Thank goodness that in this growing and busy world there is still room for small town, "town meetings". where voters get to argue for the visions they wish to see to fruition in bettering life in our town. It's a beautiful thing, colored with heated debates, with group successes and and woes. And there is always next Falls or Springs Town Meetings.
Select Board discussions and votes, two for, one against, support the Lighting By Law. Voters express concern that it is difficult to enforce, creates undue hardships for some and denies the rights of individual home owners. How imperfect it is, I believe, will be open to future improvements. In my experience in Pepperell, there is far more patience than rigidity in our town staff, both the police Department and Zoning/Building Commissioner offices. Both offices have the option to respond to help resolve lighting questions. I have had the benefit of a very independent farm life style. However, I yield to the needs of the many as we have come to live so close together and adjusting lifestyles to accommodate neighbors is our kindest choice.
I urge all to support the Light By law. As science has continued to inform us, humans create pollution problems that are better solved sooner than later. Over use of lighting creates human and biosphere health problems, increases energy pollution and shuts us out of our star and planet filled night skies. Moving communities to a stronger cultural welcome of environmental protections is our best assurance of happy lives ahead for all.
Adaptive Use Overlay District Zoning By-law (AROD)
Imagine living in a residential neighborhood, in proximity to a Church in town. Sundays are busy with families attending services. There are a few special days, highlighted with a seasonal holiday church happening, yard sale, craft fair, and there are occasional weddings and funeral gatherings. Under certain circumstances, the church, by an AROD special permit, can become an expanded commercial business property. Home owners may find themselves living next to a seven day a week business, with customer and delivery activities. Ouch, that's a big change and quiet is no longer part of your home life. The Church facade is preserved, however the residential character is compromised. And neighboring home values may drop.
Our history of recent town governance is important to consider in assessing zoning changes. AROD was the Peter Fitzpatrick School Collaborative (PFC) answer to their zoning change need to accommodate more lessors and an anchor tenant and especially a community shared commercial kitchen facility, a very popular project. People with an interest in expanding Pepperell business numbers added onto the PFC zoning needs, first advocating for business opportunities in historic homes all over town with a long list of allowed uses. They raised the protests of town officers and citizens opposed to such an expansion of businesses that lay outside of the downtown corridor, and far exceeding the needs of the PFC.
Jenny Gingras, our new town planner was open and accommodating of feedback that drew back the reach of the initial AROD proposal. However, I share the opinion of others that it still overreaches on what we want our town to look and feel like. Too many buildings remain on the the list of possible use changes and the use options are also long. The Master plan asked for some use changes to create "Village" appeal and especially the addition of hospitality inns and bread and breakfasts, in keeping with our rural aspirations. More professional offices, banks, medical buildings, and retail businesses in residential neighborhoods will steer Pepperell to a community resembling the towns of Chelmsford, Littleton, Acton. or Westford, giving up. any "village" and rural character.
The question circulating in Pepperell, and many towns, is what our growth over the next decades will look like. While our Master Plan describes the wish to remain a rural community there are those that see open lands as barriers to the advantages they seek from commercial and residential development. This is an age old struggle. The towns mentioned earlier all had parties fighting for and against development. Developers won.
Climate change is the new party in the fight. Rules we have used to carry out growth debates no longer meet the needs of the future. All communities are best served by working to mitigate it's carbon output that our conventional growth has traditionally generated. AROD doesn't consider the impact on climate change.
AROD, if limited to the Peter Fitzpatrick School property is helpful. Anything more risks unwelcome growth in Pepperell.