By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – Town resident Lisa Maselli presented two of the seven citizen petitions at the Annual Town Meeting when it reconvened for its second night April 23 at Algonquin Regional High School. Neither of her efforts were successful.
Article 39 involved amending a bylaw by deleting the requirement of property owners to remove snow and ice from sidewalks and to treat with sand or salt within six hours of a snow event. It failed.
Article 40, while the vote was 83 to 66, went down to defeat because it did not pass with the necessary two-thirds majority. The article would have amended zoning bylaws to prohibit two-family dwellings in the Rural Commercial (RC) District.
“In 2017, voters approved an article that called for a one-year moratorium so that the town could have time to come up with a solution to curtail this growth (of two-family dwellings). Unfortunately, that solution didn’t curtail growth in RC,” Maselli stated. “The amendment that we passed last year increased lot frontage and width to 150 feet in all other districts but for whatever reason RC had a waiver attached to it that gave it the increase but brought it back down to the previous 100 feet. So, how did that address our concerns?”
She added that residents try to push back for a variety of reasons including allowing large duplexes on small lots and changing the character of the town’s neighborhoods. Others say that they are an affordable option in housing. She disagreed by saying that duplex units often sell for $500,000.
“What happens when we run out of land? Are we okay with tearing down existing structures to build as many duplexes as will fit?” she asked. “Are we OK waiting for the Master Plan implementation that may not even come?”
“I give you big props Lisa for standing up for something you believe in,” remarked Fran Bakstran, chair of the Master Plan Steering Committee. “The problem you bring up is real … but duplexes are alternative-style housing and we’ve had them in Northborough for decades.”
She also said that a consultant was hired to work with the Planning Board to come up with a solution without imposing too heavily on property owners’ rights to develop in a responsible way and lead to changes that were voted on in 2018.
Selectman Jason Perreault said he was not in favor of changing zoning bylaws through a citizen’s petition. He expressed concerns about the process that was followed.
Tom Reardon, member of the Design Review Committee, addressed the design review process established in a zoning bylaw at last year’s Town Meeting and that only two projects have been brought forth in the last year. He believes the design review process is working.
“Let’s not approve this article. Let’s let the Master Plan process continue and let’s see where that leads us for future zoning changes,” said Rick Leif, member of the Master Plan Steering Committee.