WINTHROP – A procedural question has forced the Town Council to postpone its official decision on the rezoning of an old church and theater at 60 Hermon St.
Tuesday night, in front of neighbors and the representatives of Ocean City Development LLC, the council closed the public hearing after hearing final comments from both sides. When the council began to vote on whether or not to approve the SDOD request things got interesting.
According to Council President Peter Gill, only six “yes” votes (or two-thirds) were needed to approve the request. With all nine councilors in attendance Precinct 1 Councilor Paul Varone, who lives on Hermon Street, started by saying it was a difficult decision. He said people had been concerned about not having a voice once the town transitioned from a Town Meeting form of government to a Town Council. He also commended attorney Richard Lynds, who represents Ocean City Development LLC, which is out of Wakefield, for his work.
“I still have a petition with 29 signatures on it (opposing the development). I have to vote against it,” Varone said.
An SDOD is a particular zoning regulation in Winthrop which allows a change in zoning if the development encourages the reuse of a property and must meet certain criteria.
The voting continued on with Precinct 5 Councilor Russ Sanford voting no.
At-Large Councilor Phillip Boncore voted yes, adding that the whole idea of an SDOD is to develop problem property. Precinct 2 Councilor James Letterie voted yes, noting that the Planning Board already approved the SDOD 7-0 and the Planning Board has the final say over what will be done at 60 Hermon St. At-Large Councilor Rich Boyajian voted no. Precinct 3 Councilor Nick DelVento voted yes, although he still questioned parking and pointed out that Planning Board would address that. Precinct 6 Councilor Linda Calla said people have made comments that because she sells real estate in town that she could have a possible gain.
“I have had no dealings with the developers or any property they have rehabbed,” she said, adding that she would recuse herself from the vote.
Council Vice President Craig Mael said he was in a difficult position, because he knows the impact of 400 condo units and 1,000 cars had in his neighborhood.
“The Planning Board is the best place for this,” he said before voting yes.
Council President Peter Gill also voted yes.
With a result of 5-2 and one recusal the council failed to pass the SDOD. Then Sanford asked if he could change his vote to yes, making is 6-1 and one recusal. But Varone spoke up and said his petition required a three-fourths vote. Boncore, who is an attorney clarified Varone question of two-thirds or three quarters and the impact of a recusal. It was decided to seek an opinion from town counsel and confirm the vote at the next Town Council meeting.
“We’re pleased the Town Council supports the idea of positive development at 60 Hermon St. We look forward to working with the Planning Board to bring the project site to the neighbors expectations,” Lynds said as he left the meeting with his clients.
Developers plan to turn the old church into a condo development with not more than five units. One abutter, John Cataldo, who lives right next door said his house use to be the rectory for the church. He has one opinion about his lot line and 833 feet his family has been using for 40 years. The developers have another opinion. As a result Cataldo has obtained a lawyer and is filing a adverse possession case in Land Court.
Sue Ellen Woodcock can be reached at [email protected]