Mansfield Town Mtg

Mansfield Town Meeting was held Monday in the Xfinity Center parking lot as it was last June. (File photo)

MANSFIELD — Residents Monday easily passed a $104 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 but opposed a zoning change to restrict a private school’s plans for a residential neighborhood.

A proposal by a resident to stop fluoridation of local drinking water was not voted on during the Town Meeting due to a lack of a quorum at the end of the meeting.

A total of 208 registered voters turned out to the meeting, held in a windy and cool parking lot at The Xfinity Center because of the pandemic.

The budget allocates $47 million for town government and $54.8 million for local schools.

The school budget carries a 4% increase over this year’s spending and will add a few new positions and restore teachers that had been cut at the middle and high schools.

A citizen petition sought to restrict plans for the expansion of the Hands-on Montessori School.

The local private school on Creeden Street after years of effort plans to building a new school building on Knight Way.

Planning board members in February approved a plan for a 1,200-square-foot building, with school officials hoping to eventually expand.

Some neighbors have been fighting the plans for several years for various reasons, including worries about increased traffic and safety of their children and property values.

Resident Jill Keyes, with the backing of others, requested a zoning bylaw amendment to limit childcare or educational facilities in residential zones to 2,500-square-feet buildings not higher than 35 feet.

Keyes said many homes are less than 2,000 square feet.

She said she thinks to town should follow what other towns such as Norfolk have done to “preserve and protect” neighborhoods.

Neighbor Mark Larochelle said the proposal was needed so neighborhoods don’t get overwhelmed “by something that is disruptive.”

Resident Robert Smith said he grew up in Brooklyn where he and other kids played in busy streets and contended the school proposal would pose no danger.

“It could benefit every growing neighborhood,” Smith said of such schools. “Schools need to be in these residential areas.”

Planning board members opposed the proposed change, noting it would make local schools nonconforming.

“It would place a lot of barriers to childcare facilities and schools,” board chairwoman Beth Ashman Collins said, warning the restrictions would face a court challenge.

The vote was 119 to 89 against the request, and zoning changes require a two-thirds affirmative vote.

Through another citizen petition, Thomas Yeransian asked residents to support discontinuing fluoridation of town water.

Yeransian, a chemical engineer who has done environmental consultant work, argues fluoride has been shown to be a risk to cause a series of health problems, and with fluoride in toothpaste, fluoridated water is no longer needed and should be a matter of personal choice.

Proponents of fluoridation, including board of health members who voted to unanimously oppose the request, contended it stops tooth decay and any slight risks are worth fluoridating water.

Discussion of the proposal was cut off and no vote taken after a resident requested a count of voters remaining and the 100-voter quorum wasn’t met.

A total of $2.8 million was appropriated for building and equipment items, including $622,000 for vehicles and equipment, and $600,000 for a new playground on Plymouth Street.

Residents backed the town joining many other cities and towns adopting the state’s green energy building code for new construction that will yield state grants, including $165,000 the first year, for energy saving projects and programs.

Voters supported a bylaw to require owners to register and properly maintain buildings that are vacant/abandoned for more than six months.

Residents also backed doing away with Civil Service that has been used for hiring police and firefighters in town dating back to the 1940s. Many area towns have gone this route because of restrictions with the Civil Service program.

It was the first town meeting new town moderator Kostas Loukos oversaw. Loukos in the May 11 annual town election replaced Robert Saquet, who didn’t run for re-election after 34 years in the post. Saquet was recognized at town meeting and given a plaque.

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