PEPPERELL -- An amended version of a citizen's petition to rezone a portion of Hollis Street from residential to commercial passed 135-11 Tuesday in the second and final night of Pepperell's Annual Town Meeting.
The original petition, which had sought to rezone 17 lots, was amended to only include the five parcels that currently house businesses. The properties to be rezoned are Conway Service and Sales, Clark's Auto Body, Family Tree Child Care Center, Matley Swimming Pools and Spas and an independent-living facility.
Dick Conway, who owns Conway Service and Sales and helped to write the original petition, said he supported the amendment because it took into account the wishes of residents who did not want their property rezoned.
Resident and owner of 1A Auto Merle Green said that removing the households from the petition was the wrong decision for the town.
"If we want to keep this town moving forward, we need to be looking at a plan to allow businesses to expand and to come in to the town," Merle Green said.
Before the amendment was presented at the beginning of Tuesday's meeting, residents spent the last hour of Monday night's meeting debating the original petition.
Supporters of the rezoning petition said it would help to bring much-needed business revenue into town.
Selectmen Chairman Michael Green said that there is currently not enough room for businesses to expand in town, which means there are fewer businesses to give back to the town through charitable donations and other support.
"If you don't give businesses the resources they need, in this case it's space, they can't grow, they can't expand and that resource that we have of the businesses supporting us can't grow," Green said.
Opponents said before the amendment was made that they were concerned about increased traffic, the close proximity to Varnum Brook Elementary School and Nissitissit Middle School and the ability of a group of petitioners to impose their will on the town.
Resident Susan Whittemore is an abutter to a property that would have been rezoned under the original petition.
"This is just not the place for it," Whittemore said.
Voters also decisively struck down a motion to adopt the stretch energy code, a more stringent building code that is one of five requirements towns need to meet before becoming a "green community." The green community status makes towns eligible for grant funding.
Green spoke against the stretch code.
"We're changing our laws for a $150,000 grant and the ability for the state of Massachusetts to call us a green community. I think that's just totally the wrong thing to do," Green said.
Some residents said the town shouldn't force homeowners to comply with the stricter code.
"If it's not unsafe or unhealthy, which is what the code is supposed to cover, if they want to reuse old windows or do something cheaper or more expensive, that should be up to the homeowner," resident Dave Holden said.
"I don't believe we should go out and be imposing expenses on homeowners so we can get a grant," he added.
Voters also passed a zoning bylaw regulating medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities, a bylaw making public consumption of marijuana punishable by a $300 fine and an article to return $4,250 in book fine money to Lawrence Library to purchase books and materials.
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