Too late for FOLQ articles

Oct 14, 2020 by

Published October 14, 2020

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — It appears that two zoning articles submitted for the November 7 Regular Town Meeting targeted at prohibiting residential development at 200 Quannapowitt Parkway will not go forward.

While the articles were turned in by the Friends of Lake Quannapowitt (FOLQ) before the closing date for the Town Meeting warrant, zoning articles entail additional processes with time requirements that cannot be met at this late date.

According to the Planning Board, the articles were not turned in in time for the Planning Board to post and hold the required public hearing before Town Meeting.

In a statement submitted to the Daily Item and published on Monday, Oct. 12, FOLQ outlined its opposition to Cabot Cabot & Forbes yet-to-be-filed plans to create a large residential apartment complex at 200 Quannapowitt Parkway.

“Friends of Lake Quannapowitt (FOLQ) remain opposed to a 485-unit housing development being planned for construction on the site of 200 Quannapowitt Parkway (formerly American Mutual/Comverse). Cabot Cabot & Forbes, a large Boston development corporation, is expected to file for a zoning Special Permit to build “Multi-Residence Housing” on the shores of Lake Quannapowitt,” the statement said.

“FOLQ fundamentally views the introduction of urban-density housing on the shores of our lake as being inherently detrimental to the lake-environment and the public enjoyment of our parklands,” the statement continued, “We have taken steps to file articles for town wide consideration at the November town meeting; articles that, if enacted, would either prohibit or limit residential development at 200 Quannapowitt Parkway and other similar lake areas.”

At last night’s Planning Board meeting, chairman William Spaulding told the board that he had received an email from Town Council clerk Sherri Dalton informing him that the Town Council would, at their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 15, refer the two FOLQ-sponsored zoning articles to the Planning Board for the required pre-Town Meeting public hearing.

As Spaulding was acknowledging the tight timeline for holding a public hearing before Nov. 7, Planning Board member Matt Lowry noted that in fact there simply was not enough time for the required legal process to play out before Town Meeting.

Assuming that the Town Council votes on Thursday, Oct. 15 to refer the articles to the Planning Board, Lowry said, the Planning Board could not vote to schedule the public hearing until its next meeting on Oct. 27. At that point, the public hearing must then be advertised and a 14-day period must elapse before the public hearing can be held.

Fourteen days past that Oct. 27 meeting date would put the public hearing after the Nov. 7 Town Meeting.

Town Councilor Jonathan Chines, who was sitting in on last night’s Planning Board meeting, asked if there was some way that the board could set a date for the public hearing last night, even though the articles had not yet been referred to them by the Town Council.

But attorney Brian McGrail, who was attending the meeting on a different matter, noted that he represents three property owners that could be impacted by the contemplated Zoning Bylaw changes.

McGrail maintained that the Planning Board should not take any action that was not on their posted agenda for last night’s meeting. He further argued that precedent has long been that the Town Council refers zoning articles to the Planning Board and then the Planning Board, at their next regular meeting, votes to schedule a public hearing.

McGrail argued that it would be inappropriate for the Planning Board to break protocol in this instance.

Lowry re-iterated that the articles were submitted too late for the normal process to play out.

“The process will run its course,” he said. “Nothing has been referred to us. They put it in too late. There’s nothing more that we need to explain. The process and time frames are clearly stated.”

He noted that while FOLQ may have met the deadline for getting the articles on the Town Meeting warrant, there is an additional legal process for zoning articles and they failed to meet the timeline for that process.

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Also at last night’s meeting, the Planning Board held a public hearing on a different proposed Zoning Bylaw change headed for the Nov. 7 Town Meeting. (The Town Council referred this article to the Planning Board at a meeting in September.)

McGrail explained that the article was sponsored by his client, The Savings Bank, as well as by a citizen petition. The article would change the Zoning Bylaw to allow the Board of Appeals, by Special Permit, to grant certain kinds of dimensional relief to banks in the downtown area.

McGrail noted that The Savings Bank has purchased the former Hartshorne Building at 3 Chestnut Street, behind the bank’s main office on Main Street. The requested Zoning Bylaw change would allow the bank, through the Board of Appeals permitting process, to raze the existing building and construct an addition to the bank.

No one from the public attended last night’s virtual public hearing to comment on this proposed bylaw change. There will be one more public hearing on the matter at the Planning Board’s Oct. 27 meeting. The article will then go before the voters at the Nov. 7 Town Meeting. The Planning Board won’t vote on its position regarding the article until its Nov. 27 meeting, but members spoke favorably of the article last night.

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