DRACUT -- In the selectmen's first meeting since Dracut voters elected the first female majority on the board in town history, the five-member panel was faced with a multi-tasking agenda. It included choosing a chairman and vice-chair, holding a public hearing on a popular restaurant's proposed $90,000 expansion, and discussing 36 articles that will appear on the June 2 Town Meeting warrant, including new bylaws on medical-marijuana dispensaries and fines for false alarms.

In the board's reorganization, Selectman Joe DiRocco made the motion to re-appoint Cathy Richardson as chair, which was seconded by Alison Hughes, and made unanimous by Tami Dristiliaris and Selectman Tony Archinski. DiRocco was voted vice-chairman, with Archinski named clerk.

Richardson noted that Tuesday marked Finance Director Ann Vandal's last selectmen's meeting as acting town manager, with newly hired Town Manager Jim Duggan scheduled to officially begin work at Town Hall on Wednesday. Richardson said Duggan, formerly Gloucester's chief administrator, has already purchased a home in Dracut, making good on his pledge to relocate.

A public hearing held to address Owen & Ollie's Restaurant owners Harry and Marykay Gorman's request for a 59-seat, 1,397 square feet expansion drew some opposition from some neighbors. While three residents who live near the 61 Mill St.


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business uniformly praised the Gormans as model business owners, the neighbors voiced concerns that the requested increase in the restaurant's seating capacity would dangerously add to traffic congestion and child-safety concerns that currently affect the neighborhood, and increase the dangers, especially on Saturdays and Sundays when banquet functions are most likely to be held.

DiRocco, citing sensitivity to the neighbors concerns, authored a motion to have selectmen make a site visit to the neighborhood next week. The motion passed unanimously, 5-0, with the visit scheduled on Tuesday, May 20, at 6 p.m. Neighbors are invited to meet with the board members and restaurant representatives at that time, DiRocco said.

Owen & Ollie's expansion request has been placed on hold until the board's May 27 meeting, Richardson said.

In reviewing the proposed Town Meeting warrant, selectmen held minimal discussion on most of the 36 articles. Regarding Article 25, allowing for the placement of legal medical-marijuana dispensaries within the town's borders under the new state law, Assistant Town Manager Glen Edwards reminded the board the town's temporary moratorium on the dispensaries ends June 1. In conjunction with Article 25, Edwards presented the board with a map designating the "Industrial-1" zoned sections in which marijuana dispensaries could possibly be placed in town.

The board also spent a few extra minutes discussing Town Meeting Article 35, proposing a new bylaw to fine business or homeowners for causing the town's Police Department to respond to repeated false alarms within a 30-day time period.

For the second false alarm, a business owner may be fined $15, according to the bylaw; a third false alarm within a month would bring a fine of $25; the fine amount increases to $35 for the fourth within a month, followed by $50 for the fifth and subsequent false alarm within a month, the article states.

In one of the selectmen's few split votes in their recommendations of warrant articles, Dristiliaris became the only board member to vote against accepting the $2,000 yearly stipend that is paid to each School Committee member and selectman, as listed in Article 4.

Repeating a pledge she made during her election campaign not to accept the stipend, Dristiliaris argued that the stipends represented $20,000 in taxpayer money that could be spent on other more vital school and town budgetary items. The board voted, 4-1, in favor of recommending passage of Article 4, keeping the stipends in place.

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