MWDN: Planning Board drops revised Open Space portion of zoning bylaw overhaul

by beth on June 18, 2013

Metrowest Daily News reports that at last night’s Planning Board meeting, the board voted to drop the OSRD portion of the zoning bylaw revisions. The new bylaws are scheduled to be voted on in a Special Town Meeting in October. The board believed this controversial section would cause the effort to fail.

In a 3-1 vote, the board voted to remove Open Space Residential Development, or OSRD, from the language it intends to bring before special Town Meeting in October.

“For good or ill, change is slow in Southborough,” member Paul Cimino in making the motion. He said he didn’t want opposition to OSRD to kill the entire effort, which would replace the town’s zoning bylaws in their entirety.

Instead, the Planning Board agreed to reinsert a current bylaw – called Major Residential Development – that OSRD was intended to replace. It said it would make legal fixes to the bylaw that would be needed to make it conform with recent court rulings.

The goal of the proposed OSRD bylaw was to encourage developers to preserve more contiguous open space by letting them cluster housing closer together on one side of a project. The Open Space Preservation Commission believes the concept is good, but has consistently argued that the proposed language gave too much leeway to developers.

To date, the OSRD section of the bylaws has been the most controversial. The ability of this section to doom the whole project to failure was discussed at the prior Planning Board meeting on June 3rd.  Board Chair Donald Morris shared his concern that revising the section would cause it to fail, bringing the rest of the zoning laws down with it.

Meme Lutrell of the Open Space Preservation Commission countered that it was more likely to fail without the revisions necessary to garner their support. In that meeting, many changes were adopted in a 3-2 vote. But much more was left to discuss at a future meeting.

The zoning bylaw project has been in the works for a long time. It was previously slated for an April 2012 Town Meeting, then put on hold for more work. MWDN reported:

The Planning Board has said it has spent more than $100,000 in consulting fees in the past five years toward the overhaul.

Member Andrew Mills, the sole vote against shelving OSRD, personally apologized to residents, saying he thinks the board should have addressed suggestions made by the OSPC before voting.

The OSRD is just one section of the bylaw proposal than needs to be ready for an October vote. At the end of the June 3rd meeting, Board member Dana Cunningham resigned. That position still needs to be filled.

To read MWDN’s full coverage of last night’s meeting, click here.

Related Stories on the history of this project:
6/7/13 – Planning Board member resigning this month
2/19/13 MWDN: Ex-ZBA Chief in Southborough Critical of proposed zoning changes
2/13/13 MWDN: New open space bylaw in Southborough in jeopardy
3/28/13 MWDN: Sides begin compromise on controversial Southborough zoning measure
6/25/12 Planning Board continues public hearing on zoning changes tonight
2/24/12 MWDN: Southborough’s revised zoning bylaws not ready

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