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Last Chance To Weigh In On Zoning Bylaw, Retail Marijuana

The Tewksbury Zoning Bylaw Committee will host its final open public forum on Tuesday, Jan. 18, at 6 p.m. in the Main Hall at the Tewksbury Town Hall. Residents are encouraged to attend and give input on the draft zoning bylaw to be considered at 2022 Annual Town Meeting.

Draft bylaw information can be found here, and residents may view informational videos on the bylaw here.

The Zoning Bylaw Committee is also closing its survey regarding retail marijuana use in Tewksbury on Friday, Jan. 14. Responses are anonymous, and the results from this survey will be compiled and reviewed by the Committee to determine if there is significant interest in revisiting retail marijuana uses in the proposed zoning bylaw. There is concern within the committee that including this use could cause Town Meeting to again reject the entire bylaw.

The committee asks that residents offering input at the Jan. 18 meeting make specific references to the draft bylaw and encourages review of the “Final Update to Proposed Zoning Map 2021” document on its webpage.

With information gathered from this forum and survey and previous listening sessions, a new draft will finalized for the 2022 Annual Town Meeting, where the town will vote on whether to adopt the proposed recommendations.

The ZBC was constituted by the Board of Selectmen in 2016 and, with town staff and consultants, has been working on the proposed update of the town’s zoning bylaws since that time. The committee currently comprises planning board members Stephen Johnson and Robert Fowler, select board members Todd Johnson and James Mackey and citizen members Richard Cuoco and Erin Wortman. 

Residents may recall that the extremely complex and interdependent bylaw article failed by a narrow margin in May despite five years of effort — and a significant investment by the town in outreach, staff time and consulting fees. While many sections of the bylaw reflect revisions mandated by federal and state guidelines, statutes and legal decisions and precedents, the previous version included provisions that raised the ire of some residents.  At a sparsely attended Town Meeting last year, 89 attendees voted in the affirmative versus 47 objecting, but because a two-thirds majority was required, 91 “yes” votes were needed for the article to pass.

One sticking point was the Planning Board accepting a fee in lieu of developers providing affordable units. At December’s meeting, member Stephen Johnson made a motion that the fee in lieu of affordable housing will not be allowed for single family open space residential design subdivisions until the Town reaches its 10% affordable housing requirement. Once the 10% is reached, the fee in lieu of affordable units will be allowed at the discretion of the Planning Board for single family open space residential design subdivisions. The motion was unanimously accepted.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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