Special election mulled in Cheshire

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CHESHIRE — Cheshire voters could be casting ballots twice this summer.

The Select Board is considering special elections for filling the two new seats on the board and, if approved at the annual town meeting, a debt exclusion to pay for a new road grader. The three selectmen voted 2-1 on Tuesday — with Mark Biagini opposed — to delay their decision until their May 21 meeting on when to hold the elections. The trio could also debate whether both issues can be settled on a single ballot.

The board and Town Clerk Christine Emerson support electing the additional board members, possibly in September, rather than waiting until next year's annual town election. After four years of debate and several initial approvals on the state and town level, the local electorate on May 6 gave the final go-ahead to the expansion.

Special election proponents feel expansion supporters have waited long enough to increase the board from three to five people.

"There's no bigger advocate for five selectmen than me," said Select Board Chairman Robert Ciskowski.

As for a potential separate debt exclusion vote, Emerson said it could be held shortly after the June 10 annual town meeting should the voters approve spending up to $95,000 on a secondhand grader.

Pot cultivation ban

A citizen-petition article to ban open-air marijuana cultivation may not fly with the state attorney general, according to town officials.

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The four-page proposed general bylaw going before the annual town meeting next month cites "the strong distinctive malodorous marijuana plant" as one reason to outlaw outdoor commercial pot growing facilities in town. Bylaw proponents believe the ban is overall necessary for the "health, safety and well-being of the town, its residents and the environment."

If approved, the bylaw still requires AG Maura Healey and her staff to determine its legality. Based on the legal opinion of town counsel, Town Administrator Ed St. John IV said at Tuesday's Select Board meeting the bylaw wouldn't pass muster with the state because Cheshire currently relies on zoning to regulate marijuana projects. Therefore, a zoning amendment proposed and thoroughly vetted by the Planning Board is required.

The citizen bylaw request is an effort to close a regulatory loophole as current Cheshire zoning doesn't differentiate between indoor and outdoor marijuana cultivation. Town counsel's legal opinion aside, St. John said the Select Board is legally compelled to put a citizen-sponsored article on the town meeting warrant.

Marching on

The Memorial Day parade route isn't changing. The Select Board on Tuesday rejected a request to consider having the patriotic procession end at the war memorial next to the town hall instead of the town cemetery along West Mountain Road.

Selectman Mark Biagini said the cemetery is the appropriate place to conclude the parade and hold the remembrance ceremony.

"That is where our veterans are buried, let's respect that," he said.

The parade will continue to step off at 1 p.m. from the Cheshire Community/Senior Center on School Street.


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