FinCom Recommendations for Special Town Meeting, 2019

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Bedford’s Finance Committee: Ben Thomas, Chair; Elizabeth McClung, Vice Chair; Paul Mortenson, Clerk; with MembersTom Busa, Stephen Carluccio, Karen Dunn, Erica Liu, David Powell, and Stephen Steele

The Finance Committee has a responsibility for creating the budget for the Town, as well as providing for recommendations on articles in the Town Meeting Warrant. The committee reviews each article on the Warrant, listens to presentations, asks questions, discusses and finally votes for a recommendation. While our recommendations are printed in the warrant, we are presenting additional information about our recommendations in advance of Town Meeting. It is our hope and goal that making this additional information available will be of benefit to the voters.

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Article 1 – Debate Rules
Recommendation: Approval voted, 8-0-0

This article proposes the adoption of procedures for Town Meeting. These are the usual procedures under which we operate Town Meeting. They provide a means by which an orderly and efficient meeting may be run.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 2 – Community Preservation Surcharge
Recommendation: Approval voted, 7-0-0

This article continues the 3% Community Preservation surcharge for fiscal years beginning on or after July 1, 2020. As in prior years, the Finance Committee considered two major points in favor of the article: (1) the likelihood of continuing to receive state matching funds, and (2) the continued support of town meeting. Concerns were again expressed about whether we should continue to tax residents at the full 3% given the overall strong financial condition of the town (meaning the town could pay for projects via the tax levy without resort to the surcharge), but given the amount required due to past CPA bonding and the matching funds, continuing with the 3% surcharge still seems to be the correct approach.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 3 – Land Acquisition Fund
Recommendation: Approval voted, 8-0-0

This article will add the property located at 229 Old Billerica Road to the Community Preservation Land List. This list allows the Selectmen to enter in good faith negotiations should one of these properties become available. The balance in this Community Preservation Fund is $338,836. The Finance Committee believes that the Selectmen should be allowed the flexibility to purchase properties on the list subject to available funds.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 4 – Rescind 2018 Bond Authorization for Acquisition of Navy Property off Hartwell Road
Recommendation: Approval voted, 8-0-0

This article would rescind the vote taken at the July 2018 Special Town Meeting, which authorized the Town to borrow $2,000,000 for the acquisition of the Navy Property off Hartwell Road. Since the Town did not purchase the property the bond authorization is not needed and should be rescinded.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 5 – Appropriate Funds for Transportation Infrastructure Fund
Recommendation: Approval voted, 8-0-0

This is a housekeeping article necessary to allow the Town to use the $5,094.70 that was received from the Commonwealth Transportation Infrastructure Fund. The funds are made available to use for alternative transportation projects. This article appropriates these funds into a special revenue fund, which will allow the Town to expend them for its purpose.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 6 – 300th year Anniversary Stabilization Fund
Recommendation: Approval voted, 8-0-0

At the 2019 Annual Town Meeting under Article 23, the Town created a Special Revenue Fund for the 300th Anniversary. This article will create a Stabilization Fund for the 300th year Anniversary, and rescind the Special Revenue Fund article as voted at the 2019 Annual Town Meeting for this purpose. Under Massachusetts General Law, a special revenue fund for a Town Anniversary can only be established if it is within 5 years of the event. The creation of this Stabilization Fund allows the Town to set aside funds in excess of 5 years of the event.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 7 – Appropriate Funds for AFSCME, AFL-CIO, State Council 93, Local 1703 Collective Bargaining Agreement – FY 2020
Recommendation to be given at Town Meeting

The Collecting Bargaining Agreement is pending and the Committee therefore could not consider the matter. The Finance Committee will provide its recommendation at Town Meeting.

Article 8 – Appropriate Funds for Bedford Permanent Firefighters Local 2310 IAFF Collective Bargaining Agreement – FY2020
Recommendation to be given at Town Meeting

The Collecting Bargaining Agreement is pending and the Committee therefore could not consider the matter. The Finance Committee will provide its recommendation at Town Meeting.

Article 9 – Amend FY2020 Operating Budgets
Recommendation: Approval voted, 8-0-0

Changes to the FY2020 operating budget, as adopted at 2019 Annual Town Meeting, are made when more accurate information becomes available regarding revenues and expenses. Overall, the FY2020 operating budget will decrease by $464,387. This article recognizes these changes and amends the budget to reflect them.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 10 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment – Accessory Dwelling Units
Recommendation: Approval voted, 7-1-0

The Finance Committee supports the updated zoning bylaw provided in this article because it better targets the circumstances that existing Accessory Dwelling Unit (“ADU”) bylaw in Town is meant to address. This update would add flexibility for owner-occupied properties to address evolving housing needs and, as a balancing measure, it adds size restrictions to the current by-right ADU bylaw. The Finance Committee believes these size restrictions greatly reduce the possibility that approval of this article will result in a flood of ADUs in town that cut against the intent and spirit of the proposed update. The Finance Committee viewed favorably the notion that the Town could amend these changes should they result in unexpected consequences.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article

