Great Barrington annual town meeting preview
Where: Monument Mountain Regional High School, 600 Stockbridge Road
Great Barrington voters will decide on changing outdated zoning regulations and limits to the number of recreational marijuana shops. Other issues include whether short-term rental owners should have to register with the town, a name change for the middle school, and repealing a ban on the sales of small, single-use plastic water bottles. Officials want about half of capital funds proposed to fortify the former Housatonic School to come from Community Preservation Act funds, which voters will also act on.
Recreational marijuana: Voters are asked whether recreational marijuana retail outlets should be limited in number. Currently, one retail shop is open in town and four others are in the permitting pipeline. The state Cannabis Control Commission's rules require the number of pot shops allowed in any town to be a minimum of 20 percent of the number of package stores. The town currently has seven all-alcohol liquor stores, and two shops currently selling only beer and wine, with a third on the way.
Short-term rentals: Wary of an imbalance, town officials want to track the number of homes in town that are rented on a short-term basis through sites like Airbnb. Voters are asked whether such homeowners should register their property with the town.
Rename middle school: A citizens petition calls for Monument Valley Regional Middle School to be renamed for town native W.E.B. Du Bois, in honor of the civil rights architect, scholar and NAACP founder.
Water bottle ban: A citizens petition calls for the repeal of a town ban on the sale of single-use plastic water bottles, 1 liter or less, as a way to curb plastic waste. The ban was approved at the 2018 annual town meeting, and met with a second approval at a special town meeting in July. Opponents of the ban say it removes this bread-and-butter revenue source from businesses.
Zoning changes: Town planners are recommending a number of changes to zoning regulations that include making it easier for developers or property owners to create multifamily housing along the Stockbridge Road corridor, and increasing the allowable size of accessory dwelling units. Planners say all the changes are a way to accommodate the uses that already exist and the "evolving economy and changing housing demands."
Fiscal 2020: $28.3 million
Increase: 4 percent*
*includes school spending
$16.7 million: Public schools
$6.8 million: Street/road/sidewalk improvements
$650,000: Housatonic School improvements
$400,000: Town building improvements
$410,000: Dump truck with plow and sander
— Heather Bellow
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