Citizens’ petition to disband Design Review Committee

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Citizens’ petition to disband Design Review Committee
There will be a citizens’ petition heading before Town Meeting to terminate the Design Review Committee. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – A citizens’ petition heading to Town Meeting on April 22 would terminate the Design Review Committee.

Resident Dick Rand presented the petition to the Planning Board on April 2.

Last year, Town Meeting voters approved an article put forth by the Planning Board to remove the Groundwater Advisory Committee. Rand said that part of the explanation to get rid of the committee was because there weren’t any experts on the committee.

“It was just a committee made up of people in town. The only expert to have any input in the meeting was the town engineer,” Rand said. “This year, we’re in a similar situation with the Design Review Committee.”

The committee is appointed by the Planning Board. According to town bylaw, the committee is to consist of a Planning Board member, two architects with degrees, a landscape architect with a degree and a resident with a background in real estate development, interior design, graphic design, lighting design or building/ construction.

There will be another article on the warrant to edit the makeup of the committee to include people who are employed in town. The amended bylaw would change the makeup to one architect; a landscape architect or person qualified by training in landscape design; and two residents with a background in real estate development, landscape design, architecture, historic preservation, interior design, graphic design, lighting design, civil engineering or building/construction.

Rand noted that the current committee doesn’t have an architect, but there is one person who is in the landscape business.

“We have three [other individuals on the committee]. To the best of my knowledge, none of them have any background in the building developing trades or how this should be implemented,” Rand said.

He continued, “I think it’s a waste of time that people are bringing applications before the Zoning Board, Planning Board, and they’ve got to be reviewed by Design Review, and there’s no expertise on that board to review these articles.”

Rand said the fire station project recently went before Design Review, which recommended an outdoor eating area with a roof. The architects, he said, came back with the design, and then the committee said they didn’t want a roof.

“This costs a lot of people’s money,” Rand said.

Planning Board member Amy Poretsky chairs the Design Review Committee, which is also made up of Lisa Maselli, David Veron and Mark McMenemy.

According to Poretsky, Veron said if there was a patio, the fire station could have an awning or something similar. She said the design returned before the committee with a pergola, and, with her experience with the Town Common, a pergola could be expensive with municipal funding.

She said the committee didn’t recommend a pergola.

“It’s too bad that we lost our architect, but it really hasn’t been that long, and we’ve put out feelers for architects,” Poretsky said.

Planning Board member Bill Pierce, who said he would play devil’s advocate, said he could see Rand’s perspective. He asked where in the design guidelines did it reference the recommendation made in regards to the fire station.

Planning Board members said if they could get the experts on the committee, it would be great.

In relation to the Groundwater Advisory Committee, Chair Kerri Martinek said they tried other solutions prior to disbanding it.

She said if the committee is disbanded, then the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals would absorb the work.

“Sometimes these meetings can be five hours long as it is. I don’t think it’s fair to disband a board that eliminates some of that time for the land use boards,” Martinek said. “If not this, then who?”

The Planning Board unanimously voted not to recommend the article.

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