Article 11 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment-Height of Accessory Structures
Recommendation: Approval voted, 8-0-0

The existing Zoning Bylaw allows accessory structures to be as high as principal dwellings in Residential Districts, while also being closer to side and rear lot lines. Recent focus on the impact of detached Accessory Dwelling Units on abutters has led the Planning Board to conclude that all Accessory Structures should be lower in height than the primary dwelling structure from which they are set back. The Finance Committee agrees with this conclusion.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article

Article 12 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment-Base Elevation
Recommendation: Approval voted, 8-0-0

New Zoning Bylaws often require adjustment after a short period of application, in order to better clarify original intent and recent interpretation. The original intent of the 2016 bylaw change was to allow all base elevation increases, including small adjustments up to two feet, only for specified purposes relating to drainage, soils, or topography. The revised language proposed in Article 12 removes a developer’s discretion to adjust base elevation, by even a small amount, for any other reason. The Finance Committee supports this clarification.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 13 – Zoning Map Amendment-Temporary Uses and Structures
Recommendation: Disapproval voted, 5-4-0

The use of temporary storage trailers is a regular and longstanding practice by many commercial and industrial tenants. Any attempt to remove or restrict an existing right should be carefully considered, including an argument that the collective benefit gained outweighs the rights lost. The proposed amendment language does not sufficiently define the distinction between transient trailer use and temporary trailer use, or even permanent trailer use. The Finance Committee also believes that this proposal potentially conveys an anti-business message, and that further outreach to the Town’s valued commercial and industrial taxpayers is warranted. Some members, on the contrary, believe the suggested change to be reasonable.

The Finance Committee recommends disapproval of this article

Article 14 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment-Horizontal Mixed-Use in the Great Road/North Road District
Recommend: Disapproval voted, 5-4-0

This article would allow, by special permit, for horizontal mixed use in the Great Road/North Road District. The Finance Committee recognizes the potential of increased traffic in a congested area already of concern to the Town. The fact that zoning currently allows for vertical mixed use does not change the possibility of horizontal mixed use worsening congestion. Some members, on the contrary, believe it adds flexibility to the zoning.

The Finance Committee recommends disapproval of this article.

Article 15 – Zoning Bylaw Amendment – Clarifying Prohibition of Drive-Thru in the Great Road Districts
 Recommendation: Approval voted, 5-3-1

While drive-through facilities serve an important public need in town, particularly in the Shawsheen and Market Place sub-districts, the Finance Committee feels that there are sufficient instances in place to meet existing and future needs. Too many drive-through facilities can adversely impact other important characteristics of the Great Road corridor. Some members, on the contrary, believe drive thru offer warranted conveniences.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 16 – Power Purchase Agreement
Recommendation: Approval voted, 7-0-0

This article authorizes the Town Manager, subject to the approval of the Board of Selectmen, to enter into future long-term contract(s) related to solar energy project(s).  Absent this pre-authorization, any such long-term contract would have to be approved by Town Meeting only after being negotiated. The Finance Committee considered it important to give the Town Manager and the Board of Selectmen pre-approval so that they could move quickly should a favorable deal present itself. The Finance Committee discussed that the Board of Selectmen, an elected group, should be trusted to make sure that any future contract(s) will be beneficial for the Town, notwithstanding that Town Meeting will have already given its approval. The Finance Committee understands that no contract is imminent, but that the Town Manager is considering preliminarily possible transactions.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 17 – Charter Amendment – Selectmen to Select Board
Recommendation: Approval voted, 7-1-1

One of the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations is to update our Charter to reflect gender neutral language. This article proposes changing all instances of the words Selectman and Selectmen to Select Board. Many towns in Massachusetts have already made this change and many others are considering it. This is consistent with the Town’s efforts to be more inclusionary.
The Finance Committee recommends approval of this article.

Article 18 – Miscellaneous Charter Amendments – Housekeeping
Recommendation: Approval voted, 8-1-0

The charter review committee undertook a thorough process in making its recommendations. This included soliciting input from all Town departments and committees and holding two advertised public meetings. The changes included in this article are clarifications and grammatical.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.

Article 19 – Charter Amendment – Board of Assessors
Recommendation: Approval voted, 9-0-0

This article amends the town Charter to provide for shared appointing and removal process between the Town Manager and the Board of Assessors for the Town Assessor position and clarifies that the Town Manager is responsible for day-to-day supervision of the employee in that position. The Finance Committee discussed that the Town Manager, in contrast to an elected board, is in the best practical position to supervise the Town Assessor. The Finance Committee also recognizes that while the amendment provides the Town Manager the power to remove the Town Assessor, that power is subject to the approval of the Board of Assessors. Thus, Town Meeting should be aware that if it is desired to place the sole power of removal in the Town Manager, the Town Charter would again have to be amended.

The Finance Committee recommends approval of this Article.


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