Friday, November 13, 2009
BOS split vote, choose Gonzales, Galligan for ZBA
Questions of who is an abutter and what constitutes a conflict of interest has been addressed by Town Counsel and played into the Board of Selectmen (BOS) appointments to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) at its November 10 meeting. By a three to two vote, Kent Gonzales (also a Planning Board member) was appointed to the three-year slot as full member of the ZBA. Also by a three to two vote, Marty Galligan (a resident of South Street) was appointed as an associate ZBA member. The ZBA is seeking two additional members prior to opening its comprehensive permit hearing for the proposed affordable senior housing project on the town-owned Benfield Land off South Street.
As reported in the November 6 issue of the Mosquito, “Carpenito, Galligan recommended to join Zoning Board of Appeals,” the ZBA’s opinion was that Carpenito’s property did not abut the project area and he could be appointed. Gonzales was considered by the ZBA but his position on the Planning Board was perceived to be a conflict of interest.
On both counts Town Counsel clarified the issues but simultaneously muddled the Selectmen’s deliberations on the appointments. Carpenito abuts the planned septic system portion of the Benfield Land and therefore is an abutter to the project. If appointed to the ZBA he would have to recuse himself on this 40B application. The Planning Board functions only in an advisory capacity on 40B projects before the ZBA and thus Gonzales would not be placed in a conflicted position.
Given the complications associated with the appointments, BOS Chair Tim Hult suggested deferring decisions until a new slate of candidates could be developed. ZBA Chair Ed Rolfe objected – with a hearing already scheduled he wanted a full compliment of three members. He said that ZBA decisions merely require a majority vote and starting with only two voting members could put serious constraints at arriving at a decision.
Selectman John Williams had reservations about appointing Marty Galligan as either a full member or an associate: “The ZBA is a quasi-judicial body. It is incumbent on us to appoint someone who is not on record of having a bias to the project….He made a request to cut the project in half. A vote to cut it in half would kill it.” Williams did recommend Gonzales as the full member. Galligan responded that his suggestion had been made to the Housing Authority early on and that now – “The project is what it is.” Williams was not swayed in his position.
Selectman Doug Stevenson said, “I don’t think we have ever appointed someone not recommended by the ZBA.”
The public got involved in the discussion. Susan Stamps spoke in support of Gonzales and also suggested, “The Selectmen should undertake some outreach to recruit women to these appointments.”
Alan Lehotsky, Housing Authority Chair said, “I’m not by nature a paranoid person but we’ve had salamanders, Indians, hearing announcements that are at fault. I am very concerned with any appointment that will slow matters down.”
Near the end of the discussion Lynn Carpenito asked to speak: “Alan has not been opposed (to the project) – he has been opposed to how the abutters and residents of South Street have been listened to.”
Public notice of Benfield Farms Hearing flawed
ZBA Chair Ed Rolfe announced that the Public Hearing for the Benfield Farms 40B application will be held as scheduled on November 23. However, the opinion rendered by Town Counsel indicated that the designation of the property in the public announcement was incomplete and the list of abutters formally notified of the hearing must be expanded. If the deficiencies can be rectified in time the ZBA will open the hearing for the 40B comprehensive permit application for the Benfield property on November 23 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. If deficiencies cannot be rectified in time, the hearing will be opened but will be continued to a later date without taking testimony. ∆
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