I’m supposed to be on vacation. But, Park Central pulled me back in!
On Monday, the Zoning Board of Appeals posted an addition to today’s agenda on the project “and to vote upon.” Interestingly, the meeting is scheduled for 4:30 pm on a summer afternoon.
This follows a recent announcement giving residents and boards to noon yesterday to provide any conditions they want considered. Meanwhile, the Planning Board and Conservation Commission have yet to complete their reviews and submit feedback to the ZBA.
The announcement has alarmed many. Residents are questioning the board’s choice to “hit the accelerator” during a month when many residents are away. Two neighbors publicly raised the possibility that the ZBA is motivated by the project chair is moving out of Town.
[Editor’s Note: That is an accusation that has not been confirmed. But neighbors are sure to be asking it this afternoon.]
The project is what many residents have been calling the biggest project we’ve ever seen in Southborough (aside from building the Sudbury Reservoir in the 1800s). Neighbors are estimating it represents expanding Town residences by 10%. It will add 180 condo units and 139 townhouses off of Flagg Road.
I haven’t had time to finish watching the last 3 hours of last week’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. The project keeps developing faster than I can keep up with. Which is why I wasn’t prepared to post a story last week or this one. But given issues raised last night – I can’t hold off on posting any longer.
At last night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, the Town heard a water report, discussed Flagg Road safety issues, and heard from Town Counsel and residents. Today, I’m just focusing on the issue of timing.
Neighbor John Green told selectmen shared his theory for the ZBA’s rush. Green said that current project chair David Eagle’s house is listed as sold with a closing date of August 21st which may have been delayed. And he claimed knowledge that indicates Eagle is moving out of town. Supporting the theory, Majid Yazdani showed selectmen photos of a moving truck outside of Eagle’s home.
Green said it was inappropriate for Eagle to have taken over as Chair this summer, knowing he was relocating. Selectmen told Green and Yazdani it was unfair to accuse Eagle in his absence. They told the residents the question should be directed to the ZBA today.
If Eagle does move out of Town before a vote, it would have a major impact on how the board handles the case.
Eagle is one of the three ZBA members ruling on the project. Former Chair Leo Bartolini recently stepped down as Chair (though staying as a member) over a petition by neighbors complaining about his handling of the project.
The ZBA has two other members plus two alternates. But, the board has maintained the position that only those who have been following the project over the past couple years should be voting on it. Which is why as other members have resigned or been conflicted out, they haven’t been replaced on the case.
BOS Chair Brian Shea told the public that he sent a letter to the ZBA asking them to give the Planning Board and Conservation Commission more time.*
Earlier in the meeting, Selectwoman Bonnie Phaneuf moved to prohibit a left turn from Park Central to Flagg Road – subject to safety review. She was outvoted. Other selectmen indicated the decision was too soon, but one they will consider. Selectman Paul Cimino even stated they may decide to gate it as one way or make a dead end.
Town Counsel advised that even after the ZBA rules, selectmen retain the right to regulate safe egress on Flagg Road. But he indicated it was likely he would have to defend that in court. Some commenters worried that the board was making a mistake holding off on the decision.
*Brian Shea is the new Chair of the BOS, as of last night. The reorganization was prompted by former Chair John Rooney. He explained that new work obligations will take up too much of his time to continue as chair. The new Vice Chair is Bonnie Phaneuf.
Updated (9/8/16 9:32 am): I had accidentally written that Ms. Phaneuf tried to force a left turn only from Park Central.