Essex Town Meeting approves new downtown zoning district

·3 min read

May 16—ESSEX — Some but not all of the zoning changes proposed were approved by Essex Town Meeting on Saturday afternoon.

For example, Town Meeting approved the "Essex Downtown Zoning District," which encompasses most of the Main Street Causeway, with some caveats. Smaller, residential-heavy streets such as Pickering and Winthrop streets will be exempt from the new zoning.

The Essex Downtown Zoning District will be the first and only zoned area in town. According to Planning Board Chairman Wes Burnham, the district would allow for more "mixed use" buildings.

Also, Town Meeting agreed to place two-year moratorium on business and industrial development. During this time, selectmen and the Planning Board will work on drafting regulations to mitigate potential pitfalls new businesses may bring to residents and the surrounding environment.

Article 15, which would have instated a new, 20-page rewrite of the town's zoning bylaws regarding cell phone towers, narrowly missed the required two-thirds majority it needed for approval. Going into Town Meeting, the Planning Board refused to support it as members believed some aspects contradicted bylaws on the books.

The final vote on Article 15 was 134-80. With 214 voters in attendance at the time, it would have needed 141 votes in favor to pass. A vote at the end of the meeting to reconsider the article also failed, 56-76. That vote too needed a two-thirds majority.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

How Essex Annual Town Meeting voted

Here is a summary of how 2021 Essex Annual Town Meeting voted on full, 25-article warrant:

1: Election of officers. Approved.

2: Hear and receive reports from town officials and committees, including those in the Annual Town Report. Approved.

3: Amend the wage and salary scale for town employees in accordance with the Personnel Board Report. Approved.

4: Fix salaries of elected officers in accordance with the Personnel Board Report. Approved.

5: Transfer funds from the Town Septic Betterment Fund to the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust. Approved.

6: Approve the fiscal year 2022 budget. Approved.

7: Fund the Sewer Enterprise Fund for the remainder of the fiscal year. Approved.

8: Replenish the Sewer Enterprise Fund for fiscal year 2022. Approved.

9: Continue to fund the Water Enterprise Fund for the remainder of the fiscal year. Postponed.

10: Replenish the Water Enterprise Fund for fiscal year 2022. Approved.

11: Approve the town's share for the Manchester Essex Regional School District budget. Approved.

12: Approve the town's share for the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School District budget. Approved.

13: Instate the "Essex Downtown Zoning District" on the Main Street Causeway (Route 133). Approved.

14: Instate a two-year moratorium on business and industrial development. Approved.

15: Update the zoning bylaws regarding cell phone towers. Failed to win required two-thirds majority.

16: Update the bylaws on stormwater management. Approved.

17: Pay for potential fixes and upgrades to the municipal water system. Approved.

18: Pay for potential fixes and upgrades to the municipal sewer system. Approved.

19: Replace two police cruisers with newer models. Approved.

20: Use town funds to match a state grant for studying environmental quality in Chebacco Lake, the Alewife Brook, and associated watershed areas. Approved.

21: Use town funds to match a state grant for a new seawall system at Conomo Point. Approved.

22: Allow Community Preservation Funds to be used for select projects. Approved.

23: Pay operational expenses at various town departments for the remainder of fiscal year. Approved.

24: Replenish the Finance Committee's Reserve Fund for the remainder of fiscal year. Postponed.

25: Pay unpaid bills from past fiscal years. Postponed.

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