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STM will decide money to pipe Devens water to town center, higher community preservation tax

When voters gather for a Special Town Meeting next month, they will be asked to approve four articles, including an increase in a tax surcharge, money for a water connection to Devens, and a change to town center zoning.

The meeting will convene in the Cronin Auditorium at the Bromfield School at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13. The Select Board closed and approved the meeting’s warrant Tuesday night. The vote was unanimous, following two minor adjustments.

First, the board rearranged the order of articles on the warrant to ensure that the two with the greatest financial impact would be debated first. And second, the board removed a citizen petition that would have lowered the term of town moderator from three years to one year, after learning that its sponsor had asked for it to be withdrawn.

Separately, board members agreed they were not ready to propose changes to the agricultural bylaws and asked Vice Chair Erin McBee to inform the Planning Board that it could close its hearing on the matter.

Here’s a brief rundown of the February warrant:

Article 1:
Unpaid bills

Asks for money to pay unpaid bills of prior fiscal years. The Finance Department told the Press this week that four bills totalling $4,587 need to be paid.

Article 2: 
Community Preservation Fund
Asks for an increase in the community preservation surtax from 1.1% to 3%. Money raised by this tax goes to Harvard’s Community Preservation Fund, overseen by the Community Preservation Committee. Money in the fund can be used for affordable housing, historic preservation, and open space and recreation. The first $100,000 of any property will be exempt, as will anyone who qualifies for low-income housing, or low- or moderate-income senior housing. If approved at the February town meeting, it must be on the ballot for voter approval at this spring’s Town Election.

Article 3:
Water connection with Devens 

Article 3 asks voters to appropriate $4,850,000 to pay for design and construction of a water main and booster station to supply Devens water to municipal buildings and residences in Harvard’s town center—and thereby avoid the cost of a new treatment facility in the center of town. If approved at Town Meeting, the measure must be voted on again at this May’s Town Election.

Article 4:
Entertainment overlay district

Article 4 proposes a bylaw amendment to allow accessory entertainment in town center. If voters approve an entertainment overlay district, this bylaw would allow the Select Board to license entertainment events at locations in and adjacent to town center, including the General Store, Fivesparks, and other venues. 

The extent of the district is stated in the text of the article, but will be clarified in a map the board has promised to provide at Special Town Meeting.

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