By James Niedzinski
---- — ESSEX — With 268 residents at the Monday night’s Annual Town Meeting, voters deliberated for 3 1/2 hours on 17 of the 41 articles, with the meeting now set to continue at 7:30 tonight.
But voters Mknday night approved a new zoning bylaw that allows for the subdivision of 22 Robbins Island Road and Beach Circle properties on a tally of 194-97.
Opponents of the article cited the lack of a clear overall Conomo Point plan approved at a town meeting, increased costs of selling the lots, environmental concerns and preserving the properties for the town. And just seconds after the votes were counted, Stuart Pratt presented a motion to reconsider the article, but that motion failed.
“They are not looking at environmental considerations, fiscal considerations, or land use considerations,” said resident Maria Burnham.
But supporters of the article said the sale of the central district, which can be carried out with the area subdivided, is the most financially sound way to meet the state Department of Environmental Protection’s mandate to get Conomo Point using under 10,000 of gallons of waters per day, complying with the Title 5 septic system guidelines.
“We simply cannot afford to remove homes and turn this property over,” Selectmen Lisa O’Donnell said.
Officials also noted that a private property owner controls much of the waterfront along Robbins Island Road.
While the subdivision would allow for the sale of the properties at the Annual Town Meeting next year, voters shot down Article 14, a $26,200 allocation to appraise the lots in central Conomo Point.
Money was allocated to appraise the southern houses before they were cleared for sale at the previous town meeting, Selectmen Jeff Jones said.
Voters also failed to approve adding $100,000 of free cash to the Conomo Point legal budget for fiscal 2013. Voters approved $100,000 to the town’s law firm Kopelman and Paige at 2012’s Annual Town Meeting and another $50,000 during a Special Town Meeting last year.
Article 12, which would have allocated funds for final construction plans for waterfront access at northern Conomo Point, also failed by majority. But a citizen petition that would have authorized the sale of three quarters of northern Conomo Point and set aside the rest for a park also failed to gain the needed votes for approval.
Outside of Conomo Point, voters reauthorized revolving funds for the Animal Control officer as well as the Board of Health.
Residents also allocated money to the North Shore Regional Vocational School District, which boasted a zero percent increase in its operation budget, according to district representative George Harvey.
The Annual Town Meeting is set to resume tonight at 7:30 p.m., again at Essex Elementary School.
We will update this story later today here at gloucestertimes.com as more information becomes available.
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James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.