Sandwich Town Meeting Is Held On May 3

Town Meeting attendees hold up their orange cards during a vote Monday night inside the high school gym.

Staring in January, the retail sale of water in single-use plastic bottles will be forbidden in Sandwich.

That is what voters at Town Meeting decided Monday night, May 3, after what amounted to the only lengthy debate of the evening.

“I am beyond thrilled,” said Mary Cote, Sandwich spokeswoman for the environmental group sponsoring the bottle ban. “I had a feeling it would pass when I saw all the people coming in with their reusable water bottles.”

The ban applies only to single-use, personal-sized plastic bottles of water. More specifically, it will curtail the sales and distribution of all plastic bottles that contain less than a gallon of non-carbonated, unflavored drinking water, according to the petition re-filed this year by the Brewster-based group Sustainable Practices.

The ban would go into effect December 31, the petition specifies.

Many people rose to the microphone to speak for—and against—the bottle ban.

Those opposed said it would hurt small businesses that have already been clobbered by coronavirus restrictions in the past year.

“Small businesses are already struggling. They don’t need another hindrance,” said resident Sam Bates, summing up the opposition’s stance.

But Jeremy Shea, a Sandwich resident and history teacher in Barnstable who has supported the single use bottle restrictions at previous Town Meetings, said he had contacted restaurants in towns where such bans were already in effect, and found that they had handily survived the change.

“They said there had been no impact,” he said.

Jacob Swenson, a recent graduate of Sandwich High School who helped bring the bottle ban message to his classmates, told the audience that recycling is not enough.

“This ban is going to happen someday,” Mr. Swenson said. “Let’s be leaders and get this effort done. Now is the time.”

The audience agreed, although the vote was close.

Solar Farm

The other warrant item that sparked some debate was a proposed solar farm.

Amp Energy, a Canadian company that owns an 18-acre wooded parcel at 180 Cotuit Road, was seeking voter approval to build a 5.6-megawatt ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation on a portion of the property.

The company has promised that the photovoltaic energy system would be built in an environmentally conscious way.

It would take up only 10.8 acres in the center of the lot, and most of that area would be converted into a pollinator-friendly meadow, the company has said.

The Cape Cod Commission and the Sandwich Planning Board have already studied the proposal and approved it after hearing the company’s unusual deal to give the town ultimate ownership of the property.

The company has offered to donate the entire 18.8-acre parcel of land to the town for conservation purposes and lease it back for the life of the solar farm, which would be from 20 to 40 years.

Several people rose to decry the clearing of trees from the property and to question whether a solar farm is the highest and best use for the forested land.

Those in favor, however, said it was a good deal for the town and more environmental beneficial than a housing development.

Solar Farm

The other warrant item that sparked some debate was a proposed solar farm.

Amp Energy, a Canadian company that owns an 18-acre wooded parcel at 180 Cotuit Road, was seeking voter approval to build a 5.6-megawatt ground-mounted solar photovoltaic installation on a portion of the property.

The company has promised that the photovoltaic energy system would be built in an environmentally conscious way.

It would take up only 10.8 acres in the center of the lot, and most of that area would be converted into a pollinator-friendly meadow, the company has said.

The Cape Cod Commission and the Sandwich Planning Board have already studied the proposal and approved it after hearing the company’s unusual deal to give the town ultimate ownership of the property.

The company has offered to donate the entire 18.8-acre parcel of land to the town for conservation purposes and lease it back for the life of the solar farm, which would be from 20 to 40 years.

Several people rose to decry the clearing of trees from the property and to question whether a solar farm is the best use for the forested land.

Those in favor, however, said it was a good deal for the town and more environmentally beneficial than a housing development.

Quaker Meetinghouse

An article seeking $136,000 to renovate the 1810 Friends Meetinghouse brought applause from the audience after congregation member John N. Cullity described the historic significance of the building and the East Sandwich site.

