Virtual Town Meeting Adopts Stretch Code

Town Moderator Alan Foulds, Town Manager Robert LeLacheur, and Assistant Town Moderator Stephen Crook

Subsequent Town Meeting – Night One

Reading, MA — By a roll-call vote of 112-37, with five abstentions, Town Meeting approved a bylaw amendment adopting the “stretch code’ for all new residential construction. The stretch code also will cover all new commercial building greater than 100,000 square feet. Also included in the new code is “conditioned” spaces such as laboratories and supermarkets over 40,000 square feet. Over 285 communities in the commonwealth have adopted the code before Reading.

Community Development Director Julie Mercier explained that the stretch code is a series of adjustments to the basic building code that provides greater energy efficiency standards in insulation, building construction, and other measures. “Local building inspectors are comfortable with the stretch code.” Mercier declared. The code does not currently apply to additions, renovations, and property repairs.

Efficiency expert Will D’Arrigo shared that additional costs to the builder of a typical single-family home adhering to the stretch code would be approximately $2,260. “A fraction of the total budget for building a home,” D’Arrigo argued.

Concern was expressed by Town Meeting member Mark Ventura and others regarding the possibility that modifications and other additions could be made to the code without Town Meeting approval. Specifically, Ventura expressed concern that houses under renovation might, in the future, need to adhere to the stricter standards. 

In light of this concern, Member John Sasso offered an amendment to the main motion, removing the term “modification” from the first line, thinking that this would give more local control over future changes to the code. Town Counsel disagreed, “You cannot adopt just part of the code.” She opined. The amendment failed by a vote of 32-120.

The final vote for the article was taken by roll call at the request of over twenty Town Meeting members. Due to the constraints of meeting virtually, the roll call took almost fifty minutes to complete.

Adopting the stretch code is one of the five steps needed for Reading to obtain a “Green Communities” designation. Designation as a “Green Community” would provide Reading with grant monies to improve municipal buildings’ energy efficiency.

Town Meeting Approved Article 3, updates to the capital plan, by a vote of 169-3. It approved Article 4, adding $837,303 to the Fiscal Year 2021 general fund budgets, by a vote of 169-2. The additional funds, which were removed from the budget at the Spring Town Meeting, result from greater than anticipated state aid. By a vote of 161-5 Town Meeting approved Article 5, the Housing Trust Allocation Plan. 

Town Meeting also approved $1.1 million in debt authorization for water main improvements on Gazebo Circle in Article 7 by a vote of 162-6. It approved Article 8, which allows $1.5 million in debt authorization for lead mitigation in the water system. A vote approved Article 9 of 166-5. This article allows $4.3 million of debt authorization for downtown water improvements. With this amount, $1 million of debt authorization was approved by a vote of 161-3 for downtown sewer replacement under Article 10. A vote approved $ 1 million in debt authorization of 167-2 for downtown stormwater improvements under Article 11.

The November 9 Subsquient Town Meeting adjourned at 11:53 pm and will resume on Thursday at 7:30 pm.

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