CHARLEMONT — Voters rejected several proposed bylaw changes that would regulate farmers’ markets and forestry at the city’s special assembly on Tuesday.
Among the rejected proposals considered by the more than 45 residents gathered at the Hawlemont Regional School grammar school was a bylaw that would require special permission to host a farmers’ market in any zone of the city. Voters rejected this line of proposed Planning Committee changes by a vote of 35 to 11.
Board members said they don’t want to restrict farmers’ markets, but they want to make sure there’s ample space to park so people don’t queue with their vehicles on the street. This proposed change would not affect agricultural stocks that are legally permitted in Charlemont.
Many residents disagreed with the idea of requiring a special permit for a farmers’ market, saying it went against the farmers’ best interests.
“You’re trying to solve a problem that’s not here,” commented Jay Healy, Charlemont resident and former state commissioner of agriculture. Many people echoed this sentiment, saying they felt regulations were being made when they weren’t necessary.
In addition, voters unanimously rejected the Planning Committee’s proposal to move the Craft Bylaws from the Industrial Uses section to the Commercial/Commercial Uses section.
“We don’t have to do this to struggling artisans,” argued Selectboard Chair Marguerite Willis.
However, after initial confusion, it was clarified that the statute amendment would not create further regulations for craftsmen’s workshops, which require special permits in all boroughs, but would instead shift the nature of the business from one statute section to the other. Gisela Walker, member of the planning committee, said the board felt it was a bit extreme to have craftsmen’s studios in the area of industrial use.
City Councils Secretary Star Atkeson, speaking as a resident, said she initially opposed the change but then realized the bylaws referred to art made at the production level. She said she thinks there should be restrictions to curb injuries from equipment and materials.
The last change voters made to the proposed changes concerned forestry. The planning committee hoped to amend the bylaws to require properties less than 2 acres in size to require a special permit to be used for forestry purposes. Voters amended the proposal to allow lots of all sizes to be used for forestry, with lots in the Village Center District requiring a site plan review.
Bob Nelson, a planning committee member, said, “If people are logging the area, we want to have some control.”
Resident Paul Hicks opposed the zone change.
“I’ve owned my property and cut down thousands of dollars worth of trees there,” Hicks said. “Are you telling me I can’t cut down trees on land I’ve lived on for 45 years?”
Selectboard member Dan Girard was also against the amendment to the statutes.
“We charge people who have companies,” he said.
Every other proposed constitutional amendment was accepted, but not without resistance.
Prior to the Assembly, livestock was not permitted on property less than five acres. Planning Committee members said they had received many complaints about this restriction during a previous meeting, so they amended the bylaw, which allows livestock in all areas except the Village Center District, where they keep 12 small animals, including ducks, chickens, and chickens, allow.
Many people were concerned that this ordinance would open the door to animal cruelty with no laws to regulate people’s practices. City Manager Sarah Reynolds explained that the Agriculture Commission would make sure people were using “best practices” when raising animals.
Most in the room voted to limit ground-mounted solar arrays to the maximum area of 10 acres, with a limit of 5 acres and 25 feet in height in the Route 2 Scenic District. Most agreed that Charlemont’s tourism industry relies on its rural scenic countryside, something solar panels would disrupt. Residents also noted that Charlemont is a right-to-farm community and they want to save land for growing crops.
During the last zoning change, residents voted to introduce fines for those who didn’t comply with the law. Individuals will be fined or cautioned $100 for the first violation and $300 fine for subsequent cautions. All violations of the Bylaws are subject to these fines.
Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or [email protected]