- School and community center projects
- Wang property purchase and solar initiatives
- Capital planning and community preservation expenditures
Voters at Town Meeting approved measures aimed at increasing affordable accessory apartments, allowing the Board of Selectmen to change speed limits under certain conditions, temporarily banning marijuana establishments, and allowing commercial farming on smaller properties—but proposed regulations banning some sales of plastic water bottles and plastic grocery bags were tabled.
Affordable accessory apartments
Approved revisions to the accessory apartment bylaw will now allow affordable accessory apartments to be counted in the town’s Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI). A second vote (pending legislative approval) authorized a property tax exemption for the portion of a home being rented out as an affordable accessory apartment.
The changes bring the town’s bylaw into line with the state Department of Housing and Community Development’s requirements on pricing, tenant income eligibility, affirmative fair housing marketing and tenant selection plan, and maintenance. Other requirements for qualifying as an affordable accessory apartment include a temporary deed restriction and a prohibition on renting to family members.
Currently, 10.9 percent of Lincoln’s housing units qualify as affordable. If that proportion drops below 10 percent in the 2020 census, developers could be allowed to bypass zoning regulations to build a major housing development that contains affordable units.
A related warrant article to property owners to borrow from Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to pay for creating or renovate affordable accessory apartments was passed over. Housing Commission Chair Allen Vander Meulen said Monday that the loan program will still be offered, but at least initially, it turned out to be procedurally easier to use money from the Housing Trust rather than the CPA.
At the State of the Town meeting in November, Lincoln Housing Coalition member Pamela Gallup explained that the program was intended as an incentive to property owners. The program would offer a loan of up to $25,000 that would secured by a lien on the property but would not contingent on the homeowner’s income, and it would have to be repaid in full when the house is sold.
There are about 70 permitted accessory apartments with permits in town already, plus an unknown number without permits. Officials hope the tax exemption and loan program will tempt more people to register their existing affordable units and thus boost the town’s inventory.
Residents voted to accept the provisions of a new state statute that would allow the Board of Selectmen to set a 25-mph speed limit on local roads in areas of town designated as“thickly settled or as a business district.
“There are very few if any areas in Lincoln that are currently eligible, but that could change in the future,” said Selectman Peter Braun. “We recommend adding this capacity to the selectmen’s toolbag for future use.”
The original motion asked that the town “accept the provisions of Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 90, Section 17C, in the interests of public safety and without further authority,” to establish the 25-mph speed limit as allowed by that statute. But after some debate about what specific powers the selectmen would have if the motion passed, officials amended the motion to delete everything after the statute citation, and it passed with a handful of nay votes.
Right to Farm bylaw
Owners of property measuring two to five acres may now keep farm animals (except pigs) for commercial agricultural purposes if annual sales are less than $5,000 per acre. Previously, commercial animal farming was permitted only on lots of five acres or more.
There was considerable debate about whether to remove language saying that the $5,000 monetary limit would not apply to off-site sales. Two voice votes on whether to approve the amendment itself were inconclusive, and a count of hands resulted in defeat of the amendment by a margin of 84 to 61. The original motion to change the bylaw passed by the required two-thirds majority with a scattering of nay votes.
Voters approved a moratorium on using land or structures for recreational marijuana establishments until November 30, 2018 pending new regulations from the Cannabis Control Commission and possible zoning amendments in Lincoln. Recreational marijuana establishments include marijuana cultivators, testing facilities, product manufacturers, or any other type of licensed marijuana-related business.
“This will give us time to work on it and figure out what we want to do,” Selectman Peter Braun said.
“This article is not well advised. Nobody can do it in Lincoln anyway” because of state licensing barriers and the high cost of land, said resident Jean Welsh, who said she takes medicinal marijuana pills to control pain from spinal stenosis. “It’s just not fact-based government. I’m very sensitive to governance based on emotion and not on fact.”
Plastic bottle and bag ban
In the wake of controversy over proposed bans on sales of individual-size plastic water bottles and retail use of disposable plastic grocery bags, officials before the meeting backed off from voting on the two measures. Instead, voters approved substitute motions that expressed support for the concerns raised by the Lincoln-Sudbury Environmental Club (which organized citizens’ petitions for the two measures) and urged the club to “continue to explore options, including the contemplated bylaws, in consultation with key Lincoln stakeholder groups.” Students will report at the State of the Town meeting in fall 2017 with possibility of presenting revised bylaws at the Annual Town Meeting in 2018.
“The route they’ve chosen to take today is exactly what the town clerk and town administrator suggested they consider,” said Selectman Peter Braun, citing ambiguities over how the bans would be enforced, as well as a lack of input from other groups including the Planning Board and the South Lincoln Planning Implementation Committee. “There’s a lot to talk about and think about… there’s room for a lot more of the Lincoln Way to occur.”
Owners of Donelan’s and Lincoln’s two new restaurants had voiced earlier opposition to the measures. “It’s a mistake to demonize bottled water,” which is clean and healthy, said Carol White, so-owner of Lincoln Kitchen and Trail’s End, adding that visitors would have difficulty finding places to refill reusable water bottles.
Residents debated the impact of a water bottle ban on business at Donelan’s. “If it’s make or break based on single-use plastic bottles, that store is in serious trouble,” said Sara Mattes. Others worried that a ban on water bottles will simply push customers to buy sugary drinks instead, with one person suggesting a ban on all plastic drink bottles.
Regarding plastic grocery bags, resident Andrew Young cited studies showing that the life cycle of paper bags actually results in more energy and well as its own form of environmental damage. “If you forget your reusable bags, plastic is actually the better choice,” he said.
Officials and several residents praised the students for their hard work and commitment, and their willingness to change course shortly before Town Meeting.