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Town Meeting Recap: OK to Sidewalk Cafes and Assisted Living, No to Bed and Breakfasts

Wakefield residents approved allowing sidewalk cafes and assisted living facilities to operate in town, but shot down the prospect of bed and breakfasts during the final night of town meeting on Monday.

Wakefield residents approved allowing sidewalk cafes and assisted living facilities to operate in town, but shot down the prospect of bed and breakfasts during the final night of town meeting Monday.

No bed and breakfasts
Much of the concern raised by residents about bed and breakfasts was that the article failed to define exactly what a bed and breakfast was. Resident and former Selectman Al Turco said that he would be in favor of the idea if he knew what exactly the town would be approving.

“It strikes me that the absence of a definition is somewhat problematic,” Turco said. “I would be really happy to support something like this if I knew what a bed and breakfast was.”

Matthew Lowry, chairman of the Planning Board, said that his board voted 3-2 against supporting the bylaw at a recent public hearing.

Ultimately, the sentiment was that bed and breakfasts were a good idea on the surface but the language in the bylaw needed some work. Residents roundly rejected the motion to allow bed and breakfasts to operate in town by a vote of 61-37.

Sidewalk cafes
Despite some discussion about whether or not the idea was feasible or if it would encourage a “barroom atmosphere” in the town, the article concerning sidewalk cafes passed with a large majority. 

One concern raised against the measure was that a sidewalk café would end up blocking the whole sidewalk. Officials explained that the cafes would have to hug the wall of the abutting building and wouldn’t jut out much more than four or five feet. Officials also pointed out that any prospective café would have to be approved by the Board of Selectmen and that not every location in town would be suitable for a sidewalk café area.

And as far as the notion of a “barroom atmosphere,” Town Administrator Stephen Maio explained that anything that could happen outside already can happen inside, and that businesses would be required to obtain an outdoor liquor license and comply with local laws just like they already do inside.

Assisted living
The closest vote of the evening was Article 28, which would allow assisted living facilities to operate in town. Article 28 passed 101-33, just barely carrying the two-thirds majority necessary for passage. Article 29, which dealt with where the facilities could operate, passed 106-18 after two amendments were proposed and passed that excluded general residential districts and two historic lots on the corner of Main Street and Crescent Street from the article.

In all, residents spent over an hour and a half discussing the impact they would have on the town and whether or not they would fit in. Many residents were particularly concerned about a particular overlay district that may house a future assisted living facility on the corner of Crescent Street and Main Street across from the Unitarian Universalist Church by the common.

The worry was that an ugly mega-structure could be built that would ruin the atmosphere of the area. Officials reminded the concerned residents that any proposed structure would have to be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals first and would be subject to public hearings and a full process.

Other articles
Town meeting decided to indefinitely postpone Article 27, which also pertained to assisted living, on the grounds the article had issues in its language that needed to be addressed, according to residents. 

At the conclusion of town meeting, Articles 30 and 31 passed unanimously with no discussion. Article 30 converted the zoning of a Water Street property to business, and Article 31 authorized the Board of Assessors to use the sum of the balance of the operating fund of the Municipal Gas and Light Department as of June 30, 2012 as the Board of Light Commissioners may vote in computing the tax rate for the fiscal period July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.

The third and final day of the May 2012 town meeting concluded around 10:30 p.m. 

Anu May 22, 2012 at 01:53 PM
yay for outdoor seating!!! this will only enhance the "on it's way to fantastic" atmosphere of main st downdown Wakefield!!

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