By Cary Shuman
The Winthrop Town Council voted by a 5-4 margin to approve Councilor-at-Large Philip Boncoreâ€™s motion to hold its own public hearing on the rezoning of the former Governor Winthrop Nursing Home on Pleasant Street.
Councilors Nicholas DelVento, Linda Calla, Jeanne Maggio, and James Letterie joined Boncore in supporting the motion.
Councilors Paul Varone, Larry Powers, and Russell Sanford and Council President Jeffrey Turco voted against the motion.
The issue had been discussed previously at public hearings conducted by the Planning Board. The Council had sought a recommendation from the Planning Board on the proposed petition by the property owner (142 Pleasant Street Realty Trust) but the board submitted to the council a report of â€œno recommendation.â€
The Council had become frustrated by the Planning Boardâ€™s actions, resulting in a lengthy delay that prompted Boncore to ask his colleagues to assume command of the entire matter and conduct their own public hearing.
â€œItâ€™s time for the Council to make a decision on this, one way or another,â€ said Boncore. â€œWeâ€™ve wasted months and months attempting to get some advice from the Planning Board, which is not forthcoming so itâ€™s up to us to bite the bullet and make our determination and seek our own advice elsewhere and approve or defeat this proposal.â€
Councilor-at-Large Larry Powers, who feels the Planning Board has an obligation to make a recommendation to the Council, delivered a well-researched statement at the outset of the discussion.
â€œAll elected and appointed bodies in town have a duty and an obligation to make such decisions, as difficult as they may be at times,â€ Powers said. â€œThe Council relies on them for guidance and input on these matters.â€
Powers said if the Planning Board had difficulty making a decision on this matter because of legal questions, â€œthen their understanding of planning and zoning is certainly far greater than this Council.
â€œThe Planning Board members are the experts and if they were having trouble making a decision on the issue, then I have concerns that this Council will run in to the same issues and have trouble making a decision,â€ said Powers.
Powers said he is hoping that all members of the Planning Board attend the Councilâ€™s public hearing on the matter and give their input to the Council.
Precinct 5 Councilor Russell Sanford, in whose precinct the property sits, said, â€œThe Council and the Planning Board have an obligation to the residents. A lot of us said that we do not have the expertise that the Planning Board has. We look to them as an advisory board to make recommendations which theyâ€™ve made in the past. The process should start with the Planning Board. It should come with a recommendation to the Town Council and at that point, weâ€™ll have all the information we need to move the project forward or not to move the project forward. Iâ€™m not saying Iâ€™m in favor or against the proposal, but I feel all appropriate councils and boards should be involved, as well as the neighborhood that is going to be impacted.â€
Sanford said the Planning Boardâ€™s expertise is important to helping him decide on matters.
â€œThatâ€™s what the Planning Board is there for â€“ to advise us,â€ he said. â€œThey are familiar with the neighborhood and the town. Their expertise is critical to helping us make a decision and Iâ€™m disappointed thatâ€™s not going to happen.â€
Attorney William DiMento, who is representing Richard and Emilie DiMento, neighbors of the property, said he was pleased that the matter is moving forward.
â€œIâ€™m always happy to get on it â€“ it doesnâ€™t make any sense to postpone, postpone, so you can never come to any solution. The neighbors are always happy to have another opportunity to appear before this council at another public hearing, the same as the Planning Board. Iâ€™m happy that the process is continuing.â€
Attorney Richard Lynds, who is representing 142 Pleasant Street Realty Trust in the matter, said the property owner is looking forward to appearing at the March 1 public hearing.
â€œThe property owner is pleased and thankful for the Town Councilâ€™s thoughtful deliberations on this process and looks forward to making its presentation at the public hearing on March 1 and is hopeful the project can move forward for all parties concerned,â€ Lynds said after the meeting.