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No vote taken by City Council on contractor/ landscaper storage yard zoning changes

Issue goes back to committee for more discussion

By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer

(l to r) Zoning change opponents Michael Monteiro, Gina DiMatteo and Charles Trombetta
photo/Vicki Greene

Marlborough – After much discussion, the City Council, at its June 17 meeting, decided not to vote on changes to the contractor/landscaper zoning ordinance and sent the language back to the Urban Affairs Committee for further discussion.

More than a dozen business owners and concerned residents asked questions and voiced their opposition to the proposed zoning changes at a June 3 joint public hearing before the City Council and the Planning Board.  Zoning changes would be made to ensure commercial vehicles were not parked in residential neighborhoods potentially causing noise and other issues for homeowners.

According to Mayor Arthur Vigeant, the council, building commissioner, former city solicitor, planning board members and the Council’s Urban Affairs Committee have all been working on zoning language for contractor storage yards and home offices for four months.

Councilor Joseph Delano, chair of the Urban Affairs Committee, told the Council at its June 17 meeting, “I’m not going to force anyone to do anything tonight. If people want to vote, we’ll vote.” He went on to say, “there’s anger about this but we have to make some tough choices. We need to establish long-term prosperity of our city or we allow current rules to stay in place.

“If we pass nothing there will be no contractor yards – they’ll be out of business,” Delano said.

A major sticking point has been language allowing for the storage of vehicles and materials on a home office or contractor/landscaper’s property.  The proposed changes allow for either one commercial vehicle, one pickup truck or one commercial trailer in their driveway.  If the proposed zoning changes were to pass as written, several home office owners say they will have to rent space or go out of business.

Melanie Lowery was among those sitting in Council chambers listening to the debate on whether to vote or not.  Lowery’s parents operate ML Services, a landscaper, lawncare business that services many area residents.

“You need a truck and a trailer to start a business, regardless of how small you are and if not, you won’t make enough to stay in business,” she said.

“Something has to get done but my issue is with the number of vehicles,” said Councilor John Irish. “After hearing everything, if someone has their vehicles in a garage and there no blight is that an issue?”

Several other councilors weighed in before the vote to send the discussion back to the Urban Affairs Committee.

“This should go back to Committee. It’s a work in progress and there was good information at the hearing that was new so we should go back to discuss,” Councilor David Doucette said.   Several business owners including Charles Trombetta and Gina DiMatteo both sat listening intently to the Council, wearing black t-shirts that were printed with the word “NO.”  They both own business property on Farm Road and they both rent space to contractor or landscapers to park their vehicles.  The language would negatively impact both of their businesses, they said.   Trombetta said the new language would force him to pave his entire lot behind his existing business with asphalt which would force him to pass the cost on to his customers by increasing rents.

Following the Council’s decision to send the zoning ordinance back to Committee both Trombetta and DiMatteo said they were pleased that “the discussion was going to continue and no action had been taken yet.”

There was no date on the city’s website meeting schedule yet posted for the next Urban Affairs Committee meeting. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for July 22.

Community Advocate Staff: