SHEFFIELD -- The annual Town Meeting on Monday night rejected a zoning change aimed at keeping retail chains from setting up shop in the community.
While a majority of the voters, 167 to 129, supported a zoning amendment limiting commercial buildings to a maximum footprint of 5,000 square feet, the measure required a two-thirds majority, or at least 198 votes. Currently, up to 10,000 square feet is allowed in town.
Under the proposal, the Sheffield Planning Board could approve a special permit for up to a 7,500-square-foot structure. However, the maximum size wouldn’t allow for the 9,100-square-foot Dollar General store proposed along the town’s North Main Street (Route 7) business corridor.
Opponents of the zoning amendment felt it would also prevent large non-retail, commercial ventures from staying or moving into town.
"I’m extra concerned about the effect on light manufacturing," said Selectman Rene Wood. "Even a 7,500-[square-foot] footprint is not that big."
Frank Lowenstein was among the residents who backed the Planning Board’s zoning change, which he claims would help preserve the rural character of Sheffield.
"It’s a bylaw to keep that quality while allowing the types of business that fit the town," he said.
Town Meeting also couldn’t muster the necessary two-thirds majority approval for another zoning change tied to the Dollar General project. Proponents of giving the Planning Board more special permit approval of various commercial uses in town failed to get the minimum 214 votes for Article 3 on the warrant. The final count was 197 yes, 123 no.
Two months ago, Sheffield Building Inspector Thomas Carmody approved a building permit for the Dollar General project, over the objections of hundreds of residents and the Planning Board. While the board says Carmody was within his legal authority to grant the permit, the board claims he bypassed their customary review of projects allowed by right.
If Article 3 had passed, Dollar General would have needed a special permit from town planners.
The Planning Board has appealed the building inspector’s decision to the Sheffield Zoning Board of Appeals. A hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall.
Town meeting voters Monday night also approved a moratorium through June 2014 on allowing the establishment of medicinal marijuana treatment centers in Sheffield. The measure will allow town officials time to draft zoning on regulating the location of such facilities in town.
Later this month, the Massachusetts Health Department is expected to finalize its regulations of the clinics voters approved through a referendum in last November’s state election.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233.