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Business, solar bylaws on the table for annual Town Meeting in Deerfield

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Staff Writer
Monday, June 07, 2021

DEERFIELD — A proposed bylaw requiring chain stores to consider “rural character in their designs” will be among the articles to come before voters at the June 12 annual Town Meeting.

Articles 17 through 19 will seek to implement a new “formula-based business” bylaw, which would apply to chain stores or restaurants moving into town. The bylaw defines a chain store as any business that has 10 or more stores worldwide and can be identified by standardized features such as color, facade or decor. It would not apply to consumer services such as banks, law offices or health clinics.

Select Board member Trevor McDaniel said the bylaw “probably has some relation” to the Dollar General store being planned for Routes 5 and 10, but “it is not the only reason.”

“(There is) frustration that came about by the way Dollar General came to town,” McDaniel explained. “To Dollar General’s credit, they did offer a better design.”

The proposed bylaw was one of the articles discussed during a pre-Town Meeting information session on Wednesday. Annual Town Meeting will be held June 12, at 9 a.m. at Frontier Regional School.

Annalee Wulfkuhle, chairwoman of the Planning Board, explained during Wednesday’s meeting that developers would only need to address exterior details of a building’s design.

“We ask the developer to work with the Planning Board in three primary areas, and all of these have to do with the external appearance of the building,” Wulfkuhle said. “This ties into wanting to have businesses that come to our town and fit in with the rural nature of our town. We’re really only concerned with what happens on the outside.”

The Select Board, however, is split on the bylaw.

McDaniel said during Wednesday’s meeting that he understands the intention of the bylaw, but that it gives too much control over businesses looking to come to Deerfield when the Planning Board can already work with developers to create a rural design.

“It is to control the way the character of our town looks, I get that,” McDaniel said. “I think we can achieve that without overstepping and this bylaw truly oversteps that line quite a bit. … I feel like this is very restrictive and doesn’t leave any examples of where we are going.”

Fellow Select Board member Carolyn Shores Ness said she is in favor of the bylaw because it would give the town a new negotiating tool when working with businesses.

“Having these tools in our toolbox, you can always waiver everything and negotiate with a developer,” Shores Ness said, “but if you never have the tools and they’re never in your toolbox, you have no ability, or nothing to negotiate with.”

An updated bylaw that would make it easier for solar projects to advance, clarify solar project procedures, and set standards for medium- and large-scale solar arrays will also be on the warrant.

Wulfkuhle said the proposed bylaw would “promote solar energy” and would help the Planning Board work with an evolving field.

“Solar, especially for medium- and large-scale installations, it’s a pretty rapidly changing field,” Wulfkuhle said. “So we have found that we need to clarify and streamline some procedures.”

More specifically, the bylaw states small-scale solar energy systems, municipal solar projects and solar canopies would be allowed by right.

Another proposed bylaw presented on Wednesday would reduce minimum frontage requirements from 100 feet to 50 feet for town-owned lots. Wulfkuhle said the change would benefit the town. She used an older map of the planned North Main Street park to show how the new frontage requirements would be applied.

“The town wants to have the flexibility to be able to address some of these issues for getting properties on tax rolls, selling them for tax credits otherwise,” she said.

Attorney John McLaughlin, who is representing an abutter of the North Main Street park, said reducing frontage requirements would disturb local neighborhoods.

“Zoning is to protect the neighbors from the uses being undertaken,” McLaughlin said during the meeting. “Whether it’s being undertaken by the town or some big corporation doesn’t change the effect of the neighborhood.”

Other articles voters will consider during annual Town Meeting include:

■A town omnibus budget of nearly $16 million for fiscal year 2022, the same as the current fiscal year’s budget.

■A proposal to add Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, to the list of paid holidays for all benefited employees. Juneteenth is the oldest known U.S. celebration of the end of slavery. It commemorates June 19, 1865, the day that Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and told slaves about their emancipation from slavery. Gov. Charlie Baker officially recognized Juneteenth as a Massachusetts holiday.

■A proposal to amend town bylaws by renaming Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

■Using the term “selectboard” instead of “selectman.” The board already voted independently in 2016 to use the gender-neutral term, but the concept will now come before town voters.

■Approving $462,118 for capital projects.

■And raising about $1.5 million for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Enterprise Fund.