Selectmen consider more changes to zoning board

When the Board of Selectman last June voted not to reappoint Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Sam Stivers to another five year term amid complaints about how the board treated applicants, they put the rest of the board on notice, saying future reappointments would face similar scrutiny. Last night they held true to that promise in considering the reappointment of member Regina McAuliffe.

“I have had concern about the Zoning Board of Appeals dating back at least a year,” Chairman John Rooney said. “This is the process we’re going to go through whenever someone from the ZBA is up for reappointment.”

Rooney said when the board heard complaints from developers and residents last year, one of the complaints was directed at McAuliffe. Rooney also made reference to an “ancillary incident” that took place sometime outside of a board meeting. While he did not provide any detail out of respect for McAuliffe’s privacy, Rooney expressed concern that McAuliffe’s behavior during the incident might “bleed over” into ZBA meetings.

McAuliffe said she has contributed constructively to the ZBA throughout her term and hoped to be reappointed. She took exception to the fact that no other board reappointments were similarly scrutinized and accused the selectmen of “holding a grudge.”

“It’s not a grudge. We heard serious allegations about conduct that happened at those ZBA meetings…One of those allegations was against you,” Rooney said. “In fairness to you, I thought you should have the opportunity to address the issues and tell us why you should be appointed to the next five years.”

Several residents spoke in support of McAuliffe, including Stivers, current ZBA member Ed Estella, and former selectman Roger Challen. They praised her dedication, degree of preparation, and sound decision-making.

Selectman Bill Boland was not swayed by McAuliffe or her supporters, and said he would not vote to reappoint her.

“I’ve heard comments that led me to believe it might be best to make a change on the committee. I’m not going to get into specifics, but they cause me enough concern that I think it might be in the best interest of the town,” Boland said. “I’m not comfortable reappointing Ms. Mcauliffe to the ZBA.”

Challen said Boland was not keeping an open mind. “You made up your mind before you came here tonight,” Challen said. “To make a decision before you even hear her seems very shortsighted. That concerns me.”

Rooney and Selectman Dan Kolenda said they were not prepared last night to make a decision on McAuliffe’s reappointment, and wanted to evaluate her relative to any other residents who might seek a spot on the board. Town Administrator Jean Kitchen said at last night’s meeting ZBA alternate member David Eagle has expressed interest in a permanent seat.

The board decided to defer its vote to its next meeting on June 5.

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Roger Challen
11 years ago

I rarely post comments to Susan’s blog, but I rarely get quoted in her editorials; so those of you that might presume there is a causal effect at work here would be correct. Ms. Fitzgerald was right when she identified that I stated during last evening’s BOS meeting that I was disappointed that Selectman Boland had made his decision, BEFORE he even came to the meeting last night to discuss the issue, to vote against the re-appointment of Ms. McAuliffe to the ZBA.
I would like to add some context to my comment – suggesting that timing is everything. Mr. Boland had emphatically announced his position on the matter from the head table BEFORE he heard either Ms. McAuliffe communicate to the BOS why she wished to be re-appointed to the ZBA, and before four residents spoke in support of Ms. McAuliffe’s reappointment. I noted that no residents spoke against her reappointment for any reason. I should add that three of the four residents had worked with Ms. McAuliffe on the ZBA (two past members and one current member), and spoke to her dedication, preparation, and judgment. The fourth resident to speak in favor was me. Although I have never served on the ZBA, I attended approximately thirty ZBA meetings over a three year period and as a result I had many, many hours to evaluate all of the ZBA members during that time.
My comment regarding Selectman Boland was in fact a mere confirmation of what he himself had ALREADY announced to the other two BOS members, the audience, and the TV cameras.
I should add that when asked what his reasons were for having already made up his mind to not re-appoint MS. McAuliffe, Selectman Boland identified that his reasons “were personal” and were not the result of any written complaint regarding Ms. McAuliffe’s behavior or performance. BOS Chairman John Rooney confirmed that there had been no written complaints at all regarding Ms. McAuliffe.
So I admit to leaving the meeting disappointed that the time (along with the time of Ms. McAuliffe and the other residents) that I took to attend and participate in the process of providing input into a BOS reappointment decision, was wasted and irrelevant (at least in Mr. Boland’s mind).
I am more concerned here with a bigger issue, about what seems to me to be a potential failure in the process, than simply with how the reappointment request of a single dedicated Town volunteer appears to be being treated by one Selectman. And the process discussion would take up a lot more time and space, even to review those portions that were touched on at the meeting last night.
I recognize the challenges involved here, since I dealt with them a few years ago from the same side of the table currently occupied by the members of the BOS, and I admit, the (re)appointment process is not likely viewed, and should not be viewed, as among the Town’s highest priorities. But nonetheless, certain Boards appointed by the BOS (the ZBA being one such Board) can have a tremendous effect on the quality of life of Southborough residents, so perhaps all of us would be well advised to pay more attention to this process.

John S
11 years ago

What kind of justification does the BOS need to provide or NOT provide for such actions?

The ZBA is very very important to the quality of life as noted by Mr Challen and “rezoning” large acreage in the town without legally rezoning it through a Town meeting.
9 acres of land on Willow St was recently rezoned from Residential to Industrial by the ZBA and not much can be done about it, rather than take the town to court and waste double the time and money (yours and the again yours through the town money !).
What is the point of such wasteful legal spending when common sense and existing laws can resolve such issues.

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