A voter’s guide to the annual spring Town Meeting

Jun 9, 2021

Wareham’s twice-postponed Annual Town Meeting will finally be held on Saturday in the cafeteria at John W. Decas Elementary School, beginning at 11 a.m.

Voters at the June 12 meeting, which would normally have been held in April, will be asked to vote on 43 issues, ranging from the town’s budget to the name of the town’s new elementary school.

Voters are encouraged to arrive early to allow time for the check-in process. Following record-high turnout at the April 10 Special Town Meeting, the town has committed to having more volunteers on hand to check people in, but voters are still asked to arrive early and be patient.

Wareham Week has been reporting on many of the articles as they were proposed, discussed and put on both the Spring Town Meeting and Special Spring Town Meeting warrants. Using that coverage, Wareham Week has compiled a guide for what voters need to know while preparing to weigh in on the items on both warrants — 43 articles, in total. 

On the warrant — Special Spring Town Meeting

Voters will be asked to approve a number of routine financial articles, including the town’s capital plan, the Onset Parking Program, budget transfers, and PEG Access Receipts, which fund WCTV.

Voters will be asked to consider an article that would limit the number of marijuana delivery licenses in town to three (Article 8). This limit applies specifically to delivery operators, which refers to independent businesses that deliver cannabis products directly to consumers but do not have a retail component. This does not limit the number of marijuana couriers, who would be affiliated with a particular retail dispensary and would deliver cannabis products, similar to pizza delivery. The town already limited the number of cannabis retailers in Wareham to three.

At a Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Selectman Jim Munise said he was unsure why it would be in the town’s interest to limit the number of delivery operators, given that more delivery operations could increase the town’s revenue. Town Planner Ken Buckland said part of the reasoning behind the three-license limit was that it would make retail stores more able to compete.

Also up for a vote is an article that would update the FEMA floodplain maps that delineate flood zones. The floodplain maps in question in Article 9 must be approved by July to ensure that Wareham residents are able to purchase and maintain flood insurance for their homes.

Voters will have the chance to weigh in on the addition of two new liquor licenses — one for 59 Main St. (Article 14), a location business mogul Danny Warren hopes to develop downtown, and one for 176 Main St. (Article 15), another location Warren purchased and has discussed turning into a “high-end steakhouse.”

In that same vein, the Board of Selectmen included an article on the warrant that would request special legislation allowing for the creation of up to five new liquor pouring licenses for the Wareham Village district, which the selectmen have designated an area in need of economic stimulus (Article 16). 

Articles 12 and 13 on the Special Spring Town Meeting warrant ask voters to approve funding the purchase of generators for the Water Pollution Control Facility and paying off an invoice for the department using retained earnings.

See the whole warrant here: https://www.wareham.ma.us/sites/g/files/vyhlif5146/f/pages/2021_special_spring_town_meeting_warrant.pdf 

Coverage of the solar articles on the warrant — Articles 6, 7 and 17 — can be found here and here. Similarly, an explanation of the proposed wetland bylaw changes (Articles 10 and 11) can be found here

On the warrant — Annual Spring Town Meeting

After once again being asked to approve a number of routine procedural and financial articles — including a capital plan, budget, funding for union negotiations and funding for Wareham’s share of the Upper Cape Regional Technical School — voters will be asked to weigh in on various other subjects.

One article asks voters to approve amending the legal definitions of duplexes and other multifamily dwellings to clarify that the dwellings must share a common wall (Article 13). Another article asks voters to pave the way for more restaurant drive-thrus in the Strip Commercial districts, which include much of Cranberry Highway and some other areas of town (Article 14).

Also up for a vote is an article that would OK a zoning change that would allow Smithers Lab to test up to eight teaspoons of marijuana products a day for metals or chemicals. The current zoning does not allow for this due to the lab’s proximity to the Decas Elementary School. 

The school is set to close at the end of 2021, and passage of Article 15 would allow cannabis testing to begin before then. 

A sign bylaw passed at the Annual Spring Town Meeting in 2019 is up for a vote again after the Attorney General struck down a prior version because it applied different rules to different signs based on content

Voters will be asked to weigh in on the 2020 Wareham Master Plan — a document that addresses the town’s goals for land use, housing, climate change, and economic development, etc. Having a master plan in place means town officials can work from a shared vision for the community and makes the town eligible for certain state grants. 

An article that would rezone Wareham Village to promote economic redevelopment will be directed to further study and brought for a vote at a future town meeting. 

Also up for a vote will be two sets of changes to the Town Charter, which is a legal document that outlines the structure of Wareham’s government and delineates the powers and duties of various committees and officials.

The first article (Article 22) includes changes to the grammar and structure of the charter, all of which are intended to make the charter easier to read and understand.

The second article (Article 23) includes all of the more substantive changes, including dissolving the Board of Road Commissioners, making the Town Clerk an appointed position and making the Sewer Superintendent a position appointed by the Town Administrator rather than by the Board of Sewer Commissioners.

In addition, voters will be asked to consider the appropriation of $830,000 in Community Preservation Act funds as part of a grant for Pennrose, the developer behind a proposed housing development at Littleton Drive that will include some affordable units. 

A proposed ban on the sale of miniature alcohol bottles commonly referred to as “nips” was added to the warrant because of a citizens’ petition. The miniature alcohol containers are a staple at local liquor stores, but some have taken issue with them because they are one of the most commonly littered items in town. The citizen’s petition was led by Mary Bruce of Don’t Trash Wareham, a group that leads clean-up efforts around town. The Selectmen recommended the article be approved, despite Selectman Patrick Tropeano voting “no” and Munise voting “present.”

Coverage of an article that would settle a dispute about the name of the soon-to-be finished elementary school being built on Minot Avenue is available here. In addition, an explanation of a complex affordable housing article can be read here.

See the full warrant here: https://www.wareham.ma.us/sites/g/files/vyhlif5146/f/pages/2021_annual_spring_town_meeting_warrant.pdf 

Meeting details

Following the new protocols outlined by Gov. Charlie Baker, Town Moderator Claire Smith chose to hold the meeting, which was previously going to be held outside, in the school cafeteria. 

Although social distancing is no longer required, masks will still be required to be worn over the mouth and nose at all times.

Voters can bring a bottle of water, but no other food or beverages will be allowed, “so voters may want to eat before they attend,” Smith said.

No political buttons, clothing or signs will be allowed.