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Observing our town government in action

Observation reports are submitted by Marblehead League of Women Voters members who have attended meetings of various town boards and commissions. Observers are solely responsible for accuracy of the information. Complete reports can be found on the LWV of Marblehead Website www.lwvmarblehead.org.

LWVM Observer – Bonnie Grenier
The focus of the meeting was a discussion of approved priorities:
Leverage public assets for mixed housing:
 Eveleth and Coffin Schools would first have to be declared surplus by the School Department and then returned to the town by a vote at Town Meeting. There has been no formal conversation about this by the School Committee. Dr. Buckey indicated that there doesn’t seem to be agreement on the current board as to the future of these two properties.
 Given current state requirements, it is unclear if either the Coffin or Eveleth School sites would qualify for state funding for a new school given that the land areas may be too small.
 Eveleth School: Abbot Library will be located there for several years and not a focus of the HPPIC at this time.
 Coffin School – The building is in poor condition and it’s expensive to maintain the property. The value of the property is in the land.
 Should the School Department transfer either property to the town, there would have to be a visioning session, an RFI and then an RFP voted on at Town Meeting. Timing on this would depend on if/when the properties are transferred to the town.
 The Green Street property has been transferred to the Recreation and Parks Department for use as a bicycle park for another four years after which time it will revert back to town for the development of housing.
 The Mary Ally Medical Building has had its lease extended until 2026. There’s quite a bit of land there, it’s near to the Broughton Road Housing overseen by the Marblehead Housing Authority and it’s near the MBTA bus route, all positives for possible development.
 Thatcher mentioned that new growth revenue for the town is “anemic” and that new growth (housing) would grow revenue to share between the town and the schools.
Partner with the Marblehead Housing Authority to leverage public assets:

Cathy Hoog, Executive Director of the Marblehead and Salem Housing Authorities, was absent from the meeting. She can be a valuable resource in advising the committee as the best way to move forward in the development of Housing Authority properties. Perhaps there is some money available from Mass. Housing for a feasibility study.

Engage community groups to support possible regulatory changes prior to town meeting:

A meeting of the Planning Board was scheduled for the evening of April 11. It will be a public hearing on proposed zoning amendments for Town Meeting, to include the article on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). There will be a Q&A session which will be released to the public after the meeting. The Fair Housing Committee and Ministerial Association will help disseminate this information to garner support for the article.
Expand the existing Smart Growth Overlay Districts (SGOD) and create new SGODs in other parts of town:
 There was a study back in 2009 but most of the recommendations are not relevant due to subsequent development of the various properties.
 Both landowners and developers must be interested in these projects for them to get off the ground
 The MBTA Multi-Family Zoning District requirement for Marblehead is 27 acres, which is not possible. No designated area can be less than five acres.
 Smart Growth developments will give the town money from real estate taxes and some additional money from the state.
 Zoning bylaws would have to be changed to allow for greater density.
 There would be concerns about parking with any development.
Strengthen the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF):
 There is $118,900 in the Trust Fund
 An additional $10,000 will be coming in from the development of the Gerry School
 Smart Growth money from the development at Vinnin Square (former General Glover House) could be designated to go into the AHTF. One payment is received upon permitting of a project and one after it is built. The town would have to approve this money going into the AHTF.
 The AHTF Committee hasn’t met, but a specific request with a worthy purpose from the HPPIC could prompt a meeting.

Propose Inclusionary Zoning in concert with MBTA process:
 The town has received a $20,000 grant to hire an engineering firm to help identify possible areas for zoning changes. Their report should be available soon. The public process would follow soon thereafter.
 Most of the town is within a half mile of the MBTA.
 It was suggested that the committee look to see what other communities have done recently to comply with the new regulations. What problems have they run into?
 There would have to be zoning bylaw changes to present at Town Meeting 2024 before going forward.
 There is no affordable housing component to this program. Louis Meyi took the opportunity to recognize the Marblehead Democratic Town Committee for their informational session on affordable housing and Sustainable Marblehead for their program in February that emphasized density in housing as environmentally sound.
The next meeting will be hybrid on May 9 at 3:30 at Abbot Hall.

