SWL: Petitioners seek to oust ZBA Chair; Park Central at heart of complaints

by beth on July 25, 2016

Southborough Wicked Local reports that a petition has been submitted to the Town requesting removal of Leo Bartolini as Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The document focuses on Bartolini’s handling of the Park Central development. But it uses documents from 2010 and 2007 to show a rocky history for the Chair.

The article and attached documents don’t reveal how many signatures were on the petition or who it was organized by. They do show that the memo was submitted on July 21st.

Bartolini has been on the Zoning Board since 2007. Board of Selectmen Minutes attached to the petition show that selectmen were originally wary of appointing him. They cited his temperament and “history of contentious behavior before the ZBA.” They agreed to give him a chance in the 1 year term alternate seat.

Within the next three years, he moved into a full member role. Petition attachments from 2010 showed two residents filed complaints about member Bartolini’s behavior at another 40B project hearing for Stonebrook Village. Chief among the charges were a claim that Bartolini was clearly advocating for the developer, including answering questions on his behalf to help make his case.

Those complaints also accused Bartolini of undermining a fellow board member’s questioning of the developer, rolling eyes and laughing. At that time Bartolini responded to one complaint with a letter that defended most of his behavior as justified but apologized for an “inappropriate” reference to a resident’s property condition. 

SWL reports that Bartolini is aware of the petition but has no comment. And Chair John Rooney had yet to return the reporter’s call. For Southborough Wicked Local’s article, click here.

I looked back at past My Southborough coverage for more context on Bartolini’s history and the 2010 complaints.

The developer that Bartolini was accused of advocating for was Park Central developer William DePietri. Depietri received permits for that project less than a month after publicly accusing then-Chair Sam Stivers of trying to block the Stonebrook project. He wasn’t the only one making complaints about Stivers.

In 2011, selectmen voted not to reappoint Stivers after several residents and developers spoke against him as being anti-developer. At that time, some residents and members spoke on his behalf. Bartolini was purportedly one of two members who corroborated complaints against the chair. Selectmen said they valued Stivers service but were troubled by the perceptions, and the amount of time they were spending that year trying to resolve complaints.

In 2013, selectmen re-appointed Bartolini to a 5 year term which doesn’t expire until 2018. In minutes from that meeting, the board said they hadn’t received complaints about the ZBA that year. When the ZBA Chair resigned that summer, Bartolini sought the head seat unopposed. He has been unopposed as chair each year since.

While the petition singles out Bartolini’s behavior on the Park Central project, he has had support from fellow board members throughout the process. Residents have accused the board of pushing through the biggest development project the Town has ever seen despite traffic safety concerns. The board has defended that the project has been dragging on for years. (Depietri presented to Selectmen in January of 2013. ZBA hearings opened in March 2014.)

This summer, selectmen expressed concern about the length of ZBA appointments. Members resolved to seek legal opinion on shortening terms. And within the past year, selectmen in discussion were uncertain about their power to remove an appointee before the end of his/her term.

As of late last week, the Board of Selectmen’s next evening meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 2nd. There is no agenda posted yet.

1 Ben July 25, 2016 at 2:06 PM

What took so long for people to see who this person is really working for?

2 Townie July 25, 2016 at 5:07 PM

In 2011, Stivers was ousted for being anti-developer.
Now 2016, residents want Bartolini to be removed because he’s pro-developer.

SMH….

3 mike fuce July 26, 2016 at 9:21 AM

Just because a few people do not like a person does not mean they get ousted. Leo has done much good work, he has the best interests of Southborough at hand, he and his family have lived here forever, his family builds fantastic homes, his family runs the only long term driving range in the area still in business and a very nice set up, yes he is a builder and land owner but that is why there is a board, he is not a king, others do dissent, but at the end of the day all is done right it seems to me — stop crying. You moved here, you built your castles, you knew where industry was and where the possibilities of homes going up or complexes, leave if you dont like it – folks do make that decision. Stop causing people who have worked hard there entire life and own property fairly, all the heartache and adage, you are wrong for doing that especially where builders do make so many consesions today. Not to digress but maybe we will get some kids willing to play football in Southborough again! Thank you.

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