Zoning Issues Dominate Democracy in Town Meeting's First Night

Senior Care Retirement Centers Okayed After Lengthy Debate - "They are becoming us."

   Town Moderator David Vieira makes a presentation on Town Meeting rules as Selectmen and other officials look on.

Falmouth's population is getting older, and many Town Meeting Members are feeling it.  Referring to statistics presented which showed double-digit growth in the the over-65 demographic, Planning Board Chairman Pat Kerfoot said matter-of-factly, "They are becoming us." After several failed attempts at recent Town Meetings, a zoning bylaw change that would allow for permitted Senior Care facilities (SCRCs) and associated business uses was approved by the required 2/3rd majority of Falmouth's legislative body. The discussion on the fine points of the proposal, including open space, permitted ancillary uses, and affordability, dominted last night's first edition of the twice annual celebration of local democracy.

clarkson_townmeeting1Town Clerk Michael Palmer enjoying his 15 minutes of fame as Town Moderator.

Newly elected State Representative Tim Madden was introduced to the assembled precinct representatives.  His predecessor, retiring Rep. Eric Turkington, received sustained applause for his 20 years of service in the legislature.

Town Meeting Members plodded through the evening, passing 23 articles as recommended under the blanket vote, and acting on another ten during the four hour session.

One of the highlights of the night came when Moderator David Vieira stepped down from the podium to give a presentation on Article 2, which offered suggestions on Town Meeting PowerPoint presentations.  As he is required to relinquish control to the Town Clerk on such occassions, the moderator literally and figuratively passed the gavel to Town Clerk Michael Palmer, who quickly assumed the perch and asked, "does anyone want to change anything while I'm here?' 

clarkson_townmeeting3Selectman Kevin Murphy enjoys a lightheared moment during the proceedings.

Another chuckler came while discussing a proposed permitting process of at-home businesses.  Town Meeting Gadfly Dan Shearer offered an amendment to Article 5, simply stating "there will be no fee at any time," sending a clear message to the fee fans on the Board of Selectmen. The amendment passed and the message was sent.  In making the point for the amendment, Town Meeting Member Henry Dick offered this truism, "Where a permit is required, a fee will follow.  Period."  Not any more.

In addition to allowing for SCRCs on 15 acre parcels, Town Meeting kept to its tradition of being stingy on petition articles, passing on several zoning initiatives, including rejecting a proposed change to allow for drive-through business within 300 feet, saying no to a zoning change for three small parcels within Falmouth Harbor's marine zoning district, and looking askance on a petition article proposing to ease the limitiations on pre-existing apartments.

Town Meeting also heard a brief report from the High School Building Committee, but was unable to delve into detail due to ongoing litigation and mediation efforts.

Town Meeting will reconvene on Wednesday, Nov. 12 and will take up the headliner for this edition, the ongoing debate on affordable housing in Woods Hole.

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