He said the materials to build the third meetinghouse on the site were transported by boat and oxen cart. It is still warmed by the wood stove installed in 1870, Mr. Cullity said.

The current building was built in 1810 and very little had changed over the years.

The grant would cover restoration of the doors, windows and roof tiles.

“Proper maintenance is a challenge,” Mr. Cullity said. “The meetinghouse needs a little help.”

The vote to help, by approving a community preservation grant, was unanimous.

Other community preservation grants also were approved. They were:

• $75,000 for administrative costs for the CPC

• $150,000 to help Habitat For Humanity build three affordable houses in South Sandwich

• And, $455,000 to acquire 11 acres of conservation land off Meiggs-Backus Road—which borders conservation land owned by the Town of Barnstable—that will create a large, contiguous, scenic tract of forest and marsh. The land borders conservation land already owned by the town..

Other Business

After the CPA grants were approved, many of the masked taxpayers shuffled out of the high school gymnasium. But during the first two hours of the three-hour meeting, the voters had already taken care of most of the town’s business.

Among the items that flew past without much discussion was Sandwich $88 million budget for the coming year. That included the town government budget of about $19 million; the school budget of about $36 million; a capital budget (town and school building repairs, police and fire department equipment, and repair of a fuel depot at the department of public works) of $571,000; $4 million in debt repayment; and about $17 million for property and liability insurance, and employee health and retirement benefits.

The townspeople also agreed to allocate about $1 million from a special water infrastructure investment fund to begin designing wastewater collection, transport and disposal systems.

The $1 million allocation, which has already been collected in the special WIIF reserve fund, will cover costs for designing a sewage treatment plant, mapping layouts for 20,000 feet of sewer pipe and creating environmentally responsible disposal and drainage systems.

“This will get us on the path” toward a $80 million, 25-year plan to clean up Sandwich’s ponds and properly dispose of its wastewater, Town Manager George H. (Bud) Dunham has said.

Mr. Dunham explains in the first video that the reserve fund, which was established by a Town Meeting vote in 2018, will have accrued about $1.4 million by January 2022, Mr. Dunham said.

The fund grows each year as taxpayers contribute a 2 percent property tax surcharge to the WIIF and the interest is reinvested.

The voters approved several zoning bylaw changes. They included:

• Allowing businesses in the town’s commercial corridor to have drive-thru operations. A special permit would have to be obtained from the zoning board of appeals

• An easing of the regulations governing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which would allow owners of single-family dwellings to add ADUs “by right.” The change—aimed at creating more affordable housing—would allow owners to add apartments to their homes without having to apply for special permits

• The addition of an affordable housing component to cottage colony conversions—to condominiums or year-round rentals. Under the proposed bylaw, at least 10 percent of such converted units must be made affordable—priced for people who earn substantially less than the median income for Barnstable County

• The addition of a requirement that all future cluster developments—complexes of higher density than standard single-family subdivisions—make at least 10 percent of their units affordable

• And numerous changes to town floodplain definitions to align with changes in state and federal regulations

A citizen’s petition seeking to restrict roosters in denser neighborhoods was removed from the warrant at the request of the author, Annie H. Adler, who said she would like to reword the proposal and resubmit it at a future Town Meeting.

The other citizens petition—the bottle ban request—came after the zoning changes. The ban on sales of single-use water bottles would also involve the imposition of fines on businesses that do not comply.

A first violation would result in a warning; second violation would incur a fine of $150; and third and subsequent violations would result in a fine of $300 each.

Other towns on the Cape that have already enacted such a ban are Falmouth, Brewster, Wellfleet, Eastham, Harwich, Provincetown and Orleans, Ms. Cote told the taxpayers.

“We are a coastal community,” Ms. Cote said when introducing the bottle ban proposal. “We need to show our visitors that we care for our environment, wildlife, ponds, and our ocean and ask that they also respect our home.”

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(1) comment

flynzy

a ban on single use water bottles but I can buy all the Mountain Dew I want?

Faux environmentalism.

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