Dover Amendment projects must now face Planning Board Thursday, August 4, 2005
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Town Meeting last night overwhelmingly passed a series of zoning bylaw changes that will require Dover Amendment projects to undergo Planning Board scrutiny before being built.

The one-article warrant, which came on the heels of the controversy over Wayside Youth and Family Support Network's plans to build a campus for up to 72 troubled youths, eliminates an exemption that forbade site plan review.

The measure, which needed a two-thirds majority, earned significantly more with 117 of 123 members in attendance voting to support it.  Two members voted against the changes. Four others abstained.

"I think what we have is the tip of the iceberg in opening communication with these nonprofits," said Precinct 9 member Patrick Dunne during last night's 90-minute debate.

"This will force them to stand in front of town boards for free and open discussion," he said.

In addition to the Planning Board's unanimous support of its own article, the measure got backing from the Zoning Board of Appeals, Standing Committee on Planning and Zoning and Standing Committee on Public Works.

Neighbors of proposed housing for recovering addicts on Winter Street owned by South Middlesex Opportunity Council will be the first to get their say in front of the Planning Board now that the changes passed Town Meeting.

Efforts to reach SMOC Executive Director Jim Cuddy last night for comment were unsuccessful.

The Planning Board's role remains advisory, because the state law that includes the Dover Amendment prevents communities from prohibiting or placing unreasonable restrictions on religious or educational projects.

The changes allow the board to impose "reasonable regulations" such as landscaping, buffering and placement of a building on a property and call for a public hearing, said Planning Board Chairman Tom Mahoney.

The original 1997 bylaw came about through a directive from the attorney general's office, said Planning Board Administrator Jay Grande, who said the new version "eliminates conflicting language."

Town Meeting passed an amendment by Precinct 8 member Tom O'Neil, who asked that frontage be among the items reviewed by the Planning Board.

"We don't want to destroy the neighborhood," said O'Neil. "This may just stem the tide a bit."

Town Meeting also backed an amendment by member Phil Ottaviani to remove language shifting the power of special permit granting from the Zoning Board of Appeals to the Planning Board when it reviews these proposals.

Ottaviani is the zoning board chairman.  Fellow board member Susan Craighead noted any changes to permit granting authority should be considered later.

"We were only trying to cut down on the permitting process," said Mahoney.  "We don't have any problem leaving it with the ZBA at all."

A third amendment by member George Dixon, which would have removed a change of thresholds that will trigger Planning Board review, was   defeated. Grande said the change won't affect single- or two-family homes, only nearby projects.

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