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Shirley resident Eric Olson poses a question during Saturday’s Town Meeting. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / M.E. Jones

SHIRLEY — Bylaw revisions designed to make the town more welcoming to business were derailed by Town Meeting voters on Saturday.

Articles 13 through 22 would have created a single mixed-use zoning district on Great Road, with some sections left out, scratching previous designations for Great Road East and West. The other targeted rezoning area was on Lancaster Road, with proposals to rezone areas as mixed use or industrial.

As a package, the articles either failed, were undercut or postponed; some were revised or rewritten on reconsideration. Voters defeated Article 15, triggered revisiting other articles and in effect nullified most of them, even those that passed.

The only approved change is that the eastern part of Great Road was changed to mixed use, Economic Development Committee Chairwoman Jackie Esielionis said after the meeting.

“Our goal is to set up a place where businesses can go,” she said. But when so many “what ifs” are presented on Town Meeting floor, it’s all but impossible to address them. That would be part of the regulatory process, she said, reviewing and evaluating each proposed project, one at a time, with public hearings to air and address concerns.

She acknowledged it was a disappointing outcome. “But it was confusing,” she said. She added the EDC may return with a modified proposal.

Voters who attended Saturday morning’s meeting spent four hours on the 22 articles, including several supplemental appropriations and line-item transfers.

Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said the town had a fiscal 2015 surplus of $848,283, with $293,614 of that total from recurring revenue that could be used to supplement the operating budget.

The FY2016 budget is balanced, but the town still faces a $439,710 structural deficit going forward, she said. Garvin also explained why the town is seeking to salt away money in the stabilization and capital stabilization funds.

Basically, she said it’s better to save for large purchases than rely on the operating budget, perhaps shortchanging services as a result.

The latter scenario would be repeating past mistakes, Garvin indicated. Instead, the administration’s financial decisions now are “fiscally responsible,” she said.

In other business, voters:

* Rejected an article to borrow $188,000 to extend an existing performance contract for energy-saving upgrades in town buildings. At issue was replacement of HVAC systems in the Town Offices and the police station, which are malfunctioning, Energy Committee Chairman Bryan Dumont said. By contract, the debt would be paid from energy savings, at no added cost, he said.

Resident James Quinty questioned the need to spend so much for air conditioning that is used for only a few months. He suggested repairing the equipment instead.

Dumont explained that the systems also include ventilation, which is essential any time of year. “These are your buildings” and should be properly maintained, he said.

The motion netted a 36-33 majority in favor, but did not meet the two-thirds majority required to pass.

* Accepted the deed to a vacant, unbuildable parcel of land off Great Road, a former trailer park owned by the late Robert Gonynor.

* Approved an energy-aggregation proposal. The town’s contractor, Grid Smart Energy, will go out to bid and broker a “buy-in-bulk” energy deal with one of about 32 licensed providers in Massachusetts. The deal would lock in for up to two years at a rate guaranteed to be lower than the utility company that now supplies many town residents and some municipal buildings.

Once a deal is struck with a supplier, the Town Meeting action automatically signs everybody up, Dumont explained, but those who don’t want it can opt out any time. Customers who contract with a supplier other than National Grid can’t participate, but a sign-in window opens every six months.

* Allowed the Ayer Shirley Regional School District School Committee to set up a stabilization fund. The district now may transfer money from its “excess and deficiency” account to pay for big-ticket items without having to ask Town Meeting for permission.

* Postponed an amendment to the animal-control bylaws. Most people who spoke against the measure objected to a section that would ban dogs from town and school recreational and athletic fields, playgrounds and cemeteries. The restriction went too far, people said.

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