The Planning Board was compelled to schedule a meeting on Special Town Meeting Warrant Articles for Monday night. But it seems that this is a “discussion” to deal with a board requirement before Town Meeting. The hearings that were continued from this past Monday will still take place on Tuesday, May 22nd, prior to Town Meeting.
This past Tuesday night, Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano informed officials that Article 3 can only proceed at STM if the Planning Board votes to support it and provides a report to Town Meeting voters explaining why.
It is the one STM Article that isn’t via Citizen’s Petition. (It is the Article to amend the appeal process for Site Plan Review.) Because the Article is to amend zoning bylaws, it is sponsored by the Planning Board as part of their charge. The board’s required support and report is based on the Article’s defeat in April at Annual Town Meeting (as Article 32).
On Monday night, Planning members made it clear that they still supported the Article. But they opted to continue the hearing to next week. My impression was that (like with the other two Zoning Articles) they preferred to wait to hold their votes to give Town’s counsel, Board of Selectmen, and Zoning Board of Appeals a chance to have their say at meetings this week.
Planning member Meme Lutrell attended the Board of Selectmen’s Pre-Town Meeting run-through on Tuesday. She and Selectwoman Lisa Braccio plan to give a brief presentation at Town Meeting in support of the Article. News that a report was needed caught her unaware. She promised to notify Planning Chair Don Morris.
The board has since posted an agenda for this coming Monday night, May 21st at 7:00 pm. “Discussion of Special Town Meeting Zoning Change Articles & Reports” is the sole agenda item. Another agenda for Tuesday night lists the continued hearings.
At the initial hearings, Article 1 organizer Marnie Hooolihan was frustrated by the inability to see and respond to the legal opinion from Town’s special counsel.* On Tuesday, the board released the opinion to Article organizers. Stay tuned to see if the opinion prompts amendments to Articles 1 & 2. It could even prompt the organizer of Article 2 to withdraw it on the floor.
Chris Perkins told selectmen that his intention for Article 2 (requiring Town Meeting to ratify changes to ZBA rules) was to make sure that if voters pass a 4 person quorum for the ZBA (under Article 1), that the board couldn’t “unwind” that by writing new rules.
Perkins sain he had no desire to put ZBA “minutia” in front of Town Meeting. If he is assured that it would require Town Meeting to change the quorum rules in the future, he might withdraw his Article. On the other hand, he pointed out that rules were previously only updated by the board in 2007, 2011, and 2017. He insinuated that bringing rule changes like those to Town Meeting that infrequently may not be as big of a deal as opponents were indicating.
*On Tuesday, Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano explained that his role as Town Counsel on several lawsuits related to Park Central conflicted him out from giving opinions on Articles 1 & 2. That is why the Town was using special counsel.