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New Marlborough residents seek zoning changes

From left, New Marlborough Select Board member Tara White and Chairperson Nathaniel Yohalem during the board’s Feb. 24 meeting.  Photo by Ted Remsnyder.

NEW MARLBOROUGH — A proposal put forth by a group of residents to amend the town’s zoning bylaws will appear on the warrant at the annual town meeting on Monday, May 4.

A petition authored by resident Lucinda Shmulsky that seeks to give taxpayers greater say in New Marlborough’s special permit zoning will be up for debate at this spring’s meeting after it gained the signature of 16 registered voters. Under New Marlborough’s bylaws, the town is required to place an article on the town meeting warrant if a petition is signed by 10 or more registered voters.

If approved, the petition article would amend the town’s special permit zoning process by shifting the decision-making from the Select Board to town residents as any special permit issued in the town going forward would require written consent of two-thirds of the abutters of any special permit project. Under the current system, a special permit in the town requires the unanimous approval of the three-person Select Board.

During the board’s Monday, Feb. 24 meeting, Chairperson Nathaniel Yohalem said that while the town is required to put the petition on its warrant, the board and town counsel will recommend that residents reject the article under concerns that the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey would invalidate the zoning change if its passed. The state has advised the town that the zoning change would be illegal under state law since it removes the voting power from the Select Board.

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