library parking lot at 732 Dartmouth Street.

Tax breaks for Ahead, LLC

Voters agreed to a six-year tax break for apparel manufacturer, Ahead, LLC. Company CEO Anne Broholm said a 79,000 square-foot expansion at the company’s current location in the New Bedford Business Park would create approximately $710,000 in new tax revenue over six years, and add jobs to the current 265-person staff.

Select Board Chair Stanley Mickelson voted to approve the tax break — which would help fund the $10.5 million project — saying that he did not want to jeopardize jobs by forcing Ahead, LLC to relocate. Ultimately, Town Meeting members agreed.

New residential building code

The most controversial item involved the town’s request to adopt Stretch Code, a building code that applies to new residential construction.

“This is probably the only thing holding us back from being designated as a ‘green community,’” said Cressman, explaining that the “green” label would qualify the town for more grants.

Communities that adopt Stretch Code — including 173 Massachusetts communities — see $100,000 to $200,000 in the first year, said Cressman. A lot of the town’s school buildings have not been updated with LED lighting, and such projects would qualify for that grant money, he said.

But confusion around whether the update would be applicable to additions made on residential homes caused both Select Board and Financial Committee members to question their recommendations.

Building Commissioner Paul Murphy explained that currently, Stretch Code is applicable to additions, but that the code will be updated in January 2017 to exclude them. It will only apply to new residential construction and specific commercial projects, he said. He and Cressman added that base building code has advanced so much over the years that there is little difference between it and the Stretch Code.

Select Board Vice Chair Frank Gracie suggested waiting to see if 2017 updates will keep costs low on older model homes, but ultimately, Town Meeting members voted to adopt the Stretch Code in a 102-93 vote.

Land, purchases, repairs, demolition, regulations

Voters agreed to use $600,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for a Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust project that will conserve acreage abutting Allens Pond. Community Preservation Act funds are raised through a 1½ percent property tax surcharge.

Voters also approved the spending of $967,493 for Dartmouth Public Schools to replace roofing, update classroom technologies, and service lighting and sound issues; $1,356,750 for the Department of Public Works to spend on new sidewalks, replace pickup trucks, and buy a new street sweeper; and $235,000 for the Parks Department to improve outdated restrooms at Round Hill Beach and expand Evergreen Cemetery.

The town will also spend $785,000 to demolish the deteriorated Gidley School on Tucker Road.

Voters also agreed to adopt new shellfishing regulations that would shift enforcement from state to town control.