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School feasibility study OK'd; Town meeting voters OK borrowing $700,000.

Byline: Steven H. Foskett Jr.

SUTTON - Annual town meeting voters last night approved nearly $700,000 in borrowing to pay for a feasibility study that could lead to a new or renovated and expanded middle and high school, but balked at the idea of creating a village center zoning district.

After several amendments confused some voters and elicited debate, support, or opposition from others, Article 16 did not get the two-thirds vote it needed to pass. The article would have created a village center zoning district in the Town Common area. Voters then decided not to act on several other articles related to the establishment of a village center zoning district.

William Connor, who runs the Sutton Center Store on Singletary Avenue, put the article on the warrant as a citizen petition. He wanted to expand his store into an empty section of the building, but was not allowed under current zoning. Under current zoning, commercial uses are not allowed - the Sutton Center Store and a few other businesses, including Polly's Antiques, were grandfathered in as existing, nonconforming uses.

The Planning Board proposed an amendment that would shrink the geographic area that would be covered under the new zoning, from 22 acres to seven acres.

But several residents still had a problem with allowing commercial uses. Gary Vaillancourt said he feared that the Town Common would be "bulldozed" and that fast-food chains and banks could start moving in.

Mr. Vaillancourt proposed an amendment that would go even further than the Planning Board and would shrink the area covered to just two parcels - the parcel on which the Sutton Center Store is located and an abutting parcel.

Holland Shaw, part of the Shaw Realty Trust that controls Polly's Antiques, said he actually wanted Polly's to be included in a village center zoning district. He said the store has existed as a commercial enterprise since 1839, and that the new zoning would increase its commercial value.

Mr. Shaw proposed an amendment that would re-insert the Polly's parcel and another abutting parcel.

After some confusion about which of the three amendments voters were acting on, voters eventually approved a version of an amendment that included the two parcels Mr. Vaillancourt proposed, and the two parcels Mr. Shaw proposed.

It was all for nothing, however, since when the vote came up on the original article, 82 people voted for it, and 66 people voted against. It was a majority, but not enough for the two-thirds majority it needed.

Voters made quick work of the fiscal 2009 budget; there was no comment regarding, and no opposition to, the $26 million article.

Voters passed a $695,000 borrowing article that will pay for a feasibility study for the middle and high school expansion/renovation. Selectman Michael Chizy said he did not support the article; he said the town cannot afford it, and that residents are already feeling enough economic pain in the form of increased oil and food prices.

Selectman Kevin Geraghty supported the measure. He said the borrowing would have minimal impact on taxpayers initially, and would get the town to the point where it could make an informed decision on how to move forward with a new school project.

School Committee member Wendy Mead said that if voters turned down the feasibility study, they would be sent to the back of a long line of other school districts in the state awaiting the same invitation to do the study Sutton received in the state's first round of its new school construction program.


CUTLINE: Sutton town budget

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 13, 2008
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