Bylaw changes headed to Town Meeting

Apr 11, 2019 by

Published in the April 11, 2019 edition.

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — Among the other business on the 2019 Annual Town Meeting warrant, voters will deal with five articles related to bylaw changes. Chairman Daniel Lieber of the Bylaw Review Committee presented the proposed changes at this week’s Town Council meeting.

Lieber noted that the seven-member Bylaw Review Committee met over 30 times and took input from private citizens, business owners, town officials and town employees.

Town Meeting Article 22 would adopt as a local bylaw the terms of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 40U, which specifies a building owner’s responsibilities when it comes to snow removal on sidewalks abutting their property. Town Counsel Thomas Mullen explained how this would work. He said that the maximum penalty for violations would be $200. The width that must be cleared would also be specified in the bylaw. The town would appoint someone as a hearing officer to consider appeals of violations. Mullen said that in all cases the building owner would be the responsible party, not the tenant.

Article 23 on the Town Meeting warrant simply clarifies the term “business day” when it is used anywhere in the bylaws in setting deadlines, etc. Lieber said that a business day is defined as any day that the Town Hall is open to transact business.

Article 24 involves a change related to Permanent Building Committee “advisory committees.” Lieber stressed that the bylaw would not apply to the Permanent Building Committee itself. Under the bylaw, an advisory committee would be appointed by the body responsible for the building in question. (i.e., the School Committee would appoint an advisory committee for a school building project.)  The advisory committee would serve as a mechanism to provide input to the Permanent Building Committee.

Fingerprint-based criminal background checks are the subject of Article 25 on the Town Meeting warrant. Lieber said the aim was to make the bylaw compliant with the CORI law. He added that the bylaw would also change the timing of recommendations by the Police Chief so that licenses (for example, liquor licenses) are not withheld after they are approved pending fingerprint-based criminal background checks.

Article 26 will offer a new bylaw that would pertain to vacant storefronts. Under the proposed bylaw, the town would adopt Chapter 155 of the Massachusetts General Laws. First-floor storefronts that are vacant for more than 90 days would have to register with the Building Department. The property owner would then have four options: 1) Fill the vacancy; 2) allow public artwork to be displayed in the space; 3) pay a $100 per quarter fee to the town; or 4) request a waiver from the Town Council.

Lieber maintained that the proposed vacant storefront bylaw would promote smart use of vacant retail spaces and increase awareness of vacancies. The town will then be able to work with the property owner to deal with the vacancy appropriately. Lieber said that the idea was to get the maximum possible use out of a storefront and allow it to be used for the public good.

Lieber claimed that the proposed bylaw “enhances things without taking away any rights or capabilities.”

Town Councilor Paul DiNocco asked Lieber how many property owners the Bylaw Committee talked to in preparing this bylaw.

Lieber said that they reached out to the Chamber of Commerce as well as to a local attorney who represents many property owners.

DiNocco asked again how many property owners the committee spoke to directly.

Lieber admitted that he did not know who any of the potentially affected property owners were.

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The Town Council endorsed the DPW’s annual “Fill-A-Public Works Truck Food Drive” and issued a proclamation officially recognizing the week of May 19 to May 25 as the 58th annual National Public Works Week.

During that week, the Wakefield DPW will be partnering with the New England Chapter of the American Public Works Association and the Wakefield Interfaith Food Pantry (WIFP) to collect food for the WIFP during the second annual Fill-A-Public Works Truck Food Drive. All food collected will be donated and delivered to the Wakefield Interfaith Food Pantry.

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In other business this week, The Town Council:

• Renewed the Bowling Alley License for Wakefield Bowladrome.

• Approved the renewal of the Pool Table License for Lakeside Inn.

• Approved the warrants for the Annual Town Election (April 23, 2019) and Annual Town Meeting (April 29, 2019).

• Approved a banner to be hung across Main Street recognizing The Savings Bank’s 150th anniversary celebration on June 22, 2019. The banner will be hung from May 20, 2019 through May 27, 2019.

• Approved a request from Beebe Library to accept and expend $825 in gifts to the library from various donors.

• Granted a one-day liquor license for Paula Melito for a “Hockey from Heaven” benefit event at the Crystal Community Club on Friday,  April 26.

• Approved a one-day liquor license for the Wakefield Track Boosters Club for a fundraising cornhole tournament at the Americal Civic Center on Saturday, May 11.

• Granted a one-day liquor license to the Sons & Daughters of Italy for an event on Tuesday, June 11 at the Americal Civic Center.

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