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Dalton Passes Budgets, ADU Bylaw But Rejects Drive-Throughs
By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff
01:41AM / Tuesday, May 03, 2022
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Dalton holds its annual town meeting on Monday at Wahconah Regional High School, passing most of its 30-article warrant.


The 3 1/2-hour town meeting was sparsely attended, with barely 100 voters showing up. 
DALTON, Mass. — An amended accessory dwelling bylaw passed narrowly at Monday's town meeting but a measure to allow more drive-throughs failed. 
 
Fewer than 100 voters attended the nearly 3 1/2 hour annual town meeting at Wahconah Regional High School.
 
Approved with little discussion was a town budget of $19,963,774, an increase of 2.2 percent over this year, and an assessment to the Central Berkshire Regional School District of $10,183,947, up 2.3 percent, that includes operating costs of $8,521,913, transportation at $363,721, and capital costs of $1,298,313. 
 
A petition to support the Fair Share Amendment, a ballot initiative to impose a 4 percent surtax on earned income above $1 million, generated some discussion but was endorsed. 
 
The ADU bylaw had been in process since October 2020 and developed in part as a way to increase affordable housing. There were, however, concerns that the bylaw would allow investors to lock up units for short-term rentals and that it only required a simple majority to pass. 
 
"My neighbor, a close member of my community, down in our neighborhood who just recently sold her home, the three highest bidders included two who are rental agencies," said resident Al Nadeau. "She chose to sell to the individual who was buying a home and is now living there. But then all this opens up the opportunity for companies outside of our area that come in and buys a single-family home goes through this process and has at least two rents coming off of it."
 
A motion was made to amend the bylaw to only allow ADUs in owner-occupied properties. Timothy Zessin, of town counsel KP Law, said it could pass constitutional muster if phrased correctly but that it may be difficult to enforce. 
 
"In my opinion, if it was phrased correctly, it's enforceable," Zessin said. "It may be difficult to enforce, to ensure that somebody is a resident of the town of Dalton is living there, but in my opinion, it would be constitutional if worded correctly."
 
Zack R. McCain III, Planning Board vice chairman, argued that the town should approve the bylaw as written because the amendment is not practical to enforce especially, when it comes to a resident selling their home to a company. 
 
He believed that the ADU bylaw would not clutter the town because of the limitations in the number of houses and property setbacks. 
 
"As far as cluttering up the neighborhood. If it's a detached ADU it has to have all the same setbacks that you currently have on a lot," McCain said. "So a lot of lots, especially in the center of town, that are the small 60 by 100, or whatever lots, you're not going to be able to build an ADU because you don't have the room for setbacks."
 
Despite his arguments, voters passed the amendment 46-42 and then the bylaw by 56-31.
 
The drive-through bylaw failed 44-32 because it required a two-thirds vote to pass.  
 
The current bylaw passed in 2008 allows for drive-throughs at banks, financial institutions, and car washes only.
 
The updated bylaw would have allowed them for other primary business uses for the purpose of economic development but not in residential districts.
 
Many of the voters present were concerned that this bylaw would effect the design and integrity of the town and open the way for fast-food chains.
 
Historical Commissioner Debora D.S. Kovacs was concerned that the absence of stipulation to prevent drive-throughs in two proposed historic districts would risk tampering with their integrity. 
 
"The reason that we're trying to do this is not to limit anything in town it is more to protect and preserve our historic buildings and places and having things like commercial drive throughs would really interfere with with Dalton center," said Kovacs.
 
McCain said the bylaw only effects a small portion of the town and that a drive-through in a business/industrial area would not effect the traffic patterns because if it did, it would not be approved for permitting. 
 
Voters were not convinced and the bylaw did not draw enough votes for its passage.
 
Voters approved Article 17 to transfer the former Bardin property from the tax title custodian to the Select Board so that it can decide to sell or lease the land. But they rejected authorizing $20,000 to implement a forest stewardship plan for the property 38-14.
 
The land is in both Dalton and Windsor, which led to issues on ownership and an agricultural preservation restriction violation.
 
Some residents argued that the only way to resolve the APR violation would be to sell the land in Dalton and Windors to the same person making it whole. 
 
However, town officials cannot guarantee that the Dalton parcel be sold to the same person as the Windsor parcel because they have to put the land up for bid. 
 
Town Manager Thomas Hutcheson argued that the best way to get the land to agricultural production would be to lease it. 
 
Article 16 passed with a simple majority vote to extend the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission over water resource areas. 
 
Also approved were articles to remove the Police Department from Civil Service, an action taken by a number of communities to increase their ability to hire police officers; to raise and appropriate equipment funds for the Forest Wardens; to provide matching grants for establishing the two remaining historic districts; to revoke the establishment of the Development and Industrial Commission; to borrow $200,000 for the fiber optic system; and to accept River Street Extension as a public way. 
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