No bull at bylaw hearings

RUSSELL – Last night, The Russell Planning Board held public hearings to discuss three separate issues involving bylaw changes. Due to the complicated and disparate nature of the three issues, James Oleksak, chair of the planning board, proposed limiting discussion to one half hour for each, conceding that in at least two cases they would end up continuing the discussion at future meetings.
The first matter involved proposed zoning changes to the village of Woronoco.  The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission completed the Woronoco Rezoning Study in November.  As part of the requirement of the grant awarded to Russell for the study, the town is obligated to act on its suggestions. The public hearing meets the requirement, according to Dee Ridgeway, planning board member.
The second proposed set of zoning changes came from Redevco LLC., who owns a mill building and six acres in Woronoco, and is interested in converting the mill into residential units.
Looking at the two proposals, Ridgeway said they didn’t appear to apply to the same section of the bylaws.
Edward Partyka, representing Redevco, said one of the purposes of their proposed bylaw change was to seek to have an overlay zone that would work with any other proposed zoning. Redevco is seeking the establishment of a Mill Reuse Overlay District that would apply only to existing structures that were formerly used as mill buildings.
Partka said that if the planning board were to adopt the bylaw changes, any project would still have to go through the review and public hearing process.
Redevco came prepared to present drawings to the planning board, but due to the time restriction, another meeting was set for Thursday, March 14 at 6 p.m. to allow them to make a presentation to the board. Also speaking at the hearing was Quincy Vale, council for Woronoco Hydroelectric, who said the plant has some concerns about their proximity to a proposed residential area, and would also like to be heard. Vale said the plant has been meeting with Redevco about the project.
The second public hearing on Animal Homesteading then opened at 6:30 p.m. The planning board said they are looking into regulations on livestock.
“We’re starting from scratch, there is no town bylaw,” Ridgeway said.  The board did look at bylaws in other towns, including Chester, which had a reasonable one, according to Ridgeway. Oleksak said Blandford had looked into creating a bylaw, but ran into complications, and did not complete the process.
The board then opened the meeting for suggestions from the public.
“We have goats and chickens,” said Debbie Chase of Old Westfield Road.  “We came to the town requesting permission,” she said. “And were approved by the Animal Control Officer.”
Chase said they were told there were no specific regulations on keeping the animals.
“Our goats can’t even get out of our pens,” Chase said.
“It isn’t so much about them roaming,” said Alice Taverna, planning board member. “But also the noise, manure management – so there isn’t odor permeating.”
Ridgeway said part of their intent, if they do create a bylaw, is not to get so specific.
“What we’d like to do is next time somebody asks for the regulations, to be able to have some,” Oleksak said
“I’ve made several complaints about the bull in my neighbor’s yard,” said Jason Marge of 150 Main Street. “This past year, the bull came in our yard three different times, and ate all of our vegetables three different times. There has to be some kind of code on fencing. Their wire fencing isn’t enough. Last week, the bull charged at my son and his friend, when they were in our yard. It could have killed them.” Marge also said he had other problems with the land, which he said contained piles of tires and burned out cars. He said he has learned that the owner lost the field to the town due to unpaid taxes, but still uses it.
Oleksak said the planning board can address the inadequate fencing, but that Marge would need to go to the select board for issues with the property. Marge said he has been to the select board three times already, and a no-trespass order was issued, but not enforced.
“If you have a vicious dog, it must be restrained in a kennel, said Bill Hardie. “If you have a bull, it must be restrained in a chain link fence.”
“I don’t think you should keep a bull on Main Street,” Hardie said.
“It concerns me that it’s on town property,” Oleksak said.
Taverna suggested that Marge go to the new Code Enforcement Officer for the town.
“If the bull does attack someone, is the town going to be responsible, or is the owner?” another resident asked.
“We don’t know who is going to be responsible,” Taverna said.
Ruth Kennedy suggested that the planning board look at the rules and regulations of the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture while drafting a bylaw. She said they already have regulations regarding fencing, manure processing, etc.
Another resident pointed out that in Article 7 Regulations for Keeping of Dogs and other Dumb Animals, Section 9, it mentions bulls. Ridgeway looked it up.
“No bull or vicious animal shall be kept within the Town unless securely confined within an enclosure sufficiently adequate to prevent the escape there-from,” she read.
“It specifically says ‘No Bull,’ ” she said.
Due to time restrictions, the animal bylaw hearing was continued to March 12 at 6:30 pm.
Following this hearing, Marge went to the select board meeting, being held downstairs in town hall. He returned a short time later, saying the select board has given the homeowner two years to repay taxes, and would therefore not act on the no-trespass order.  The planning board suggested he see the Code Enforcement Officer, who then said he would get back to him after discussing the matter with the Animal Control Officer.
The third public hearing was a request to act on language regarding the Flood Map Adoption. Ridgeway said they received a letter from Massachusetts Flood Mapping Coordinator, Colleen Bailey, who said Hampden County will get new flood maps in July of 2013.
Ridgeway said the letter also stated that the town had to adopt new language to be in compliance with the new flood mapping, in order to continue to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, and to receive grants and federal assistance in case of disaster.
Ridgeway said that all of Main Street in Russell is in a flood zone, and they had no choice but to comply.
A motion was made to send to the town warrant, recommending accepting the changes as submitted. The motion passed.

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