By Cary Shuman
The Town Council voted by a 7-1 margin to table action on the zoning change for the Governor Winthrop Nursing Home property so that that the owners of the property can have additional time to discuss the concerns of the neighbors relative to the future use of the property.
“It was apparent at the public hearing on March 1, 2001 that at least three of the nine councilors did not support the petition,” Attorney Richard Lynds wrote in the letter. “It is respectfully requested on behalf of the owner that the Council table this matter for a period of approximately 60 days.”
Councilor James Letterie was the lone member of the council (Councillor Jeanne Maggio was absent) to vote against Councilor-at-Large Phillip Boncore’s motion to table any action until the May 17 meeting. Councilor Paul Varone seconded the motion.
Boncore’s motion drew groans from some of the neighbors of the nursing home who were in attendance. The neighbors have been vehement in their opposition to the project that seeks to redevelop the property.
“I was the person who said to get this moving at the very beginning instead of sending it back to the Planning Board,” said Boncore. “A person is respectfully requesting 60 days. He want to attempt, I believe, to have meetings with the neighbors to try to work out a plan for a number of uses that the neighbors would approve. I say we give him 60 days and have an opportunity to talk to the neighbors and come back in May 17 and vote yes or no on it.”
Letterie said the owners “have had ample time to do this over the last six months to reach out to the neighbors. I would like to know if it is not tabled and voted down, what are the ramifications of that?”
Council President Jeffrey Turco responded to the query, saying that “the Council could either table it for an indefinite or definite period of time – anything beyond 90 days triggers an automatic public hearing. The second issue is that you can’t infer anything – we actually have to have a formal vote to make that official. It’s not dead until we actually have a vote.”
Councilor Russell Sanford said that Mr. Lynds and the owners “got the message” from the Council and neighbors at the last public hearing.
“Mr. Lynds and I had a conversation and he asked if I would be in support of this 60-day consideration,” said Sanford. “I said to him that I represent Precinct 5 and I understand how you feel. However I thought it might be appropriate, and I know this has been going for a couple of years and I don’t want to see the building remain empty for another two years.
“So all I’m asking, representing Precinct 5, that I’d like to have the opportunity for them [the owners of the property] to sit with any one of you and talk about it,” said Sanford. “I’d like to sit down and just discuss it.”
Councilor-at-Large J. Larry Powers said he would support the 60-day extension. “It causes no harm to the neighborhood. The neighborhood’s position is very well known. I’ve also talked to some people in the neighborhood who don’t want to see an empty building sitting there for another couple of years.”
Powers said he would expect the developers to meet with the neighbors and come up with a plan that is acceptable to both sides.
“Maybe a compromise could be reached that works for the neighborhood and the developer and we don’t have an empty building sitting there,” said Powers.