Bylaw, zoning revisions to come before Deerfield Town Meeting voters

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 10-03-2023 1:08 PM

DEERFIELD — A slew of bylaw and zoning revisions will come before voters at this month’s Special Town Meeting, with many changes aimed at streamlining bylaws.

The Planning Board has spent months working with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments to review Deerfield’s bylaws and craft updates to the regulations.

Changes to the bylaws include updating the official zoning map for more clarity, updating the floodplain zoning district to meet national flood insurance requirements, requiring special permit approval for hotels and commercial recreation facilities in the tourism overlay district, and updating conservation subdivision designs to encourage open space protection.

“I think a lot of this is just to streamline the bylaws to make it easier to look at,” commented Planning Board Chair Denise Mason.

A point of emphasis on the hotel changes and other bylaws is taking another look at the Tourism Overlay District, which was approved at the 2021 Special Town Meeting.

At a joint meeting of the Selectboard and Planning Board to discuss potential revisions in July, FRCOG Director of Planning and Development Peggy Sloan said the current bylaws don’t place any restrictions on hotels.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

My Turn: Biden’s record and accomplishments are extremely positive
Athol principal selected as superintendent for Erving School Union 28
CDC considers dropping 5-day COVID isolation rule as local hospitals bring back mask requirements
Former Greenfield Police Chief Haigh: ‘I am forced to say goodbye’
Wilder Homestead restoration in Buckland moves to next phase with help from glass artist
Adding up the losses at Red Fire Farm: $1M in damages includes barn full of supplies and memories

“There’s no scale size,” Sloan explained at the time. “Right now, it just says ‘hotel’ and I think there was some concern of, ‘Well it’s a by-right use, there’s no special permit and you’re not doing any site plan review.’”

Selectboard Chair Carolyn Shores Ness and member Tim Hilchey agreed with changing the bylaws, with Shores Ness suggesting something like a hotel should probably require a special permit “because of traffic generation and impact on our communities.”

“There isn’t very much space left for a hotel-type-of-thing,” she said in July. “We’re encroaching on people’s neighborhoods and having a special permit is not a bad deal.”

Additionally, Shores Ness proposed the idea of adding some more language revolving around traffic generation, hours of operation and other performance standards.

Another highlight of the changes is a revision allowing up to four units in a multi-family dwelling, which Mason said could help address a “horrible lack of housing in this area.”

While a public hearing was held Monday evening to solicit feedback, only one person joined the meeting to share their thoughts. John Cunningham, an Amherst resident building on a lot in South Deerfield, shared his support for the numerous revisions.

“I think it’s an excellent revision package and I hope I can come and support it,” Cunningham said.

The full bylaw revisions, as well as a brief summary of changes, can be found at Town Hall or on the town website at bit.ly/3PJyfLb.

Special Town Meeting will be held on Monday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. in the Frontier Regional School auditorium.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.