Lenox annual town meeting preview

Posted

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, Duffin Theater, 197 East St.

A large turnout is expected for approval of a $20.8 million town budget, including $13.5 million for education and other articles regarding a divisive affordable housing proposal, zoning for adult recreational marijuana businesses and citizens petitions to ease short-term rental rules.

Affordable housing project: A donation of town-owned land purchased for $600,000 in 2011 for community housing has aroused intense debate. The $17 million, 50-unit Sawmill Brook apartment complex would provide affordable and market-rate apartments for the local workforce, young families and seniors. Two-thirds approval would be the first step in a stringent site plan and environmental permitting process. Opponents fear eroding property values and negative impact on the nearby residential neighborhood.

Marijuana bylaw: A Planning Board bylaw would limit retail, manufacturing and other marijuana businesses to the commercial corridor along Route 7/20 (Pittsfield Road) north of downtown and also requires ZBA special permits. But a citizens petition, opposed by the Planning Board, would prohibit all commercial marijuana businesses anywhere in town. Either bylaw requires two-thirds approval. A total ban also needs a majority vote on a townwide ballot. The town's marijuana moratorium expires June 30.

Short-term rentals: A citizens petition, requiring a two-thirds vote, would allow short-term Airbnb rentals of less than 30 days at a time in primary and secondary dwellings, including second homes, anywhere in town up to 180 days per calendar year. It would also clear the way for more investor-owned properties purchased for short-term rentals, if the buyer spends 30 days in the home during the first year of ownership. The Planning Board opposes the proposed zoning bylaw.

Budget

Fiscal 2020: $20.8 million

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Increase: None*

*school spending up 3.7 percent

Line items

$13.5 million: Public schools

$3.1 million: General government

$2.2 million: Public safety

$982,776: Public works

$518,000: Community Preservation Act

— Clarence Fanto


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