The Recorder – Several zoning bylaws on the table for Deerfield Special Town Meeting

DEERFIELD — Several zoning bylaws regarding minimum frontage requirements, a new tourism zoning district and ground-mounted solar arrays are on the table for Monday’s Special Town Meeting.

Voters will convene in Frontier Regional School’s gymnasium at 6 p.m. Masks will be required.

The meeting warrant features 12 articles, of which several are unanticipated expenses from previous years. Articles 8, 10, 11 and 12 will likely generate debate at the meeting, as they have at Planning Board public hearings throughout September.

Article 8 — which is a revision of a bylaw revision shot down at Annual Town Meeting in June — would reduce the minimum frontage specifically in the Center Village Residential District (CVRD), Small-Business District (C-1) and Industrial District (I) to 50 feet. The original bylaw in June proposed a minimum frontage of 50 feet across the entire town of Deerfield.

Selectboard member Carolyn Shores Ness said town officials understand why residents didn’t want a town-wide bylaw change, and they’re focusing only on South Deerfield to encourage growth.

“We narrowed it down, we listened to people’s concerns,” Shores Ness said at a Sept. 30 Planning Board meeting. “We as a Selectboard want to work for revitalizing downtown.”

Shores Ness said town officials have three projects in mind with this proposed bylaw change: the Leary Lot behind Berkshire Brewing Co., the proposed park on North Main Street and property off of Braeburn Road.

Shores Ness said these projects would breathe new life into South Deerfield.

“The whole point of this,” Shores Ness said, “is to make sure the downtown is connected, is walkable, social and we bring new energy downtown.”

There is opposition, however, to the proposed North Main Street park project. Attorney John McLaughlin, speaking on behalf of the lot’s abutter, Judith Rathbone, said the proposed park would have a “horrible effect on the neighbors.”

“There’s going to be hundreds of people, cars, vans and buses coming in on 50-foot frontage,” McLaughlin said at the Sept. 30 meeting. “You would never, as a Planning Board, allow a corporation or a business to do such a thing. … It’s just a very bad idea.”

Selectboard Chair David Wolfram said this bylaw does not give the board the authority to build anything as it pleases, because sites must still pass an approval process featuring other town boards.

“In order for any of these projects to move forward, review is required by several committees depending on the type of project,” Wolfram said. “The key factor is that any of these projects have to go before town meeting. We as the Selectboard cannot just say, ‘We are going to do it,’ and it gets done. There’s a lot of checks and balances that are there that are well placed and for good reason.”

Articles 10 and 11 focus on a new tourism zoning district that would encompass the Routes 5 and 10 corridor and South Deerfield.

The zoning district would set requirements for open space, parking spaces and overnight camping events, such as festivals. The overlay would limit companies like Tree House Brewing to three camping events — of up to four consecutive days — per calendar year.

Wolfram said officials want to capitalize on the introduction of Tree House, joining Berkshire Brewing and Powder Hollow Brewery, to the community as a way to drum up tourism.

“We’ve been looking for ways to enhance the center of South Deerfield,” Wolfram said. “We figured by the tourism that we get from Yankee Candle and the potential tourism from the three breweries it’d be the ideal time to take these overlays and put them in place.”

Article 12 is a revision to the solar bylaw passed at June’s Annual Town Meeting. The revision would restrict by-right, ground-mounted solar arrays to 660 square feet.

The Planning Board opted to revisit the bylaw after its passage in June following concerns about a lack of specificity when it came to small-scale arrays. The original bylaw allowed by-right, ground-mounted solar arrays up to 10,000 square feet.

The proposed revision would bring Deerfield’s bylaws in line with state regulations, which limit by-right arrays to 10 kilowatts. Ten kilowatts of energy roughly translates to a 660-square-foot system.

“A typical residential system today can be built up to 660 square feet without getting (Department of Public Utilities) approval,” said Chris Curtis, a Planning Board consultant, during an Aug. 23 meeting. “Correlating that to our bylaw seemed like it was logical and sensible.”

Voters will also decide on funding repairs to the South Deerfield Congregational Church at 71 North Main St. for use as a temporary senior center. Wolfram estimated the total cost would be somewhere “between $120,000 and $150,000,” but the amount asked for on the warrant will be determined Monday.

The full Special Town Meeting warrant can be viewed at bit.ly/3zmL9EI.

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.

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