Farmers Market Decision on Hold
Town Meeting tables zoning bylaw change until talk resumes Monday, May 9.
Residents looking to bring a farmers market to Needham have to wait until Monday to see whether their efforts will pay off.
Confused by a flurry of amendments to the original article, Article 11 on the annual Town Meeting warrant, members requested the item be tabled so proponents could rewrite the language the way they wanted it and provide voters with copies of the changes.
Town Meeting voted to defer the issue until after the special Town Meeting on Monday, May 9, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at Newman Elementary School. It will be the first item of business taken up when the annual meeting resumes, followed by Community Preservation Act articles, Articles 31-34, which were about to be discussed when members voted to adjourn for the evening on Wednesday.
The second night of the 2011 Town Meeting was led by substitute moderator Paul Milligan, appointed on Monday after regular Moderator Michael Fee announced he would be unable to attend because he had to be in Phoenix, AZ that day to represent a client in a court case. Fee is an attorney.
Though the vote was deferred, residents began the conversation about possible benefits of having a farmers market in Needham, as well as their concerns.
Article 11 seeks to add a temporary outdoor farmers market as an allowable use, by special permit, to the town’s zoning bylaws. Currently, it is not allowed.
Petitioner Jeffrey Friedman said the farmers market group had conducted a survey last fall in which 300 Needham residents had said they wanted a market in town.
Friedman said the market would be open seasonally, from late spring to early fall, once a week on Sundays for up to four hours. A Needham-based nonprofit group would run the market, and it would be part of the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets.
Friedman said the group’s first choice of location would be the parking lot in front of the high school, facing Highland Avenue—not the Memorial Park lot, but the area at the top of the hill. They also have considered the Carter Memorial United Methodist Church lot, he said, though they have not talked with church officials about the possibility.
Vendors would only be able to sell items they had made or grown locally themselves, not through a third party, Friedman added.
Along with giving residents a place to shop local and fresh—and encouraging healthy eating habits—a farmers market would be a community-building event, Friedman said.
“It would be a place where Needham residents could come and meet under the sun,” he said. “It would be a place for them to discuss what’s current in Needham and have a good time, have some fun.”
Though no one spoke against allowing a market on Wednesday, Precinct C member Louise Miller did recommend changes that would allow a for-profit corporation to operate a market in town rather than just a nonprofit group, as outlined in the original motion.
Miller pointed to nearby Wellesley, which had recently passed its own bylaw and was allowing Whole Foods to sponsor a farmers market in town.
“There doesn’t seem to be any reason why we should limit a sponsoring organization for a farmers market to being a nonprofit,” she said.
Though Miller attempted to explain her changes to the article, which had already been amended from the original with “technical changes” to meet Planning Board approval, other members felt the language was unclear, so the item was deferred until copies of the updated article could be distributed.
Voters then tackled the remaining two citizen’s petition zoning articles.
Article 12: More Space in the Garage
Petitioner George Giunta presented his article, Article 12, which aimed to change zoning bylaws concerning two-family homes in zoning districts designed for single-family homes. These nonconforming houses that existed before the zoning district was established were allowed to remain, and they can be reconstructed in the same area under certain rules. One of those rules is that a two-family home in a single-family zone cannot have more than one garage space per unit—a maximum of two.
Giunta said many neighbors had requested that the Zoning Board of Appeals, which hears these cases, allow the two-family homes to have more garage spaces, in an effort to reduce the number of vehicles parked on the street. But the board’s hands were tied by the bylaw.
After representing his client, North Shore Development, in a recent case involving a two-family housing project called Jarvis Circle, Giunta said he met with other residents to create a petition for the zoning change.
The article increases the total garage spaces allowed to two per unit, for a total of four.
Per a request of the Planning Board, the article was amended to limit garage space to tandem parking—one vehicle behind the other—rather than side-by-side to eliminate the chance for a “wall of garage doors” right up against the street, according to Planning Board member Martin Jacobs.
Some Town Meeting members felt nonconforming buildings should not be rebuilt in an area in which they do not fit the zoning.
“I have always been troubled by this and so have my neighbors,” Precinct J member Michael Greis said.
He said the allowance essentially puts the burden of proof on neighbors, forcing them to come up with evidence and reasons for why a two-family building would negatively affect them, rather than the developer having to prove why it wouldn’t.
The measure ultimately passed, as amended by the Planning Board.
Article 13: Pergolas
When reviewing the article he proposed by citizen’s petition for various boards and groups, Robert Lizza ran into many of the same questions no matter who he was talking to—the main one being, “What exactly is a pergola?”
“Pergolas are most commonly used as decorative structures in gardens,” Lizza said.
The open frame structures, usually made of wood, may appear as an archway in a landscaped area or to provide shade over a back patio.
Previously, the town’s zoning bylaws dealt with pergolas in the same way that a house or garage was handled, with the same front, sideline and building-to-building setback requirements.
Lizza sought to exempt pergolas from the minimum 10-foot building-to-building setback requirement, but not from the others setbacks. He said the fire chief had given his OK as long as the structures did not block a fire lane or prevent access to a building.
“This change in the zoning bylaw would treat a pergola in the same manner that zoning bylaw treats fences, but only in regards to building-to-building setback,” Lizza said.
With support from town boards, Lizza’s article was easily passed.