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Agricultural Housing Article to be Postponed Indefinitely

Planners pushed back on a citizen's petition article slated for action at Fall Town Meeting for an amendment to the town's zoning bylaws that would bring certain sections in line with laws already on the books at the state level. Essentially, the citizen's article seeks clearer definition to the agricultural labor housing section, which is allowed by state law but silent in town zoning, and removal of numerous special permit requirements to by-right status for agricultural, floricultural and horticultural section.

Following lengthy discussion and many questions from Planning Board members, two of the proponents, George Moore and Meredith Scarlett, agreed to postpone the article indefinitely with the goal to return to Spring Town Meeting with the request. Planners Jason Parent and Russ Burke will meet with the Agricultural Commission and other relevant groups to talk about the issues. Specifically, there is concern about the possible introduction of 'puppy mills' and Board of Health enforcement.

According to Land Use Director Michelle Collette, Town Counsel issued the opinion that no special permit is required for agricultural use. In addition, those that are now part of the town zoning cannot be enforced.

Fitch's Bridge Replacement

Members of the Greenway Committee appeared before the Board to ask for their support for their proposed article to remove and replace Fitch's Bridge as a crossing for equestrians, wheelchairs, bicyclist and pedestrians, but not motorized vehicles. Spokesperson David Pitkin said that there would need to be posting to prohibit snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles from using the proposed prefabricated structure.

Pitkin said that a change to the bridge has been on the Master Plan for 22 years and "to restore the crossing we looked at all options. Fitch's Bridge connects Fitch's Bridge Road on the east with Pepperell Road on the west. The prefabricated bridge would cost between $600K to $800K, but for this town meeting we are asking for $100K to do a design phase." He stressed that the current structure is "deteriorating rapidly, with boards falling off and kids diving off the structure. It's a liability. This connects 70 miles of trails to the east and three miles to the west, and this would be the only crossing."

He said that the committee discussed just removing the bridge and replace it later, but that by doing both at once, it would reduce the cost of having a crane coming to the site two times instead of one. Cost for removal of the bridge and the crane was $140K, Pitkin said.

Greenway Committee member Marion Stoddart advised, "Mark Haddad encouraged us because we can include the cost in the bonding with the Fire Station." Her colleague Fran Stanley said that the scrap value from the bridge steel was between $12k to $15K. There are three companies working on preparing bids for the work.

Stoddart added that the Chief of Police advised that he had double the number of calls to the area this year, 87 in all. Not only are there swimmers, but also it has become a party spot.

Planning Board Chairman John Giger asked who would maintain the structure once it was constructed and Pitkin replied that he understood that the bridge is owned by the town.

Giger expressed concern about a river that floods and a bridge that would have to comply with state requirements. He suggested that the group talk to the Fire Chief and to find out "what we are not doing that the state wants us to have."

The Board then voted unanimously to support the Greenway Committee article for $100K for Fitch's Bridge engineering design and permitting.

Groton Herald

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