[Editor's Note: The article has been updated to reflect a correction. Due to an editorial error, the breakdown of proposed changes in liability insurance coverage for taxis was incorrectly stated.]
In addition to the Fiscal 2014 budget, Town Meeting members will decide a number of other important issues Monday night, including a proposed moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in Danvers, bylaw changes for taxis and moving town elections to Saturday.
Town officials are seeking to impose up to a year hiatus on allowing any marijuana treatment centers in town, should any be interested in locating in Danvers, to provide time for a planning process that factors in any issues related to local zoning, land use, public safety or applicable law.
This past fall, the Board of Selectmen began discussion on a zoning amendment to limit dispensaries to certain areas of town and this measure would provide more time to do that.
The moratorium, if it passes Town Meeting, would go into effect when the state Public Health Department releases its final rules and regulations at the end of this month.
In addition to the moratorium, Article 8 also adds a definition for a "Medical Marijuana Treatment Center" to the existing zoning bylaws. The language states that dispensaries will be nonprofit entities as defined by state law and only to provide marijuana or materials to qualifying patients or their personal caregivers.
Taxis in town
Proposed changes to the town's taxicab bylaw seek to eliminate or reduce specific hardships taxi companies identified this spring after running into legal issues with the town, as well as allow selectmen latitude in granting taxicab permits if the applicants have criminal convictions.
Liability insurance would be reduced from $1 million combined single limit coverage to $100,000 per injured person and a maximum of $300,000 per accident for each vehicle, annual permit fees and renewal fees for individual drivers would be reduced from $150 to $50, and relatively archaic rules would be eliminated.
Those rules include having "Danvers" painted on the sides of cabs, Danvers as the sole place of business and having a telephone number in town -- nearly all the companies recently licensed by the board operate in Peabody, Salem and Beverly as well.
Two other language changes proposed under Article 10 allow the town to take into account criminal convictions or guilty pleas when issuing permits to drivers.
Article 11 is a citizens' petition submitted by John Zavaglia to move the Annual Town Election from the first Tuesday in May each year to the first Saturday of the month with poll hours of 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
The intent was that weekend voting would be more convenient for residents.
Pickering Street culvert
Article 17 recommends spending about $483,700 the town finally received last year from FEMA as reimbursement for storm damage repairs due to the 2006 Mother's Day floods, to now design, permit and construct a new culvert on Pickering Street.
Town officials say the existing culvert, which passes under the street between Hobart and Otis streets, has failed and needs to be replaced, in much the same way several other 1950s era metal culverts along Frost Fish Brook in the Woodvale neighborhood have rotted and had structural failure.
Other warrant articles
Article 4 deals with the town's assessment as a member of the North Shore Regional Vocational School program and related costs this year for new megavoke under construction. That total amount is $1.5 million.
Article 9 proposes increasing the dog license fee for canines who are not spayed or neutered to $25 to comply with state law and restructuring kennel fees to fall more in line with other cities and towns -- $50 for four to nine dogs, $75 for 10-19 dogs and $100 for 20 or more dogs.
Articles 12 and 13 seek small increases to building and electrical permit fees to more closely reflect fee schedules in surrounding cities and towns.
Article 14 seeks authority to dispose of land and easements the town owns in Middleton, North Reading and Lynnfield. The land and property rights were obtained in 1978 when Danvers purchased them and an electrical distribution facility from the Mass. Electric Company in an effort to strengthen the town's electrical system long-term.
Town Manager Wayne Marquis says that the town's system today, however, does not require use of that property and easements and the town of Middleton has expressed interest in purchasing all or part of the 24 acres Danvers owns in the neighboring town. Any sale would be subject to a public bidding process.
Article 20 recommends some specific language to designate Lebel's Grove, which was purchased by the town last year, for water supply protection and conservation purposes only. The town was approved for a $400,000 grant from the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection to offset the purchase, but needs the language before payment will be distributed.
Article 32 recommends placing $500,000 in free cash into the town's Stabilization Fund, which is used as a reserve to assist with financing major purchases and Article 33 recommends putting $750,000 in the School Construction Stabilization Fund to continue financing the remainder of the high school renovation project. The proposal is to take $600,000 from free cash and $150,000 from taxation to add to the current balance of $4.8 million.
The Annual Town Meeting is 7:30 p.m. in the new auditorium at Danvers High School. A Special Town Meeting will be held briefly at 7:35 p.m. to first deal with three articles, mainly for end-of-year transfers to balance the town's financial accounts and borrow money expected to come from the state for roads and sidewalks repairs.