By Cary Shuman
The Winthrop Town Council postponed a vote on the petition of property owner 142 Pleasant Realty Trust who is seeking to amend the zoning map by including in the Special Development Overlay District (SDOD) the former Governor Winthrop Nursing Home, a property consisting of 31,532 square feet of land located at 142 Pleasant St.
The council was preparing to vote on the matter following a public hearing Tuesday night, but Councilor-at-Large Larry Powers said he wanted more time to research the issue and under the town bylaws, a solitary councilor can postpone a vote on an issue that is appearing before the council for the first time.
“I asked to postpone the vote because I want more time to more thoroughly research the subject,” said Powers. “I’ve spent a lot of time looking into the SDOD bylaw but I want to spend some more time looking into it to make sure that I’m making the correct decision.”
Neighbors of 142 Pleasant St. spoke against the proposed development of the property beyond its current specification. Attorney William DiMento, representing neighbors of the property, presented a petition to the Council stating that “the zoning change is arbitrary and capricious in that the general welfare of residents and neighbors would be harmed by increased traffic, noise, and congestion.”
DiMento was pleased by the turnout of neighbors at the meeting and their unified presentations against the zoning change. Among those speaking at the meeting was former Council President Thomas Reilly.
“I’m proud of former President Reilly for getting up and speaking from his experience of all his years in government as to what the purpose of the SDOD was and that this particular lot didn’t meet that [purpose], because that’s the belief of the neighborhood,” said DiMento.
“Overlays are not bad but they can get carried away, and this lot is inappropriate for an overlay district and I’m thrilled that three councilors have already said they’re opposed to it and will vote no,” added DiMento. “I’m very pleased and happy by what they did and I think they listened. It shows what happens when neighbors speak out.”
Council President Jeffrey Turco and Councilors Russell Sanford and Jeanne Maggio voiced their opposition to the zoning change that 142 Pleasant Street Realty Trust is seeking. Because of DiMento’s astute legal maneuver of compiling a petition signed by more than 20 percent of the neighbors, the change will now require 75 percent of the council, which translates to seven of the nine members – which now seems highly unlikely.
The Council will vote on the matter at its next meeting, although Maggio indicated that she will not be present at the meeting.
Attorney Richard Lynds, representing property owner 142 Pleasant Street Realty Trust, spoke to the Transcript following the meeting.
“I think that we made a compelling case for this property to be included within the SDOD as it clearly fits within the definition of what the SDOD bylaw contemplates,” said Lynds. “As a deteriorating vacant building, it’s only realistic to believe that anyone who owned it would want to redevelop what’s already there.
“While the concept of tearing the building down and dividing it into smaller lots for two-family residential may make sense to everybody who surrounds the property, it’s completely unrealistic for anyone who would own that property,” said Lynds.