Board’s Parameters Questioned by Members

Plans for a Village-Style Smart Growth District in Marion were discussed by the Marion Planning Board during its public meeting on Monday night at the Police Station.

            While the primary purposes of the plan drafted by the Bylaw Codification Committee (a subcommittee of the Planning Board) include furthering the goals and policies of the Master Plan and the allowance of increased flexibility and creativity in the design of residential developments, most members of the Planning Board articulated concerns that the plan as drafted would pose unintended ramifications and, in effect, contradict the intentions of Marion’s Master Plan.

            “I feel like it’s discriminatory,” said Planning Board member Andrew Daniel. “If you have land and you want to build it for seniors, you can have eight (units.) But if you want to do it for a family of four, you can only have four. … We need more families.”

            Similarly, member Chris Collings said he is afraid the new bylaw will lead to a higher density in the village rather than elsewhere.

            “I get the math. What I’m saying is, if there isn’t some sort of control … then you’ve opened the entire town to risk higher density,” said Collings. “If you at least have an overlay district, people will understand that they are stakeholders.”

            Planning Board Chairman Norm Hills, who has spent almost two years on the Codification Committee spearheading a long-needed cleanup of Marion’s bylaws, reminded the members that the Smart Growth District regulations would apply to Residence C and Residence D housing (not Residence E, multifamily housing.)

            Another fundamental disagreement launched by multiple members applies to the role of the Planning Board relative to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

            “It feels like we have two boards responsible for the same thing. It feels like we’re creating a way for the Planning Board to have a cheat around the Zoning Board,” said member Tucker Burr.

            Once again, Daniel and member Jon Henry raised the argument as to the process and asserted it is the Planning Board’s role to author such changes and the Codification Committee’s role to refine those changes and bring back to the Planning Board.

            Hills told the members that “every bit of these bylaws have to have public hearings.” He said it’s better to get other people’s ideas and review them and cited the work that the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) has done to assist the project.

            Member Eileen Marum, who also serves with Hills on the Codification Committee, said, “We’ve been looking at this for over a year.”

            “I’m getting a lot of feedback as to how far reaching this is. We’ve got to take it in small bites,” said Henry.

            “I certainly wouldn’t put my name to anything that we’ve only seen three or four times,” said Daniel.

            Member Alanna Nelson told the board about a workshop opportunity with the Town of Westborough town planner that she said indicated a similar goal and a largely successful outcome.

            “And they did a lot of redevelopment,” said Nelson. “Here in Marion, we’re looking at the village to create a center for seniors. But I don’t think we’re looking for people to bulldoze in other areas.”

            Burr insists that is what will happen.

            Hills appealed to logistical constraints regarding the abuse-of-right question launched by Collings, Burr, Daniel and Henry.

            At Hills’ request, the members will review their main concerns and questions and prepare them in writing so he can digest them outside the sometimes-chaotic atmosphere of the roundtable discussion. Hills promised it will take several meetings and several public hearings to arrive at a finished product.

            The Planning Board weeded through more pages of the document, identifying redundancies and suggesting revisions before adjournment.

            In other business, an Approval Not Required application from David and Christine Durfey, 9 Quelle Lane, was approved.

            A continued public hearing for a two-lot, Definitive Subdivision Plan filed by Danielle Realty Trust, Wareham Street, was continued per the applicant’s request to December 5 at 7:05 pm.

            The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for Monday, December 5, at 7:00 pm at the Police Station, also accessible via Zoom.

Marion Planning Board

By Mick Colageo

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