Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Winchester voters decide not to abolish historic districts, OK budget

WINCHESTER — The town’s historic districts won’t become history, at least for now.
Residents voted against a petition warrant article to abolish Winchester’s historic district ordinance, 350-296.

The ordinance, which was approved by voters at town meeting in 1997, established two historic districts, and a commission to oversee the districts and enact and enforce regulations on them.
One historic district covers a section of Main Street from Chapel Street southwest to the Route 10 bridge, and portions of Michigan and High streets and Richmond Road. The other covers a section of Ashuelot Main Street, and Old Hinsdale and Back Ashuelot roads.
Proponents of the petition warrant article said the commission overstepped its bounds on many occasions, and that some of the requirements to preserve historic buildings aren’t financially feasible for private property owners.
Opponents said the commission’s oversight is necessary to preserve a town that has already lost a lot of its history.
The controversy resulted in some soul-searching by the historic district commission, which has been looking into better defining its regulations for some time.
The defeat of the petition warrant article gives the commission the opportunity to look into options for classifying and regulating the historic districts moving forward.

Another controversial petition warrant falling victim to Tuesday’s vote would have changed the zoning for 50 Rabbit Hollow Road from rural residential to commercial.
Voters soundly defeated the article, which was backed by property owners Gustave “Gus” Ruth, his wife, Irene, and Kenneth Harvey, 438-178.
The vote comes about a month after abutters to the property filed a protest petition, which then forced the Rabbit Hollow article to garner a two-thirds majority vote Tuesday, rather than a simple majority, to pass.
When the Ruths, Harvey, and his wife, Claudia, purchased 50 Rabbit Hollow Road at auction in April 2012, it was advertised as commercial, Ruth said last week. The town had also assessed the property as commercial for at least eight years, he said.
The Ruths and Harveys leased the property, which has a small building, to an auto mechanic in November 2012. The town then issued a cease-and-desist order for the operation.
The Winchester Zoning Board of Adjustment denied Gus Ruth and Ken Harvey’s appeal of the cease-and-desist order in June 2013, and then a variance, which would have allowed the commercial operation, in July 2013.
Other than to take the matter to court, the only other way to deal with it would be through a ballot question on the town meeting warrant, Ruth said last week.
He and Harvey decided to forgo filing a lawsuit so they and the town wouldn’t have to go through the expense, Ruth said.

In other business, voters narrowly backed a warrant article totaling $35,756 to raise the pay of police department employees, 332-317. The article, which was recommended by the selectmen, sought to make the salaries of town police officers more competitive with other communities.
At the deliberative session last month, Police Chief Gary A. Phillips said his department had trouble maintaining quality people because of the low pay.
Besides providing incentive for officers to stay with the Winchester Police Department, increasing the salaries would help the town better protect its investment of having to train and outfit the officers when they were hired, Phillips said at the meeting.

A majority of voters opted to support a petition warrant article, 348-309, to allocate $5,000 to the Winchester Historical Society to operate and maintain the Sheridan House. The Sheridan House, which is on Back Ashuelot Road, is a museum of the town’s history. Besides housing several artifacts, a barn on the property shelters some of Winchester’s historic fire equipment.
The historical society relies on membership fees, donations and fundraisers to generate revenue, but it’s having trouble making ends meet as of late, Treasurer Elena M. Heiden said at the deliberative session.

