KEEP OUR PLANNING BOARD
Editor, Daily News
Two articles will be presented for consideration by the attendees of the Dec. 7 special town meeting in Athol. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the meeting so I would like to take this opportunity to express my objection to Article 2.
Three of the four members of the Planning Board have expressed a desire to resign. Rather than seek new members for the Planning Board, the town manager proposes, through Article 2, to transfer the powers and duties of the Planning Board to the Board of Planning and Community Development. If passed, the town of Athol will no longer have a Planning Board.
The Planning Board is an integral part of most communities in the Commonwealth. It is a permitting board which reviews development proposals to ensure that they comply with the zoning bylaws and the board’s subdivision rules and regulations. They also hold public hearings and can attach conditions to development proposals to address the concerns of the public. In addition, they hold public hearings for proposed zoning changes and vote to support or oppose said changes at town meetings.
In most communities, the Planning Board is also responsible for developing and updating the community’s master plan. In Athol, that function is the responsibility of the Board of Planning and Community Development, because it requires a great deal of research and discussion. The Board of Planning and Community Development has been, with assistance from the town’s Department of Planning and Development, in the process of updating the town’s master plan for the past few years. If they take on the responsibilities of the Planning Board, the completion of that task will be delayed.
The town’s Department of Planning and Development is currently vacant. The individual who headed that department resigned last August. The town manager has stated that the person hired to fill that position “will be able to offer consistent support and technical assistance to the BPCD, thus strengthening the town’s oversight of new development and ensuring that technical deadlines, legal postings or records of vote are timely recorded and filed.” That’s exactly what the person who previously held that position did. She worked very closely with the Board of Planning and Community Development and she did so with great energy and enthusiasm.
Article 2 simply turns the Board of Planning and Community Development into the de facto Planning Board and will negatively impact their efforts to complete the update to the master plan. It does not provide value to the town.
If the members of the Board of Planning and Community Development wish to take on the responsibilities of the Planning Board, they should resign from that board and request to be appointed to the Planning Board.
If the town manager believes that combining the two boards is in the best interest of the town, the powers and responsibilities of the Board of Planning and Community Development should be transferred to the Planning Board.
The Planning Board is referenced 95 times in our zoning bylaws. Eliminating it will create confusion to those reviewing our zoning bylaws as it will reference a board that no longer exists.
Let’s keep our Planning Board. Please vote against Article 2 during the special town meeting Dec. 7.
Richard D. Godin
Chairman Zoning Bylaw