Sunday May 6, 2012

MONTEREY -- Voters signed off on $3,329,462 of municipal spending on Saturday during a town meeting marked by extensive, respectful discussion -- occasionally laced with humor -- on a major zoning bylaw reorganization, with minor revisions, and $10,000 in funding to launch a capital campaign for a community center.

A turnout of 97 for the two-hour, 45-minute session at the Monterey Firehouse represented 13.6 percent of the town’s 711 registered voters.

The municipal spending proposal for the fiscal year beginning July 1 passed unanimously on a voice vote following a brief discussion on a 4.5 percent increase in the Southern Berkshire Regional School District’s assessment to the town. Super intendent Michael Singleton and Business Administrator Bruce Turner detailed the reasons for the increases.

On several other warrant articles, basic questions were asked and answered.

The lengthiest discussion centered on a 60-page reworking, with additional amendments, of the town’s zoning bylaw. For the most part, the revamp clarified or revised existing regulations.

Prepared with the Planning Board by Boston attorney Mark Bubrowski, a leading state expert on zoning laws who has advised 100 towns statewide, the document preserves and maps existing business, agricultural-residential and two lake shore districts (Lake Buel and Lake Garfield) and their boundaries.


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The revision also explains and charts by-right and permit-required uses, including more specific descriptions and language revisions.

Questioners from the floor sought and were given precise definitions involving home occupations and offices, the status of the Bidwell House Museum and private airstrips or helipads that might be built by homeowners (a special permit is required from the Board of Appeals).

Based on an amended provision of the zoning plan, any proposals for a large-scale solar and photovoltaic facility would have to undergo a Planning Board site review, according to state statutes, pending preparation and adoption of a town bylaw to address the issue.

Final adoption of the zoning document by unanimous voice vote was greeted by applause and cheers for Planning Board Chairwoman Maggie Leonard and her colleagues as well as Bubrowski.

Brief but lively discussion greeted a proposal for town spending of $10,000 to jump-start a capital campaign for renovation of the Wilson-McLaughlin House at the corner of Main and New Marlboro roads, willed to the town in 1996 by Edith Wilson. The property is intended as an additional community gathering place.

"This is a no-brainer," declared resident Karen Sh reefter, citing the "non-confrontational tone of this meeting, not like ‘Lenoxology.’ " Despite some opposition from a minority of taxpayers, the funding article was approved by a decisive voice vote.

The greatest enthusiasm of the meeting was unleashed by passage of a citizen’s petition by Pat Salomon adding Monterey to the list of communities and states that have voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s widely debated Citizens United ruling in 2010 that opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate and union contributions to political campaigns through "super-PACs."

The petition reflects similar recommendations passed in Vermont and Montana, 80 communities statewide including Great Barrington, and 300 cities and towns across the nation, including New York and Boston.