While the City Council has the
final word on the proposed zoning changes to control the scale
of retail development along King Street, earlier votes on the
bundle of amended ordinances revealed a splintered planning board.
Altogether there were 10 ordinance
changes before the eight-member planning board; four of them were
decided in relatively close votes. A consistent pattern emerged
from the votes on these particular changes which pitted three
members of the board, who are seen as favoring a more laissez
faire approach to development, against a slight majority that
favors restricting development in certain ways.
First, the members of the planning
board are Daniel. J. Yacuzzo, longtime chairman; Anne Romano,
Kenneth Jodrie, Andrew J. Crystal, George Kohout, Paul Diemand,
Keith Wilson and Julie Hooks Davis, an associate member
For four of the 10 zoning changes,
Yacuzzo was not present and thus did not vote on those issues.
One of the changes was passed
on a 4-3 vote with Crystal, Diemand, and Romano in opposition.
Two of the changes passed by a 7-0 vote. The fourth passed by
a 5 to 2 margin with Romano and Crystal opposed.
The two measures with close votes
involved first, the definition of "substantial improvement"
for purposes of renovating existing structures and second, incentives
in the site plan review process for two-story new retail structures
which are built close to the street.
In the vote on the remaining
six ordinance changes, with Yacuzzo present and voting, two were
approved 8-0, two were approved 7-1, with Crystal in opposition
and one with Kohout in opposition.
The final two amendments, which
were the most controversial because they went to the issue of
scale, were approved by narrower 5-3 votes with Yacuzzo, Crystal
and Romano joined in opposition. One of the amendments would allow
for only a 55-foot setback for new structures over 10,000 square
feet, the other would put a ceiling of 90,000 square feet on any
new retail structure.
Thus chairman Yacuzzo, vice chairman
Romano, and former board chairman Crystal wound up voting as a
bloc in this particular round of planning board action on restrictive
zoning for certain kinds of business activity.
With a host of other development
proposals that could change the character of other sections of
the city coming before the board in the next months, the planning
board’s role and its divided membership requires careful monitoring
by citizens of the community.