Norton Town Meeting

Norton held its annual spring town meeting on the high school football field due to coronavirus concerns and plans to do the same on Saturday.

NORTON — Residents will be asked to decide where marijuana businesses can go and to rezone the center of town at a special town meeting Saturday.

The meeting is being held along with the fall town meeting, which includes a request for nearly $2 million for land for a new town hall and community/senior center.

The meetings are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on the high school football field.

Attendees are required to wear face masks, practice social distancing and bring their own chairs.

Most articles on the special town meeting warrant, or agenda, pertain to zoning. They were postponed from the June annual town meeting to keep the agenda light and a special town meeting in August because of weather.

A special town meeting was going to be held in September but town officials decided to combine it with the fall town meeting.

Town Moderator Walter Eykel said it was decided it would be safer to gather residents once instead of twice because of the pandemic.

The chief zoning articles are for areas where marijuana businesses are allowed, and for new zoning for the center of town.

The districts for pot businesses had come up at a previous town meeting, and the center zoning is the result of a consultant’s study.

A Village Commercial District would become a Village Center Core District and, among other changes, encourage businesses to open on the first floor of buildings, with housing on a second floor.

The zoning changes, intended to both preserve the character of the center and promote commercial growth, are proposed by the planning board and supported by the finance committee.

As for marijuana businesses, an overlay district would be created for them to locate in and would subject them to regulation.

The businesses would be permitted by special permit from the planning board in the Village Center, commercial and industrial districts.

The overlay district includes segments of Route 140 North, East Main Street (Route 123), Norton Commerce Center, industrial zones in South Norton, and business and industrial zones in Chartley.

The marijuana zoning is proposed by the economic development commission and also supported by the finance committee.

On the fall town meeting warrant, voters are being asked to authorize spending up to $1.8 million for the acquisition of 1.4 acres of property between town hall and the police station for a new town hall and nearly 6 acres on Mansfield Avenue (Route 140) for a community/senior center.

This fiscal year’s budget that began July 1 would have to be amended, with $428,000 being drawn from reserve funds, including $330,000 for schools.

There are also building and equipment items totaling $326,412, including $80,000 for a new cruiser and motorcycle for police and $70,000 to improve the fire station bays.

There is also a request for $622,380 to continue the multi-year watershed management program for the town’s three main water bodies. Most of the funding is earmarked for weed control, as a previous appropriation was.

Changes to the town’s boats and waterways bylaw are also proposed, including a speed limit of 6 mph from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Boats can’t be launched from town property during those hours, however. Additional regulations for such sites are also proposed as the town and residents have had problems with boats at Norton Reservoir.

Residents are also being asked to approve an amendment to a local pharmaceutical firm’s tax break agreement with the town. Alnylam, which is located in the industrial park, wants to reduce its hiring target from 150 to 125 workers and has received selectmen’s approval.

For more information, visit the town website, www.nortonma.org.

Stephen Peterson can be reached at 508-236-0377.

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