By Andrew Strecker, Senior Community Reporter
Westborough – When Fred Lonardo, Westborough’s new building commissioner and zoning enforcement officer, was asked what drew him to Westborough after successful careers in Lexington and Northborough, he replied, “The mix.”
“It’s the mix of uses in the town that makes it attractive and challenging as a building commissioner,” said Lonardo, 56. “It’s not just ordinary residential construction. There’s a great deal of commercial/industrial work. That work is more challenging because you have to be very involved and knowledgeable about the code. There’s only so many ways you can build a house.”
Westborough has the fifth-largest commercial base percentage in the state, according to the town’s Economic Development Committee website. Lonardo is a board member of the committee.
“There is quite a bit of property that hasn’t been commercially developed, so there’s a lot of opportunity there,” said Lonardo, who lives with his wife in Holden and has two grown children.
As for presenting Westborough as a business-friendly community, Lonardo said, “I built my reputation on customer service. I try to be as thorough as I can, but also identify obstacles.”
“I meet 100 percent of commercial projects – with the architect and or contractor – as soon as the application comes in. I make myself available and I’ll take as much time as it takes to go through the whole project,” said Lonardo. “We still enforce the code, but typically our customer base is appreciative that we identify obstacles early on. I don’t think we’ve relaxed the standards, we just take the time to go through them with you – and I think that’s true of all the departments here in town.”
Regarding some of the current commercial projects in town, Lonardo said the proposed 55-plus residential redevelopment of the former Westborough State Hospital property has no issues on his end at this time, and Reliant Medical Group’s relocation of primary and specialty care offices to Bay State Commons is proceeding.
“They’re working diligently to get it open, and hope to be by mid-February,” he said.
Lonardo is also a member of the town’s Green Technology Advisory Group, which is in the process of enabling Westborough to achieve Green Community status and be eligible for state funds for energy reduction and renewable energy projects.
At this point in time, voters must approve a newly updated stretch energy code at the Annual Town Meeting this March for Westborough to go forward with the Green Community application process. The stretch code is an initiative requiring certain residential and commercial buildings to meet higher energy efficiency standards. The code change failed to gain support when last voted on at the 2010 Town Meeting.
Lonardo supports the updated stretch code.
“It’s not as onerous as it previously was,” he said. “Builders are not as reluctant, and in most cases are close to its requirements or already there.”
Asked what message he would like to convey to the typical Westborough homeowner, Lonardo said, “People should not be afraid of us. Call and ask if a building permit is required if you’re doing any work, don’t just take the advice of friends or neighbors. It can become an issue down the road.
“People think that just because they pull a permit the assessor will raise their taxes, and that may or may not be the case, but we’re here for everyone’s safety,” he said.