BOARD OF HEALTH – 4-11-23 Hybrid Meeting
LWVM Observer – Thomas Krueger
1. Town Meeting Leaf Blower Article
MHD residents, Jeanne Stahl and Kathy Breslin, presented Article 48 to the board asking for the board’s support. Previously an article had been passed at town meeting banning the use of gas-powered leaf blower (GPLB) from Memorial Day until Labor Day. The residents above noted that the Green Committee had already supported this. Over 200 towns with seven in MA have enacted restrictions on GPLB; California will ban them by 2024, and Mass Medical Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, and others are in support. GPLB have significant health impacts, especially two-cycle motors – 30 percent of the fuel is unburned and running a GPLB for one hour
emits the same pollution that car does after 1000 miles. The health effects extend to lung, cardiovascular and diabetic disease. Leaf blowers effects are via pollution, noise (GPLB emit low frequency noise that is much more penetrating), and particulate matter. The time period when banned is during the summer when people are outside, windows are open, and there is little need. (NOTE – electric powered leaf blower can be used year around.)
The BOH chair stated that the board has not historically supported citizen articles. If the bill is passed the HD as well as the police department will be charged with enforcement.  The process would be as follows: a call can be made to the health department or police department; an officer or HD official are then authorized to levy a fine.  The fine would be for the homeowner, not the landscaper. NOTE – if the article is passed, there will be NO enforcement this year: the article has to go the town clerk, then to the MA attorney general, and this process takes ~ 90 days, past Labor Day.

2.Budget Update
Mr. Petty reported that the HD presented to the Fin Com one week ago and the budget was approved. Mr. Petty reminded the BOH that when the budget was formulated, no change could happen to employee hours or the HD would lose grant funding. This left the only source for saving to be the contribution the HD gives to mental health services, MHD Counseling Center.  When this “savings” was included, the budget was $303,879.  Fin Com was able to find savings in other budgets, so that the HD budget was now $313,091, only a $1088 cut to the mental health contribution. (After town meeting, the BOH will look to see where the remaining ARPA funds can be allocated.) The BOH
ratified the above budget.
In the other HD budget for waste removal, a change was made so that the revolving account dollars could be used for waste disposal, maintenance, and the final lease payment for John Deere loader – these terms are such that after a three-year lease the department owns the JD equipment. This budget item was $1,488,200.  This budget was ratified by the BOH.

3.Tobacco Control: A local regulation to control the psychoactive substances, Kratom and Delta 8, will be going to the town counsel soon.  These substances are already banned by the state, but local regulation will allow enforcement.

4.Mental Health Task Force Update
 The MHTF met on 4/10 and discussed their participation in the upcoming Healthy Kids fair at the YMCA on 4/29 from 11am-1:30 pm. There will be a table there with lots of information available.
 The weekly MHD Current publication has offered the MHTF a monthly column that will discuss mental health issues.  A subcommittee is already working on this.
 The MHTF is applying to the HD for the following ARPA funds: $2500 for promotion materials, advertising, and website maintenance and monthly updates; $7500 for a young adult and adult speaker series. The total is $10,000.  This was approved by the board.
 Dan Bauer, principal for MHS, a valued member will be leaving the task force as he takes on a new job.  Michele Carlson, the new principal for MHS, was suggested as his replacement. Her appointment was approved by the board.

5.Transfer Station Update: The HD director, the architect and civil engineer will soon go before the MA DEP (department of environmental protection) to see if the further TS renovations will be seen as a new project or a revised one (the landfill had been closed.)  Depending on DEP’s decision, if it is deemed a “new” project there will be a four-month delay as the project is certified; if a “revised” one, then the next steps in the renovation can proceed more rapidly.

6.Transfer Station fee schedule: Mr. Petty attended a MA recycling committee recently and met several vendors who recycle Freon (the refrigerant). Currently the TS does not take any appliance that has freon.  The vendor would come to the TS, remove the freon, and the TS could begin taking air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers, etc. The cost would $25 per unit. (The vendor would come only after 25 units had been brought.)  The process would be similar to televisions, etc. – pay for the sticker, attach to the unit, etc. (Note – if it is a refrigerator, the doors have to be removed.)  Mr. Petty is looking into vendors for propane tanks (20 lb and 1 lb) recycling.

7. Director’s Report
 The North Shore Public Health coalition (Swampscott, Lynn, Marblehead, Danvers, Beverly, and Salem) are working on a body art regulation, including micro blading, tattooing, etc.
 Sun safety – all town employees who work outside will be provided with sunscreen, life guards umbrellas, etc.
 Narcan for overdoses – there are 24 kits at the office, each has two Narcan units, fentanyl test strips (concern is about “press pills” which often have unknown compounds), nitro gloves, and a face barrier for CPR.  No questions about the kits will be asked.
 MA new behavioral health hotline – card with info is at the office – 833-773-2445 – available 24 hr/d, 7d/wk, 365 d/yr.
 New program for Northshore mothers – new mothers can have a home visit by a local nurse to answer questions. This is a one-time visit and a new mother has to call for the service.
 Diaper drive – the acceptance of new unopened diapers at the HD ends on 4/28
 COVID test kits – still available outside the HD office (these have an expiration date of September); after 5/11 the kits won’t be provided and people will have to use health insurance to obtain from a clinic or doctor’s office.