ZBA chair defends handling of Park Central Use Variance as “exactly the way to do it”

Last week, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted on conditions for a Park Central Use Variance. During the meeting, Chair Leo Bartolini defended his handling of the conditions outside of the Public Hearing and a charge that he may be usurping power from the Planning Board.

Bartolini said that he watched last week’s Planning Board meeting, where members questioned his process. He justified that the process, including deliberating on conditions after closing the public hearing, was legal and setup by Town Counsel.

Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano jumped in to clarify:

Initially, the chair wanted to decide conditions outside of the public forum. And we preempted that and indicated, and some of the members I knew were concerned about that, that it had to be in the public forum.

Earlier in the meeting, Cipriano stated:

procedurally, initially, the better way would have been to consider the conditions as part of the public hearing. But it was closed and then there was discussion about having these conditions circulated post hearing, which was not the appropriate way.

So that’s why I suggested you come back into this session as a public meeting.”

Cipriano also made clear that handling of the conditions before closing public hearings, to allow multiple proposals and distilling of ideas, is the preferred way. He counseled the board not to close public hearings before making conditions in the future.

One of the Planning Boards’ concerns was Bartolini’s possible usurping of their power by getting involved in some of the Site Plan Review. Bartolini explained that the overlap of the Use Variance project with the 40B project requires it.

The ZBA Chair pointed out that both projects will share a driveway “off of the 40B highways”. The use variance drainage will also be connected to the 40B and make use of that project’s septic.

Bartolini said that after the 40B is approved, the Site Plan Review will proceed to the Planning Board. Bartolini defended that his procedure was “exactly the way to do it”.

Cipriano supported the Chair, explaining that the two projects are a “Planned Unit Development”:

It’s unusual. It’s workable, it’s doable, but it creates a whole interconnection of regulations that have to be fit under local bylaws. And that’s what you’re trying to do and I think you’re doing an admirable job on that.

But earlier in the meeting, the closed public hearing complicated discussions and shut the abutters’ attorney out of condition discussions.

The board did include the agreement between abutters and the developer in the conditions. But they voted not to include abutters’ requested revisions to conditions after quashing their attorney’s attempt to explain them. 

The conditions up for vote were based on a draft by the developer’s attorney. That draft was updated with information by Town Counsel and ZBA conditions inserted by the board’s secretary. It was then circulated to ZBA members and Dan Hill, the attorney representing several abutters.

Hill provided revisions that afternoon. Looking at the new comments, member Jeffrey Walker said to Hill:

I’m quickly reading some of this. . . A lot of it seems like mumbo jumbo legalize stuff that really is, in my opinion, not that significant.  Is there anything specific that is really important?

When Hill began to explain, Cipriano cautioned the board:

We just have to be careful here because you’re in deliberative session. We don’t want what’s coming before you to be considered as new evidence.

The ZBA then shot down one of Hill’s comments and stopped his attempt to explain two “important” issues.

Cipriano told the board that as long as it wasn’t new evidence was allowable. But the board had the right to say no. Member David Eagle responded, “but we’re not asking for clarification.”

The board then unanimously voted to reject Hill’s changes without allowing him to speak. Bartolini claimed that the abutters will get a chance to address issues further along in the process.

The 40B project will come up in front of the ZBA again on July 29th. The developer anticipates having engineered plans for the board sometime in August.

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Souse Bro
8 years ago

I will charge up my screw gun, and on my own time, (with plenty of help I’m sure), remove all the office and meeting room doors in use to hold these closed meetings. We elected these people to represent us but they keep secrets from those most affected and won’t listen to opposing views. Once again, board members, remember where you live, a small town, not a huge city where you can reach a artificial level of power which you certainly do not deserve. Come back down to Earth and enjoin your neighbors…

8 years ago

I just don’t understand why people in town are not more upset or outraged about how this whole development at Park Central is being handled. From the beginning there has been controversy surrounding this. This is a HUGE development of about 330 units when completed. This is one of, if not the largest housing development in Southboro history. This is going to be more than twice as large as Madison place that we can all see on Rt 9. Our town population is going to increase by 5% in one shot. The potential impacts this is going to have on our traffic, schools and infrastructure is unclear at this time and the ZBA seems to have blinders on and pushing to get this approved and pushed through. The quaint town that we have grown to love with all the wild life and green is rapidly going to change…..

8 years ago
Reply to  Matt

I think people are very disappointed. The reality is the town can’t stop it now. They were completely unprepared to deal with it from the beginning, and never caught up to the developers who pounced on the opportunity. An old military saying…. “Unfortunately, if your not prepared… you will most likely lose”.

8 years ago
Reply to  Rob

I think as a community, we are becoming somewhat complacent. I feel that there is still enough time to let the town officials know we are not happy with this. I believe there was an article today that the school enrollments for K-8 has gone up already. Is this related to Madison place or part of natural cycle? I don’t know but think we should be able to have time to figure it out and plan for it as opposed to having another 300+ units added to our town and be scrambling further in the near future…

8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Thanks for clarifying. So it sounds like the classes are not as big as they were several years ago, but there is some growth if I understand you correctly. The point I am trying to make is that we don’t know what is causing this slow growth in the class sizes. It could be just natural cycle of families having kids or it could be kids moving into Madison place. As a town, we need some time to figure these out and plan for accordingly. If and when Park Central goes up, that will be another 330 housing units which will have a variety of 2 and 3 bedroom units. Generally these are more appealing to families who have kids or planning on having kids. We need to be able to plan for this.

ruth beck
8 years ago

Just saying, we are never notified as abutters, about anything the New England Childrens center does in our neighborhood. We understand the need for the center to be here, we just feel left out. It is the construction work when the road is limited causing big backups. I commend the school for it mission.
Sometimes we can’t get out of our driveway safely,especially when cars are parked in front of a home directly across from our driveway owned by the school.

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