At its February meeting, the ZBA got back to considering the mayor's request and the information provided by Barton & Loguidice and announced they would have a public hearing about the issue before making their final determination. That public hearing took place this past Thursday, March 22.
Although the benches at City Hall were filled with people, most apparently there for the public hearing, no one seemed to want to speak. When it appeared the public hearing might close before anyone spoke, I rose to express the opinion that this determination was of great importance and would have significant impact on development at the waterfront and to reiterate what I had said back in November that the information from Barton & Loguidice was incomplete because they had not determined the width of the "tail" of the Core Riverfront District as it makes its way through the Recreational Conservation District. If the width were not established, the boundary between the C-R and R-C districts in South Bay would be fluid. The road could be widened, moved, and could encroach without constraint into the R-C District.
After I sat down and ZBA chair Lisa Kenneally asked if there were any other comments, seemingly with the expectation that there were none, Timothy O'Connor swept into the room. On behalf of the South Bay Task Force, O'Connor had submitted by email that afternoon an extensive study of the issue, which represented the group's public comment. There was some question about whether or not the board would accept written comments and if written comments needed to be submitted ten days before the public hearing just as applications to the ZBA for variances needed submitted ten days before a meeting. When O'Connor argued that he'd been up all night preparing the materials, ZBA member Russ Gibson told him, "You had a whole month." In the end, the ZBA agreed to accept into the record O'Connor's document and a second document, which identified inconsistencies and errors in maps submitted by P. J. Prendergast, the engineer for Colarusso, in the project narrative for the proposed haul road.
In his oral comments during the hearing, O'Connor called the determination "the biggest government decision since the St. Lawrence Cement decision" and said it would "put the finishing touch on the zoning for South Bay." He argued that the terms causeway and road were synonymous and suggested that the width of the road in 2011, when the zoning was adopted, should determine the width of the Core Riverfront District as it extends through the Recreational Conservation District.
When the public hearing was closed and the ZBA took up its discussion of the boundaries, Kenneally started out by saying, "The task before the board was to define the boundaries, and we agreed that the engineers had defined what we were looking for." ZBA member Steve Dunn disagreed. He argued that the report from Barton & Loguidice was incomplete because it did not address the actual width of the tail through South Bay. He also disagreed with Barton & Loguidice's conclusion about where the tail merges with the larger part of the Core Riverfront District. Dunn presented a memo to his colleagues on the ZBA, outlining his concerns and his conclusions. He asked that the ZBA request permission from the property owner to walk the haul road to "nail down what is the haul road and what is the causeway," but when he made a motion to that effect, no one seconded it.
As the discussion of zoning maps and the definition of causeway continued, Kenneally said, "I think we're getting beyond our task" and reiterated that the engineers had defined the boundaries. ZBA member Myron Polenberg concurred that the engineers "fulfilled the task they were requested to do." When it was suggested that the board take a month to study the documents submitted by O'Connor and Dunn, Polenberg protested, "Even if we read both documents, how do we remediate? I don't know where to take it from here." Later, Polenberg concluded, "This is beyond our level of competence."
After ZBA counsel Mitch Khosrova pointed out to the board, "There is no rush," Kenneally told the board, "I don't have a problem with taking another month." And so, it was decided that the ZBA would table the issue until April to give the members time to study the documents submitted.
- South Bay Task Force: Letter on Zoning Determination
- South Bay Task Force: Contradictions About City Limit
- Dunn Memo on Core Riverfront District
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