SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 13, 2013

Ipswich gets ready for tomorrow's Town Meeting

Marijuana moratorium and Linebrook Road construction on agenda

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — Town Meeting voters will be asked to allow the town to borrow up to $3 million to reconstruct a portion of Linebrook Road and the parking lot at Doyon Elementary School and to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety in the area.

Another article calls for a moratorium on medical marijuana treatment centers to give the town more time to develop zoning.

The annual meeting will take place tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center at Ipswich Middle/High School, 134 High St. There are 23 articles on this year’s warrant.

Residents will also be asked to approve a $15.4 million budget for next fiscal year, which represents a 2.3 percent increase.

For the schools, residents will vote on a proposed $24.9 million budget, a 2.5 percent increase over this year.

Both budgets have been recommended for approval by the Finance Committee and selectmen.

Perhaps the biggest issue is Article 9, which deals with Linebrook Road. It calls for upgrading sidewalks, reconstructing the school’s parking areas and repaving the road. If the article passes with a two-thirds majority, voters must approve a debt-exclusion override at the annual Town Election on May 21.

That would allow the town to raise property taxes temporarily to pay for the project. Once the projects are paid for, the additional tax burden would go away.

Town officials had planned to seek $2 million to resurface the roadway, but several groups asked to expand the work to include safety improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists, Town Manager Robin Crosbie said.

“It went from a basic road improvement project to a more integrated transportation project, so we can improve the sidewalks and pedestrian access to the schools,” she said, adding that there was interest in improving bicycle safety, as well.

Under the proposed project, the road would be repaved from Washington Street to Route 1.

The project will increase the average tax bill on a single-family home by about $42 a year, according to the Finance Committee. It was recommended for approval by both the Finance Committee and selectmen.

Capital projects

New this year, residents will be asked to approve a separate amount of money for capital projects. In the past, capital projects were funded through the operating budget, Crosbie said.

A five-year plan was developed with input from all town departments and schools. This year’s request is for $678,600 to be spent from free cash.

“That is one project I worked on last fall,” said Crosbie, who started as town manager last August.

Some of the requests include $130,000 for a sidewalk plow, $57,000 for a 1-ton dump truck and $20,000 for school security systems.

The plan was recommended for approval by both the Finance Committee and selectmen.

Medical marijuana moratorium

A moratorium is proposed to give the town time to develop zoning regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries. Statewide voters approved a ballot initiative last fall allowing the cultivation, distribution, possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

“It is a strategy many towns are taking while the statewide rules are being developed,” Crosbie said of the moratorium.

The article was recommended for approval by both the Finance Committee, Planning Board and selectmen.

IPSWICH TOWN MEETING

When: Tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Ipswich High School, Performing Arts Center

More information: See the Finance Committee’s report at www.town.ipswich.ma.us