By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
NORTHBOROUGH — Some of the members of Northborough’s Design Review Committee called for the removal of their fellow committee member, Lisa Maselli, following a comment about a developer on Facebook.
The Design Review Committee provides guidance on the development of the site and building designs.
The Planning Board did not remove Maselli during their July 6 meeting. However, Maselli agreed to recuse herself if the developer in question requested she does so. Planning Board member Michelle Gillespie also suggested that Maselli write an apology to the developer.
Maselli said she didn’t like that there was a “shadow” over her behavior and duty to the town.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” she said. “I think a lot of this has been brought on just because of a political pushback before the election happened. It’s more than unfortunate. I really feel as though my voice has been subdued for no real reason on a personal note.”
Posts made in community Facebook group
Maselli said her comment was posted in a comment thread in a Northborough Facebook group on March 20. She said it was taken down within an hour.
“I made two remarks on the thread not as a committee member, but as a personal remark to reply to someone else’s personal remark,” Maselli said.
Someone wrote, “The big open space on S.W Cutoff that they just cleared….anyone know what they are doing with it?”
“If Mr. Shay rents his properties, as most of them are, he probably doesn’t pay the most personal property tax as a single person. He is a 1%er to be sure but I don’t see why that should give him special privileges. He should be a better job enhancing his town. Abu and Gibln took great pride in their new builds and it showed,” a comment by Maselli read.
Maselli said she soon after wrote an apology on her Facebook page.
Committee members react
The Design Review Committee is made up of five members, three of whom wrote letters to the Planning Board.
Committee member Tom Reardon wrote that Maselli’s comments, which he described as “critical of a local developer,” were “puzzling” and “alarming.”
“Ms. Maselli, as a member of the Design Review Committee (DRC), has a responsibility to assist and guide applicants through the design approval process, not offer personal insults on social media,” Reardon wrote.
He said that her “lack of professionalism” wasn’t isolated, saying he witnessed her treating applicants and their consultants with “rudeness” and “disdain.”
The committee members expressed concern about her knowledge of town bylaws and design guidelines. Maselli is the resident at large.
Reardon wrote Tim Shay proposed demolishing the existing structures at 50 Southwest Cutoff and constructing two office or storage buildings that could be leased to contractors. Shay first came before the committee on Sept. 16, he said.
He said the committee approved Shay’s design 4-1, and Maselli voted against it.
He wrote that her vote “… was presumably because she didn’t agree with the grandfathered use as a contractor’s yard. It was a vote cast on grounds outside the DRC’s responsibilities and scope of review.”
Maselli said there wasn’t a pattern of bias established from her time on the board and she didn’t behave unethically while conducting board work.
“Fellow committee members have written many negative personal opinions about me and used erroneous information to insist on my removal, yet meeting minutes and video coverage do not substantiate their claims,” Maselli said.
Planning Board weighs in
Planning Board member Amy Poretsky said it seemed like the concerns started with a Facebook post, which was then forwarded.
“So, I did feel that some of the criticisms in the letters were extremely harsh towards a residential seat, and I would actually be concerned for any resident that took that seat because I feel that everybody’s voice should be treated respectfully,” Poretsky said.
Board member Anthony Ziton called Maselli’s post “inappropriate” and “unfortunate,” adding that it would be nice if she apologized.
“I think Lisa is a certain flavor,” he said. “She’s got her opinions, but she also does her homework. She’s very dedicated and passionate about this town. Honestly, I would like somebody like that on almost any board, who’s not going to sit back and just let everything go by.”
Chair Kerri Martinek said that the board had received letters from residents, some vouching for Maselli.
“We’re here serving the Town of Northborough as volunteers,” she said. “We spend our time doing this — our own time that we could be spending with family or friends or work. But we’re here, and we’re committed.”