Planning Board seeking to hire counsel over ZBA’s Park Central Use Variance decision

At last night’s Planning Board meeting, members made it clear that they are still disputing actions by the Zoning Board of Appeals related to the Park Central Development.

Member Phil Jenks told the board he believes that ZBA was “vastly over-reaching” its authority. At issue are conditions laid out for the Use Variance permit for the townhouse development on the site.

The conditions give the ZBA Site Plan Approval authority with additional specified residual Site Plan Approval for the Planning Board. It’s a decision which the ZBA has defended as supported by Town Counsel. Which is why, the Planning Board is seeking their own counsel.

Planning Board members believe that in Southborough, only their board has the authority for the townhouse site plan review.

Jenks explained to the public that Town Counsel has been charged by the Board of Selectmen to work closely with the ZBA on the Park Central Developments. He therefore believed that it was a problem to question that board’s advising counsel on their actions. 

Last night was the last meeting with Jennifer Burney as Town Planner. The gap she leaves had one silver lining for the board. They believe they can use funds freed up in their salary budget to hire independent counsel.

According to Burney, Town Administrator Mark Purple said the Town’s funds for hiring counsel have been drained by other departments. But, with approval by the Board of Selectmen, they could use their own budget funds.

Chair Don Morris said he expects an at least 6-week gap between planners. They also saved on 6 weeks of salary for their administrative assistant who was recently on sick leave.

Jenks and Morris made it clear that their gripe isn’t with the project, but the process. Jenks said he isn’t trying to push an agenda regarding approval or rejection of the townhouse project. The elected board’s responsibility and obligations were voted on by 2/3 of Town Meeting. He didn’t believe a 5 member appointed board had the right to curtail them.

The ZBA’s full authority on the 40B condo project was recognized. Jenks said they understood their role on that approval is purely advisory.

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Donna McDaniel
8 years ago

I don’t think “townhouse project” is an accurate description… townhouse doesn’t refer to apartments in a building of many apartments… just to keep it straight. Without looking at some official script, I think townhouse suggests a unit that has its own access to the outdoors, as opposed to an apt building with units entered via a hallway with many entrances.
The affordable housing is in one multi-apt bldg;; the market-rate condos are mostly in a large bldg and maybe some as single or duplexes along the road. Those could be called townhouses.
May not seem important but the term does suggest a certain design and that can make
a big difference in a neighbhorhood.

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