Selectmen appoint non-developer ZBA members (Updated)

Above: Selectmen picked two outsiders to the real estate industry as the Zoning Board of Appeals’ new full-time member and alternate. (Both candidates are seated center table at interviews captured by Southborough Access Media)

Last night, the Board of Selectmen appointed a new member and alternate to the Zoning Board of Appeals. In selecting from the six candidates, most selectmen prioritized adding diversity to the board by focusing on members outside “the business”.

Selectmen voted unanimously to promote ZBA alternate David Williams, a mechanical engineer, to full member. They subsequently filled his vacancy by appointing Debbie DeMuria who works in pharmaceutical regulatory affairs. DeMuria is also notably the co-proponent of a Citizen’s Petition article to gate Flagg Road. (That article is up for a vote at Special Town Meeting tonight.)

The ZBA has been attacked by residents recently as having a pro-development bias.

[Editor’s Note: In related news, Shea told the public that the petition to remove member (and former chair) Leo Bartolini from the ZBA will be addressed at their November 1st meeting.]

The ZBA’s reputation weighed heavily in the decision process for four of the selectmen. Selectman Paul Cimino said that as long as candidates were well qualified, he believed adding non-developer diversity to the board was important. It was an opinion supported by Chair Brian Shea and members John Rooney and Bonnie Phaneuf.

Accepting selectmen’s decision, Robbins told the board he understood the need for diversity, of a different kind. He believed that the Town boards would benefit from having more women. (Since Lisa Cappello moved in 2014, the ZBA has been an all-male board.)

Kolenda voted to approve Williams and DeMuria. But in discussion, he disagreed with his colleagues. Instead, he argued that candidates’ development experience should be considered assets. 

Kolenda argued that current alternate Jeffrey Walker and Robbins shouldn’t be penalized for their expertise.  (Walker is head of Walker Development and Construction Management and Robbins is a real estate attorney.) Kolenda also disagreed with Phaneuf’s take that candidate Robbins’ father being on the Economic Development Committee could be considered a conflict.

Cimino reiterated diversity was important because of the nature of the board. He said, right or wrong, some would point to a “perceived developer oriented starting point for certain candidates”.

As for the selected candidates, all agreed that Williams was impressive in his interview earlier this summer. And Cimino and Rooney spoke of being especially impressed with Demuria’s thorough, objective, and well articulated writing on Park Central issues. They believed she would apply the same analysis to other projects.

Both members’ terms will expire in June 2017.

Updated (10/2316 6:41 pm): I had miscapitalized Debbie DeMuria’s name based on a mistake in the selectmen’s agenda for the week she was interviewed.

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6 years ago

Gating Flagg Road is not a sensible option at all. Quite the opposite.

6 years ago
Reply to  Publius

Really, why do you say that? What is your solution to the thousands of incremental car trips per day that would flow through the north side of town? I think its great and apparently so did the vast majority of the voting public.

louise barron
6 years ago

Again more conflicts on the ZBA appointments. A real estate attorney, and another member who works in the construction field. There is NO diversity on this board. We’ll need to watch them like hawks.

louise barron
6 years ago

Gating Flagg Rd. may not be a perfect solution, but do you see any of our esteemed leaders trying to help and affect positive and safe changes. I don’t. So they make the decisions, and the residents pay the price, Any action is better than sitting on your hands. It’s a shame, alternative choices were not presented to the residents regarding Main St. project. We were sold a bill of goods. We have to dig down 20″. Says who. See 3 doctors. They’ll give you probably 3 different opinions.

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