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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Dracut Town Meeting updates zoning bylaws

DRACUT — Despite Town Meeting action on 18 proposed changes to “modernize” the town’s zoning bylaws, more proposals for change are coming.

Town Meeting voters adopted all but three of the 18 recommended changes to the town’s zoning bylaws, giving the town the first significant update to those laws in nearly 40 years.

But the work of the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee is not done, and Town Manager Ann Vandal promised voters at the Nov. 13 Town Meeting to expect more proposed changes at the next several Town Meetings.

Thanking the review committee, the Planning Board and Community Development Director Alison Manugian for their work on the proposed changes, Vandal said, “This is the first of several (Town Meetings). They will continue as we modernize our bylaws,” she said.

Among the changes that were adopted was a warrant article regulating new large-scale, ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installations. Also approved was an article regulating the installation and use of battery energy storage systems. These systems are ancillary to the operation of solar facilities.

The town’s existing bylaws were silent on the subject of large solar installations and battery energy storage systems, and these omissions put the town in conflict with state law.

Community Development Director Alison Manugian said that without a bylaw governing large-scale solar facilities, the town was effectively prohibiting them. The state, however, prevents local prohibition or unreasonable regulation of them. A similar conflict with state law existed for the energy storage systems.

Zoning bylaw changes require a two-thirds vote to pass.

Other warrant articles that passed Town Meeting included the following:

• Several articles regulating intensity of land use, which is a measure to which a lot is developed in accordance with the bylaws. Lot shape, grading, screening and buffering are all addressed in these update bylaws.

• Zoning map updates in the area of Orchard Street and Lakeview Avenue. A zoning map update at Hampson Street and Old Meadow Road also passed.

• An update to the definition of quarry manufacturing.

Articles changing the way split lot zoning and updating zoning maps at Pleasant Street and at Merrimack Avenue were defeated.

A complete description of the articles Town Meeting passed are available on the town website at  dracutma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2702/Passed-Amended-Zoning-Items-FALL-2023-PDF.

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