On Tuesday evening the Westford Planning Board initiated discussion over four proposed amendments to the town’s Zoning Bylaws.
The four amendments regard a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers, allowing an applicant to make a financial
contribution to the town in lieu of constructing sidewalks during development projects, updating references in the flood plain overlay district, and to allow drive-thrus for restaurants with associated requirements for drive-thrus.
Angus Jennings, the former Director of Land Use Management who substituted this week for Town Planner Chris Kluchman, provided the Board with an explanation of each proposed amendment.
With the use of medicinal marijuana now legal in Massachusetts, the next step for municipalities will be to determine the necessary steps associated with the approval and development of such facilities.
Jennings told the Board that the proposed bylaw will provide clarity for the process involved with allowing or disallowing these centers and where to allow them per the Zoning Code.
As is customary practice with land use development, sidewalk construction, depending on the site, can be a crucial part of the project.
Westford has a long tradition dating back to the ‘90s of accepting contributions from land developers in lieu of constructing sidewalks for that specific project. Those funds are then used to build sidewalks in higher priority areas, said Jennings.
Currently, a developer can choose to build sidewalks for the project or offer to make a voluntary contribution instead.
Contributions received by the town are deposited into a gift account until authorized to be spent by the Board of Selectmen according to Jennings.
As drafted, the amendment would the Planning Board to dictate sidewalks to be constructed if the subject area isn’t a high priority site. Jennings did say such an occurrence would be case specific.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) provided the town with a letter that contains very specific language dealing with flood plains.
Jennings said MEMA’s letter recommends using its language verbatim when updating the flood plain bylaw section. The proposed amendment also
includes criteria for proposed subdivisions in flood plains.
At a special Town Meeting last Fall, a resolution was passed to allow the Planning Board to consider allowing drive-throughs for restaurants.
Kluchman spent considerable time with Board member Matt Lewin drafting language to allow drive-thrus. They will be granted under the Special Permit process.
Board member Dennis Galvin stated that the reason for allowing drive-thrus was brought about via requests from elderly residents who have a hard time getting in and out of these establishments. Galvin said the same also holds true for parents with small children.
What remained unclear and will be subject to continued discussion is the distance allowed between drive-thrus. The proposed distance will be anywhere from 500 to 1,000 feet.
The Planning Board voted to continue the four amendments to the March 4 meeting.