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Williamstown Select Board Asked to Back Bylaw on Junk Boats
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
01:11AM / Tuesday, March 17, 2020
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Select Board members, from left, Jeffrey Thomas, Hugh Daley and Anne O'Connor participate in what could be the body's last in-person meeting for a while.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A resident is asking the Select Board to consider placing a bylaw amendment on May's annual town meeting warrant that would regulate storage of junk boats on residential properties.
Jerry Smith was in front of the board last week with his attorney, Stanley Parese, to explain their proposal to amend a 50-year-old bylaw on junk cars to include watercraft.
"Jerry has a concern, as do a number of people in his neighborhood, with boats," Parese told the board. "I understand from Jerry there are any number of people in town who have concerns about boats.
"I don’t think there’s a junk boat lobby in Williamstown that says we need to be a place friendly to junk boats."
Smith told the board that he believes there are concerns about junk boats in his neighborhood and other places in town.
And after consulting with the town manager on potential language for a bylaw amendment, Smith and Parese believe they have found a solution.
The bylaw adopted in 1969 already requires anyone seeking to keep a junk car on their property to request a license from the police department. If you want to keep more than one junk car, truck, bus, camper, etc. on your property, you need to seek a license from the Select Board itself, which must be renewed annually.
"Junk" for purposes of the bylaw, refers to a car that is "worn out, cast off or discarded and which is ready for dismantling or destruction, or which has been collected or stored for salvage, or for stripping in order to make use of parts thereof."
Smith is proposing the town apply that junk standard to "include all manner of watercraft designed to convey persons or materials upon or under water, including but not limited to motor boats, sail boats, row boats, rafts, barges, canoes, and kayaks."
The chairman of the Select Board challenged the proposal on a couple of fronts, arguing that the question is better left to the town's Planning Board, which addresses zoning issues and that by addressing boats, the town would go down the road of writing bylaws to address other things one might store on one's property.
"If we get involved in junk boats, it opens us up to take positions on other things people may have in their yards -- tractors, ATVs, above ground pools that are neglected," Jeffrey Thomas said. "This is not where the Select Board needs to be involved."
Parese argued that the town shouldn't avoid amending its bylaw simply because other less reasonable amendments might be proposed down the road.
"The slippery slope argument is an easy one to answer," Parese said. "If someone comes to you with a bad idea, don't do it. I think a good idea doesn't get cut off at the knees because you can take it to some illogical extreme."
The board spent some time in its initial conversation discussing whether Smith's proposal belongs in the current junk car bylaw or in a section of the town's zoning bylaws -- the purview of the Planning Board.
In answer to a question from Jane Patton, Town Manager Jason Hoch told the Select Board he could not answer why the existing junk car bylaw is not part of zoning.
"It doesn't land neatly in either place today, and it probably didn't land neatly in either place [in 1969] either," Hoch said.
One difference between the Smith's proposal and a zoning bylaw change: The latter would need a two-thirds majority at town meeting for passage. The amendment he drafted to the junk car bylaw could pass with a simple majority at the annual town meeting.
Several of the Select Board members, including Thomas, indicated that they wanted to hear thoughts from other residents before putting the amendment on the town meeting warrant as a proposal from the board.
But they also noted that even if the board chooses not to make such a proposal, Smith has the option of bringing the bylaw amendment forward himself via a citizen's petition.
The board agreed to return to the issue at its next meeting, scheduled for March 23. The deadline for citizen's petition submissions for the annual town meeting warrant is March 30.
In other business at the March 9 meeting, Thomas noted that March 23 was also the date set for a joint meeting of the select boards from Lanesborough and Williamstown and the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee to pick someone to fill the seat left vacant on the School Committee with the departure of Willamstown resident Dan Caplinger.
On Monday, Thomas reported that the joint meeting may not happen as scheduled but would be scheduled as soon as possible. In the interim, out of concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Select Board will be convening via conference call for the foreseeable future, Thomas said.
The Select Board on March 9 also voted unanimously to set the water rate for fiscal 2021 at $3.70 per hundred cubic feet, which represents no change from the FY20 rate. The last change was a 15-cent reduction from FY19 to FY20 due to savings from the town-owned solar project at the capped landfill near the transfer station.
"That works out to be about a half cent per gallon," said Thomas, who did the math. "That's one of the best deals around, I think."
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