TRURO — At the special town meeting on Oct. 21, plans for the 70-acre Walsh property, which has been in limbo since the town bought it in May 2019, will come before voters for the first time.
Article 5 asks to adopt the Walsh Property Community Planning Committee’s list of 18 recommendations. Those include developing a maximum of 160 housing units — down from a previous plan for 252 — with a first phase consisting of 50 to 80 units. The plan also calls for a multi-use community space that could include child care and a community kitchen and for 60 percent of the property to be preserved as open space.
The Walsh committee took almost three years to develop the recommendations and will dissolve after town meeting. Newly elected Town Moderator Paul Wisotzky is a member of that committee and had served as co-chair until February.
Wisotsky is also the governor’s appointee to the Truro Housing Authority. At a pre-town meeting forum on Oct. 5, Karen Ruymann asked Wisotzky if he would recuse himself from moderating votes on various articles.
“Will you recuse yourself from Walsh article votes and any other articles that include Walsh, LCP, and HPP, for example?” asked Ruymann, referring to the local comprehensive plan and the housing production plan. “What assurances can you give us all as to your impartiality as moderator during this debate?”
Wisotzky said that both the state ethics commission and town counsel had advised him that he does not need to recuse himself or file a disclosure — although he said he plans to file anyway.
Warrant Article 6 would create a six-member Ad Hoc Walsh Property Advisory Committee and is itself based on Article 13, a citizens’ petition submitted by planning board vice chair Anne Greenbaum.
The local comprehensive plan, in the works since 2017, appears as Article 7 on the warrant. The plan outlines goals for housing, environment, infrastructure, economy, and community.
Article 12 is designed to boost year-round rentals in town by allowing new duplexes by right, except in the town’s Seashore and Beach Point zoning districts. The amended zoning bylaw would require one unit of a new duplex to have a signed 12-month lease and the other either to be owner-occupied or also have a 12-month lease. The article also lowers the lot size required for a duplex and increases the permitted gross floor area.
Similar measures were postponed at annual town meetings in 2022 and 2023, according to the warrant. Article 12 would require a two-thirds vote to pass.
Voters will also consider three Proposition 2½ overrides, which require a two-thirds majority at town meeting and a simple majority at a town election.
Article 1 is a debt exclusion for $1.4 million in borrowing to upgrade the Truro Central School’s roof and ventilation system. Classrooms on the west side of the school “have no air exchange whatsoever,” DPW director Jarrod Cabral said at the Oct. 5 forum, a deficiency that came to light during Covid. If the measure passes on Oct. 21, construction could take place during summer break.
Articles 3 and 4 are mutually exclusive DPW facility funding articles. They ask for $35 million and $3.5 million, respectively, to fund either the whole project or just its engineering costs. Cabral said that the $35 million price tag is a “worst case scenario,” since the project will be eligible for some funding from the Cape Light Compact.
Article 2 asks voters to dedicate a 2.7-acre town-owned parcel at 340 Route 6 for the new DPW project.
Article 14, a citizen’s petition from a self-styled “DPW study group,” proposes an alternate DPW project at the department’s current location on Town Hall Road. As reported in last week’s Independent, the group claims its proposal would be “bigger, significantly cheaper, safer, and faster” than the plan produced by the town’s contracted professionals and that it would cost less than half the price.
Another pair of dueling measures are Articles 8 and 15. Article 8 is a nonbinding resolution advising the select board to research a “Senior Pass Pilot Program.” If implemented, the program would either reduce or eliminate transfer station and beach permit fees “for Truro property owners and resident seniors of an age to be determined” in a year-long pilot program.
Article 8 was “adopted” by the select board from petitioned Article 15, submitted by Joan Holt. Holt’s article specifies that people age 60 and over would be eligible for the senior pass, which would have a one-time cost of $50.
According to the select board’s explanation on the warrant, the specifics in Holt’s article were problematic because “town meeting is not an authorized fee-setting body” under state law. Town Manager Darrin Tangeman said at the Oct. 5 forum that Article 8 “mirrors the intent” of Holt’s Article 15.
Holt was not pleased, however. She said that Article 8 was a “power grab” by the select board.
Rounding out the warrant are Articles 9 and 10, general bylaw amendments on stormwater and curb cuts, respectively, and Article 11, which would extend the duration of special permits granted by the zoning board of appeals from one to two years.
Registration for special town meeting will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21 at Truro Central School. The meeting will begin at 10.