The Halifax Board of Selectmen met in-person on Tuesday, September 14.
Charles Rogers of Monponsett St. requested to appear before the Board. He said he lives on the water and told the Selectmen, “The weed growth this year has come back to what it was pre the treatment, maybe 10 or 15 years ago.” He shared several photos with the Board to demonstrate the extent of the overgrowth. “That has become not only just unsightly but a dangerous hazard,” he continued. He shared an anecdote of his fins getting tangled in weeds when trying to swim. He said that when the issue last came up, they were told they had only two years before it would be impossible to cross the lake in a canoe. Town Administrator Charlie Seelig said they had money in the budget to do another treatment and said they hope to go out to bid in early February and do the treatment at the correct time in the early spring.
The Selectmen had an appointment with the Board of Assessors for the fiscal 2022 classification hearing where the Selectmen need to vote on how to adopt the tax rate policy. A decision would have to be made regarding the percentage of tax burden among the property types including residential, open space, commercial, industrial, and personal property. Ninety percent of properties fall into the residential category in Halifax. The Board of Assessors voted unanimously to recommend to not split the tax rate due to it putting a burden on the commercial properties. The average single family tax bill for fiscal 2022 went up 5.23 percent. The average condominium tax bill went up 6.28 percent. Halifax Solar, Halifax Mobile Home Estates, Walmart, Stop and Shop, and Haseotes and Sons were the top taxpayers in Halifax. The Selectmen voted unanimously to approve the tax rate policy as outlined by the Assessors.
The Board also had an appointment with Allan Palmer who submitted a talent bank form for the Zoning By-Law Review Committee that is still absent one at-large member. Palmer who described himself as “almost retired” said he has lived in town since 1986. He said he is eager to get involved in helping the town and has interest in this area. He was appointed unanimously to the Committee by the Selectmen.
Seelig told the Board that the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) was seeking to fill the alternate member position. He further told them that he had a letter from the ZBA recommending that the former Chair of that Committee, Bert Gaynor, be appointed to fill the vacancy as one of the alternate members. Selectmen Chair Gordon Andrews recused himself from the discussion. “Attorney DeRensis does recommend filling the seat by the normal procedures,” Seelig told the Selectmen. Selectman Ashley DiSesa said that after speaking with town counsel she preferred that they open the interview process once again and speak to the other residents who had previously applied to the ZBA. Selectman Troy Garron instead moved that they appoint Robert Gaynor to the alternate position on the ZBA. DiSesa disagreed and Seelig moved on to the next topic.
The Board had an appointment with resident Diane Bradford to discuss the obstruction on the shoulder on the south side of Hayward St. Andrews read a letter from multiple residents in the area requesting immediate removal of the stakes on the road. The letter read, “The stakes located in front of the cranberry bog at the address of 136 Hayward St… are a safety concern for us residents… the stakes are making it nearly impossible to move over to avoid potholes.” It also pointed out a number of other concerns regarding the stakes. They requested proof that the owners demonstrate that the stakes are on the property owner’s property rather than on town owned property. Highway Surveyor Steve Hayward confirmed that the stakes are in the right of way but said that there is nothing in the town’s bylaws stating that the town owns that right of way. The residents complained that the owner has a temper and that police needed to be called on one occasion during which they were told that the town would need to handle the issue. Hayward said that after a conversation with the Police Chief, it was decided that if the stakes are three feet back from the road, they would be allowed to stay. Garron recommended checking with town counsel before making any decisions. There was also some discussion about having a land survey performed. The Selectmen told the residents they would be notified of next steps, if any.
The Selectmen met with the Planning Board. Chair of the Planning Board Gordon R. Andrews said, “We’re voted by the people; we’re one of the only boards in town that we do not have jurisdiction over our own secretary. I just don’t think it’s the right way to do it. I know that in the past it was done in a way to just get a secretary in, but I think even the Finance Committee, who is not elected, they hire their own secretary, they train their own secretary; the secretary falls under them.” He went onto say it felt like their secretary was being dictated to by the Building Inspector or the Building Inspector’s secretary. “I’m not complaining about our secretary; it’s just the system that our secretary gets hired under,” Andrews clarified. Planning Board member Amy L. Troup asked, “where is it in writing that the Building Inspector would be in charge of the Planning Board and the Conservation secretary?” Seelig responded, “We met with various boards and committees about 15-20 years ago and this agreement was reached. It’s an artificial construct; there’s no legal standing for it – it’s simply a way of operating.”
The Building Inspector spoke saying that he was of the opinion that the Planning Board and Conservation should have their own secretary, but noted, “I would leave Zoning under my purview.” Seelig asked Building Inspector James Perry if he had spoken to anyone on the ZBA regarding the matter and he responded that he had not. A member of the ZBA spoke and said from their perspective, it made sense for the ZBA secretary to be left under the jurisdiction of the Building Inspector who also acts as the Zoning Enforcement Officer. He noted that the Zoning secretary has always worked with the Board without issue. DiSesa recommended doing more research before finalizing a plan that would work best for the Planning Board, Conservation, and the ZBA.
She recommended putting the topic on the agenda for the October 8 Board of Selectmen meeting.