Next Tuesday night’s Special Town Meeting isn’t just about Main Street. One of the Articles on the Warrant asks residents to remove Use Variance language from the Town’s zoning code.
Proponents of the article are passionate about what they see as too much power vested in the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Town zoning laws are determined by a 2/3 vote of Town Meeting voters. But Southborough is among the minority of towns in the state that still allow the ZBA to grant a variance, overriding voter-approved use restrictions.
Three members of the ZBA can decide that a Use Variance is in the community’s best interest. (That includes allowing a commercial/industrial project in a residential neighborhood, large scale development in a commercial zone, etc.)
Responding to a presentation to the Board of Selectmen last month, opponents to the article pointed to times that Use Variance was used well and in the Town’s best interest. (Examples centered around allowing septic for commercial properties on abutting residential land, thereby keeping developments off that land.)
But Article 6 proponents argue against trusting that much power in the hands of three appointed residents. And Selectman Paul Cimino suggested there may be other ways to amend the zoning law in the future to allow zoning fixes for the types of “good”examples given, like allowing an overlay district.
The ZBA drew a lot of ire from Flagg Road area residents in the past year over their Use Variance approval for 139 townhouses to be built at Park Central next to the 180 condo 40B project. The approval was despite widespread concern about adding so much volume to the narrow, tree lined road. Article 6 proponent Freddie Gillespie argued that it was bad call, which is one too many.
Now proponents are asking me to share their flyer asking residents to vote yes for Article 6 next week.
Both selectmen and the Advisory Commitee opted to hold off until Town Meeting to vote whether to support or oppose the Article.
I’ll be honest – I haven’t found the time to watch the Planning Board’s public hearings on the Article – and I’m not sure I will. If I do and learn anything new worth sharing, I’ll post later this week. In the meantime, you can check those out through Southborough Access Media. The hearing was opened on September 19th and continued to September 26th.
Town Meeting is being held on Tuesday, October 18 at 7:00 pm in Trottier Middle School’s auditorium.
Babysitting is being provided this year through Southborough Recreation for just $5. (But pre-registration is strongly requested.)