Petition Calls For Town Vote On Exit 4

Front Page / Aug. 6, 2009 12:00am EDT

By M.D. Drysdale

Petition Calls For Town Vote On Exit 4

By M.D. Drysdale

Some 461 petitions—almost three times the number needed—were submitted to the Randolph town clerk by the end of day Tuesday calling for an Australian ballot vote on the proposed new zoning for the land around Exit 4.

The Randolph selectboard acknowledged the petition in its meeting Tuesday evening. They will meet Monday evening, after a meeting of the Board of Civil Authority, to set the date of the popular vote within the next 60 days. The meeting will be at the Mapleleaf Conference Room at Gifford Medical Center.

Town Clerk Joyce Mazzucco alerted the board that there may be a question about exactly where the balloting should take place, as construction might be occurring at that time at the Chandler gallery, the usual polling place.

The petition was raised in less than two weeks after the selectboard deadlocked on a 2-2 tie on the question of whether or not to adopt the zoning proposal as approved by the planning commission last year.

State law holds that if the selectboard rejects a zoning proposal, or if the board does not act, the townspeople may petition for an Australian ballot vote.

The complicated zoning proposal took eight years to be hammered together. Its advocates say that it permits robust mixed-use development in various parts of the four quadrants at the interchange, while protecting important views and ensuring appropriate design.

Some opponents, including some planning commission members and selectmen, believe it is too restrictive and requires developers to jump through too many regulatory hoops. Others object to any development at the Exit 4 interchange at all.

New Proposal

At Tuesday’s meeting, Town Manager Gary Champy introduced an alternative zoning proposal which was put together by himself and Zoning Administrator Mardee Sanchez. The alternative, he said, took into consideration written comments that came in over the summer.

Champy said that his proposal “respects the integrity” of the Planning Commission document but makes some changes.

The biggest change, he said, was to change all the formerly “conditional” uses to “permitted” uses.

“It is a compliation of all the comments made on Exit 4,” he said. “There was no personal input on my part.”

However, selectboard member Carol Flint noted that the Exit 4 question is no longer technically in the hands of the selectboard, especially after the petition was received.

Selectman Stephen Webster agreed.

“This petition really trumps anything we can do,” he said. “It’s a valid petition.” The town must now call a vote on a question that would be phrased something like, “Shall the town adopt this set of amendments (the planning commission’s proposals).

“Let’s vote on the petition,” echoed chairman Larry Townsend. “I’ve never opposed a town vote.”

Planning commission member Ken Preston, who had opposed the proposal, said he was “sorry” that the petition would take precedence.

“I wanted to give it some more time,” he said, indicating Champy’s new proposal with approval.

Another planning commission member, Julie Iffland, noted that she had never been given a copy of the proposal, and wondered why not. Champy assured her that the entire commission would receive a copy soon.

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