Voters also approved:
An operating budget of $3,298,617 by a vote of 529-126. The budget is down $556,223, or 14.4 percent, from the 2013-14 budget of $3,854,840.
A five-year lease-purchase agreement for a new dump truck with plow and sander equipment totaling $135,201, 345-302.
Petition warrant articles to adopt an optional veterans tax credit of $500 on residential property, 499-147; an optional veterans tax credit of $2,000 on residential property for a service-connected disability, 478-165; and an optional tax credit of $2,000 on the real or personal property of a surviving spouse of a person who died while on active duty, 497-150.
Voters rejected:
A seven-year lease-purchase agreement for a new custom pumper fire truck totaling $440,000, 329-318.
Designating a portion of Old Westport Road from Howard Street to Coombs Bridge as a scenic road, 441-200.
Of Winchester’s 2,482 registered voters, 677, or 27.3 percent, cast ballots on Tuesday.
In a three-year race for one, three-year term on the budget committee, incumbent Brian Moser won re-election with 230 votes. Falling short were Rikki Bolewski with 214 votes and Ed Katuska with 98 votes.
In a two-way race for one, three-year term as treasurer, incumbent Ruth Tatro won re-election with 440 votes. Falling short was Brian Moser with 176 votes.
In a five-way race for three, three-year terms on the Thayer Public Library Board of Trustees, Kenneth Berthiaume won with 364 votes followed by incumbent Frank J. Amarosa 3rd with 338 votes and incumbent Kim N. Gordon with 274 votes. Out of the running were incumbent Hubert L. Crowell with 270 votes and Amanda Lunt with 216 votes.
In a two-way race for one, three-year term on the Musterfield Cemetery Committee, Donald E. Hubbard won with 306 votes. Falling short was incumbent Erin G. Robb with 259 votes.
In a two-way race for one, two-year term on the Musterfield Cemetery Committee, Valerie Cole won with 360 votes. Out of the running was Hurbert L. Crowell with 216 votes.
Elected without opposition: Roberta Heinonen-Fraser, selectman, three years; Denis Murphy, moderator, two years; Bonnie Leveille, supervisor of the checklist, six years; Kenneth Cole, trustee of trust funds, three years; Harvey Sieran, Conant Public Library trustee, three years; Rick Durkee, Conant Public Library trustee, three years; Ted Whippie, Conant Public Library trustee, three years; Hubert L. Crowell, budget committee, one year; Brooke Sharra, planning board, three years; and Dean Beaman, planning board, three years.


Just maybe the people are awaking. said...

Looks like Gus Ruth, the Harvey's and the Sharra's took a beating. The people that should know and live by the rules the rest of us live by. Good luck a year not that long a time away.

Anonymous said...

What you call waking up, I call digging the grave even deeper!
almost every single money article passed, But yahoo, we can keep are historical dumps, making the town look like an eye soar.
Where were all these people who claim to be sick of high spending and not being able to pay their tax bills? did they not have the gas money to show up and vote?

Ivoted and do every year said...

The problem in this town is two-fold.
The biggest one is that almost 2,000 people who registered to vote, DON'T. Why they don't is anyone's guess and why the even bothered to register is even a bigger unknown. Until some of them start taking notice of the issues and voting in the town election, those of us who care and are affected by the outcome will continue to face high taxation and out of control leadership.
The other problem is this small group of supporters the current people making all the decisions have; about 400 people, who because they DO VOTE, run this town.It's been like this for many years, too many apathetic morons who couldn't be bothered to help themselves or their neighbors have a better life.

Anonymous said...

It may sound stupid and but I think voting should become mandatory, cast your vote or pay a fine or something. It does seem like the people with money to burn or a special interest to fund and town employees, department heads and their family's may be the only ones voting. You would have to think if all the 2000+ registered voters showed up voting would go differently. Or are there just very few people who think our taxes are to high and spending is out of control? According to voting results that seems to be the case.

Anonymous said...

Why be so concerned about Winchester's low voter turn out. Surry had 14%. "Low voter turn out has it's consequences"!. If more voters showed up at the polls, it would be just more uninformed voters at the polls voting to spend more tax dollars. Who's to say more voters would have anymore common sense than the small minority of voters that do vote.

We will never be a town with common sense until we adopt a news letter like most towns around Winchester to inform the people.

I would start it but I am to stupid and can not spell any good or well.

same ol' same ol' said...

A damn news letter won't make any difference to the knuckleheads that live in this town. This blog has been putting up solid information for years, Brian Moser has been explaining the ballot yearly for who knows how long and others have come before them in an attempt to get people more involved and yet as lawsuits continue to get filed and taxes continue to rise unabated, while both town and school employees enjoy raises and perks and the best insurance money can by, people in this town continue to ignore what's going on and has been for years. It does not take a rocket scientist or a math wizard to figure out the problems in this town, it's very simple, no leadership and no one in office with any fiscal restraint. It's been spend, spend, spend, every year. Get the biggest and the baddest and to hell with how we'll pay for it. There is nothing here to support all of this spending but taxation of homeowners that are so strapped, most are working two jobs just to put food on the table; yet they don't vote for change, don't get involved and really by their actions, just don't care. A damn news letter isn't going to help this situation one bit and besides, who's going to pay to have it published and posted?