Town Counsel rebukes ZBA and other boards to end divisiveness; fighting continues

by beth on March 29, 2016

Yesterday, I posted about 3 members of the ZBA’s defense against accusations of over-reach on Park Central. But the conversation didn’t end there. Debate over the ZBA’s granted waivers, and waivers they continued to grant, got heated.

It began with Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano’s questioning of Chair Leo Bartolini. Cipriano asked why Bartolini had asked him to stay for the item only to not ask him to comment on the matter.

Bartolini said that Cipriano had been asked to attend the Park Central meetings by Town Administrator Mark Purple. Then he admitted:

I did make the statement to you and Mr. Purple that I would ask the board to reconsider those two motions, which they, you hear how we did it.

But here’s how he “did it”.

After having Conservation Commission’s letter requesting the vote to be rescinded, he asked the developer Bill Depietri to respond with his explanation (claiming that the commission had had plenty of opportunity to comment and waivers were needed to proceed.). Next, Bartolini defended the ZBA’s actions as legal. Then, without providing insight on why they may have over-reached, he solicited fellow members’ opinions.

Finally, without soliciting any other comments, he called for the vote by asking: “So, are the members agreeable that the motion we made will stay in place the way it is?”

Cipriano admonished that the ZBA (while within its legal rights) wasn’t following proper procedure for the good of the Town. He advised that the ZBA should have requested official comments from Conservation and Planning before granting waivers. He told the board it was doing a disservice to everyone.

It wasn’t just the ZBA’s actions he was concerned with. He counseled Town boards need to reign in the “divisiveness” he’s seen growing between them. 

The board specified to the Depietri that he would have to thoroughly review wetland buffer zone issues with the Conservation Commission. But that was only after counsel weighed in. Prior to that, Bartolini intended to go straight on to other requested waivers.

After hearing from Counsel Eagle also said their initial vote may have been a stumble. And after hearing worries by the Conservation Chair, he stressed that they would take the commission’s comments very seriously. He warned Depietri that they would consider rescinding waivers if he didn’t cooperate with Conservation.

Town Counsel allowed that if the Conservation Chair agreed, the “backwards” process was acceptable. But he advised to follow set procedure in the future. Bartolini promised he would never do it that way again. Then, shortly after, the board used that backward procedure as precedent for more waivers related to the Planning Board.

Planning Board Chair Don Morris, Bartolini, and Eagle argued over a waiver related to the project’s shared driveway. Morris claimed that it was outside of ZBA’s jurisdiction on the 40A. Bartolini argued that it wasn’t. And Eagle argued that the Planning Board had had the 70% plan for ages. He questioned why, if they were so concerned, they hadn’t submitted comments. Morris defended that the board has continually commented it was outside of the ZBA’s jurisdiction. He was overruled.

It was a choice the Planning Board was not happy with in discussions at their meeting last night.

Morris explained to fellow Planning Board members that the sum of waivers granted is a long stretch of road way that won’t meet Town codes. The waivers are granted because it is a private road.

But the Chair worried about what would happen if a substandard road deteriorates. In his past experience residents sometimes seek and get approval of Town Meeting voters to accept it as a Town road. Maintenance then becomes a Town responsibility and problem for decades.

Projecting the project to house 10% of the Town’s population, he surmised they would have no problem stacking in enough voters to approve making it a public road.

Planning Board discussions (this week and previously) provide more context on why both Planning and Conservation hadn’t already submitted comments. Both boards use consulting engineers. The engineers don’t advise what boards should decide. But the information they provide advises the decisions.

Not having yet been asked by the ZBA to comment on the waivers, Conservation hadn’t gone through the process yet. They had purportedly heard from engineers that they were still waiting for the final plans.

Last night, the Planning Board discussed whether or not it would be able to hire the engineers to look at their issues since waivers had been granted. Morris believed it wouldn’t be a problem

1 Rob March 29, 2016 at 1:04 PM

What an embarrassment.

2 Jonathan March 29, 2016 at 6:56 PM

How a project of this size is allowed to be decided by Bartolini only is an embarrassment. The BOS should be ashamed at this.

3 beth March 30, 2016 at 7:55 AM

I don’t know where the impression that it is only decided by Bartolini comes from. He is the Chair. But there are two other voting members on the project.

4 Dan March 29, 2016 at 8:24 PM

Such sleazy, self serving politics by a board chair and his development partner depetri. Keep these guys at bay for the good of the town

5 Susan Rosenthal March 30, 2016 at 8:48 AM

:::::speechless:::::

6 mike fuce March 30, 2016 at 9:08 AM

Put your name to a post. your choice of words are terrible. Mr. Depietri is within the law to build on his land. you would too if you owned it, be honest.

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