EAST ORLEANS — In a session that lasted more than four and a half hours, voters at Saturday’s special town meeting made key decisions about the town’s financial future, showed interest in some big-ticket projects, and approved limited marijuana retail operations in town.
The entire warrant was a bit of an experiment in COVID-safe voting, with voters casting ballots from their vehicles using hand-held electronic polling devices. The process was slow and methodical but worked well, though high voter turnout delayed the start of the session nearly a half-hour as cars continued to stream into the meeting site, the parking lot at Nauset Beach. More than 500 registered voters attended.
While the warrant had no large capital projects, it gave voters the chance to consider studying several big-ticket projects. Voters approved a measure to conduct a feasibility study for renovating or expanding the fire department headquarters, along with engineering funds for dredging projects, and a feasibility study for purchasing the Governor Prence Inn property on Route 6A, though all three articles will require subsequent approval at the polls.
An article seeking funds to study the feasibility of building a community center failed to get the needed three-fourths majority vote to advance.
Two articles on the warrant dealing with retail marijuana operations were approved after lengthy debate. One, which amends the zoning bylaw to allow up to two retail establishments by special permit in the limited business, general business and industrial zones, effectively reversing a town meeting vote from two years ago. The measure passed on a 303 to 123 vote, achieving the needed two-thirds majority. The second article, rescinding a general bylaw prohibiting retail sales in town, passed on a vote of 295 to 113.
Voters approved several fiscal articles designed to strengthen the town’s finances during the pandemic crisis. By an overwhelming margin, 388 to 21, they opted to transfer nearly $4.25 million from free cash to a stabilization account, a fund specifically reserved for unusual, one-time expenses. The move will give the town a better ability to respond to unforeseen expenses, and helps support the town’s strong bond rating.
Read more in the next print edition of the Cape Cod Chronicle.