Donna Bell was absent last night, so Gene Pease moved that her absence be excused so that her empty chair did not count as a “yes” for every vote council took that night. That being accomplished, Matt Czajkowski wondered if Bell’s absence would put the Charterwood applicant, requesting a rezoning and special use permit approval, at a disadvantage. A protest petition had been lodged against the project (anyone who knows the whys and wherefores of protest petitions, please chime in), thus requiring any votes to reach a three-quarters majority to pass. Town attorney Ralph Karpinos looked it up and said that Bell’s absence wouldn’t affect the vote – with her, 7 of 9 votes would be needed; without her, 6 of 8.
After more than three hours of PowerPoint slides, community members speaking for and against the project, legal arguments and hastily added stipulations, council voted 5 to 3 in favor of allowing a rezoning, one vote shy of the six needed to pass.
Laurin Easthom voted against it, perhaps because state regulations prohibit rent control, so the town could not designate a certain percentage of the 154 rental units affordable. Or maybe she objected to developers leaving a voicemail message for her, trying to win her vote. The developers met with Karpinos from the outset to learn how much contact they could have with council members outside of official meetings, and the developers stayed scrupulously within those limits.
Lee Storrow voted against it. He objected to developers restricting rentals to those under 21 years old. Developers put in that stipulation to appease homeowners of the single-family houses in an adjacent development who objected to undergraduate students moving into the rental units.
Ed Harrison voted against it, maybe because he was having a bad day. He seemed churlish throughout the meeting, and as I look over my notes, I can’t see any concrete objection he had, other than the developers made oral stipulations that had to be put in writing, a time-consuming ploy that Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt admonished them for.
So once again we have a mixed use project (which council says it wants to see more of) that was years in the making, that had been approved by every advisory board weighing in, that had worked diligently with nearby neighbors to win their support, and that would fill a market need in the town. And enough short-sighted members of council attended the meeting to quash it.
Why do investors even bother?
– Nancy Oates