A Positive Step

Thursday, January 20, 2011
By Transcript Staff

Council moves forward on rezoning issue

It was by the closest margin possible, but the Town Council voted to take control of the rezoning issue for the former site of the Governor Winthrop Nursing Home from the Planning Board and to hold a public hearing on the matter. The Council had sought unsuccessfully to receive an opinion on the matter from the Planning Board, but the board declined to take a vote on the matter or forward an opinion to the Council.

With only one member of the Planning Board attending Tuesday’s Council meeting, the nine councillors moved forward and discussed the issue Tuesday night. The councillors certainly had done their homework. For example, Councillor-at-Large Larry Powers arrived with a prepared statement and articulated well his feelings on the issue. Mr. Powers felt the reason there is a Planning Board and other town boards is to use their members’ expertise so the Council can make an informed decision with all the resources they need.

But in the end, the Council liked Councilor-at-Large Philip Boncore’s idea the best (albeit by a 5-4 margin) to hold its own public hearing on the matter and make the important decision that has to be made. Boncore reasoned that the rezoning decision has to be made ultimately by the nine councillors, so why not bring the matter before the Council as expeditiously as possible and make that decision. Neighbors of the site on Pleasant Street, the Planning Board, attorneys for both sides, and anyone else who has an opinion on the matter will be allowed to state their case in front of the Council.

It also has come to light that one of the main reasons for the Planning Board’s hesitancy to deliver an opinion on the rezoning issue was that it wanted the services of the town’s legal counsel, Kopelman and Paige, to assist them in defining certain key terms in the matter. The matter has been in the public domain for months, yet no legal counsel was offered to the Planning Board. Perhaps someone should have called Chairman Richard Dimes and asked him if his board needed the services of town counsel, or maybe Mr. Dimes should have requested that an attorney from Kopelman and Paige be present for the public hearings. So was the whole controversy just a simple matter of a lack of communications between the Council and the Planning Board? While one of the town’s attorneys said she wouldn’t be available for the council’s March 1 public hearing, she did indicate that an attorney would be present at the meeting if the Council requests one.

The other instance where there was a lack of communication was stunning when the only member of the Planning Board who did show up at Tuesday Council’s meeting said he had not, in fact, received an invitation to the meeting. But the bottom line  now is that the ball, if not the entire game, is in the Council’s court,  thanks to the wisdom of long-time town official Philip Boncore,  and a decision will be coming soon for the developers and neighbors and other residents who all want to see this rezoning issue finally resolved.

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