Here's a look at what could come up at the Fall Town Meeting

Jul 3, 2018

Although the deadline for Fall Town Meeting articles is not until August, there are a number of topics that are likely to appear at the meeting. Here is a sneak peek at some of the agenda items, which was given as part of an update at the July 2 Select Board meeting.

Road improvements

As part of the town’s capital plan, the Department of Public Works usually seeks $900,000 for road improvements. In prior years, the DPW has focused on improving primary streets in town, but co-town administrator Greg Barnes said a new focus going forward will be on side streets.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the subdivisions are aging around the same time and there are major proposals in the capital plan to start to address that in the fall,” said co-town administrator Greg Barnes.

To do that, the department will need additional funding through the capital plan, although the total is unclear at this time.

Recreational marijuana

Meeting members could be asked to approve a new zoning bylaw allowing for recreational marijuana dispensaries within a narrow section of town along Faunce Corner Road and near the New Bedford Industrial Park.

This bylaw was necessitated by Massachusetts’ voters 2016 approval of the use of marijuana through a ballot question. The town approved an 18-month temporary moratorium banning recreational sales in Dartmouth at the 2017 Spring Town Meeting, which is set to expire in December. The town must have zoning in place by then.

Despite adding a new business to town, the sale of recreational marijuana might not be the tax windfall officials had hoped for, at least on the local level. Barnes said under state law, towns can sign “host agreements” with potential recreational stores, and set a maximum tax of 3 percent. However, Board of Health estimates show collections may not be as high as was anticipated.

Additionally, the maximum tax can only be set if the town can prove it’s warranted based on impact.

“That would be rather easy to do, just by the traffic it’d generate,” McDonald added.

The Planning Board will hold an August 20 public hearing on the proposed bylaw.

There are several additional articles officials are working on and are unsure if they will be ready for Fall Town Meeting, or will be held until a coming year. They include:

Shopping cart bylaw

An issue that has irked Select Board members and the public for ages, the deluge of shopping carts left abandoned on roadsides could come with a penalty for business owners. Barnes said he is looking to drafting a bylaw modeled after one in Wareham to crack down on the issue.

Under Wareham’s bylaw, which was approved at its 2018 Spring Town Meeting, businesses face a $100-a-day fine if shopping carts are found discarded.

The issue has prompted numerous discussions over the years at various Select Board meetings, with members complaining about the unsightliness of the carts and the public safety risks posed by carts are left near roadways. The DPW has even recently begun collecting stray shopping carts.

The future of the old Dartmouth Police Station

With construction on the Dartmouth Police Department’s new permanent headquarters underway, Barnes said serious discussion is needed on the future of the department’s old Russells Mills Road building. It has been vacant since 2014, when an officer became sick with Legionnaires’ Disease from contaminated water in the building. The bacteria forced the department to work out of modular units, and is what led to the need for a new station.

A plan for the building has yet to be developed. A proposal to rezone the property to attract a developer willing to foot the bill for demolishing the building was voted down by the Planning Board, and did not appear in the Fall 2017 Town Meeting.

“We, as a town, have to be careful not to repeat what happened to the Gidley School,” Barnes said, referencing the abandoned school that had become so deteriorated it needed to be torn down.

Member David Tatelbaum said the issue should be a priority, and a committee should be put together to come up with a plan.