HARVARD -- Ten out of 53 original articles were left on the warrant when the second session of Annual Town Meeting convened last Wednesday night. Only numbers 40 through 46 -- all proposed zoning changes -- remained as the clock ticked toward 10 p.m., the target time Moderator Bob Eubank had set to adjourn.

"We have some serious stuff to consider and it's getting late," Eubank said, calling for people to stick to the issues and not to rehash points other speakers had covered, except those whose added "two cents" might make a difference.

Article 40 sought to amend Protective Bylaw 126-3, Existing Lots, Structures and Uses, striking part of the title and changing it to "Non-Conforming Structures and Uses."

The Planning Board recommends the change, ZBA Chairman Chris Tracey said.

"It's sensible," he said, since so many houses in town fall into the "pre-existing, non-conforming" category, especially around the common, and the change poses no detriment to neighborhoods.

But in context, the zoning change is more than a name. In future, a proposed addition to a non-conforming structure -- that is, one that is grandfathered under current zoning -- would not require a special permit from the ZBA but can be granted "by right" if the size of the new addition does not exceed 20 percent of the existing structure.

The motion passed.


Article 41 sought to amend Bylaw 125-27, Wireless Communication Overlay District, adding a new subsection allowing the town to install public safety and emergency communications equipment on any new cell towers going up in town or when existing towers are modified. The motion passed.

Article 42 amended the Zoning Map to correct an error to the Wireless Communication District. The motion passed.

Article 43 sought to amend Sections 125-31 and 135-39B, Driveways. Current zoning allows a common driveway to branch off to as many as four lots, which won't change, but for new construction only, the length of driveways calling for certain distances from the center line was downsized from 500 feet to 200 feet.

Planning Board Chairman Kara Minar explained that the new language, which is less confusing than the old, sets new standards for driveway widths and turnarounds that preserve rural characteristics such as fieldstone walls. In the commercial district, the goal was to limit curb cuts and aid traffic, she said.

A Stow Road resident asked if a new "40B" affordable housing development planned for his neighborhood would have multiple driveways off the main road.

There will be a single entry/exit, Minar said, but it will be the same width as other driveways on the road.

Although so-called 40B developments, which set aside a certain percentage of "affordable" units as defined in state law, are exempt from local zoning, they are still subject to safety review.

The motion passed.

By 9:30 p.m., the crowd in Bromfield's Cronin Auditorium had thinned noticeably, with just three articles left to consider.

Article 44 altered the boundaries of Flood Plain Districts on the town Zoning Map to align with new Worcester County maps. The motion passed.

Medical marijuana treatment centers

Article 45 sought to establish site zoning for the location of licensed medical marijuana treatment centers. In accordance with state law, municipalities must allow such centers, Planning Board member Jim Breslauer explained, and with the two-year moratorium passed last year set to expire in November, the only control the town has is to determine where they can go.

Absent a specific zone, the centers could be set up anywhere in town, he said. "This is proactive," he said of the bylaw, which maps the designated area, north of South Shaker Road and a safe distance from schools or private homes.

The new bylaw, which also adds definitions and allows "large commercial" centers only in the C-district along Ayer Road, establishes clearly stated setback requirements and abutter boundaries, Breslauer said. 

Asked how the setbacks were determined, Breslauer said public hearings were held and the board looked at how the issue was handled in other towns. The aim was to set reasonable restrictions without "spot zoning," he said.

Eyeing an area zoned for licensed marijuana facilities on the map, a resident asked if there was access to a site that appears landlocked from Ayer Road.

After review and a special permit, a site plan could be developed to address that issue, Breslauer said, but it would be a matter for the developer to address and the building would have to be 400 feet from the road.

Adult entertainment

Article 46 sought new definitions and other revisions to the existing bylaw regarding Adult Entertainment, defining terms such as adult bookstore, adult motion picture theater, adult paraphernalia and video stores. It also defines "adult entertainment establishment" as one that displays live nudity for its patrons or whose playbill includes "the display of nudity" as defined in state law.

In addition, a new subsection to the bylaws for "Large Scale Commercial Uses," allows the town to control "adult entertainment" book stores, video rental or sales and paraphernalia stores or live entertainment facilities, (strip clubs) by limiting site locations to the C-District and requiring a special permit from the Planning Board.

The bylaw further ensures that if such stores or entertainment establishments were to set up shop in the town's only commercially-zoned district, they'd be virtually invisible. It states in part that sexually explicit, erotic, exploitive or sadistically-themed advertising or merchandise or any item related to "adult entertainment" as described in the bylaw can't be displayed in store windows or outside buildings. The bylaw also prohibits any related products or signs "visible to the public" from the street.

The motion on Article 46 passed.