By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Procedural motions for indefinite postponement typically generate the least amount of discussion at Town Meeting but at last night’s Regular
Town Meeting, a motion for indefinite postponement on Article 12 may have been the most discussed motion of the evening. In the end, indefinite postponement carried by a wide margin.
Article 12 stemmed from a citizens’ petition for a zoning amendment to limit the height of any building in the Assisted Living Overlay District to 30 feet. Town Moderator William Carroll explained at the outset that Article 12 was essentially a procedural matter. No vote could be taken on the merits of the zoning article, he explained, because a legal requirement for a prior public hearing and report by the Planning Board had not occurred.
Shelter Development currently has a project before the Zoning Board of Appeals to construct a 137-unit Brightview Senior Living facility between Crescent and Main streets, in the Assisted Living Overlay District that was created by the voters at the 2012 Annual Town Meeting. Shelter/Brightview has had three hearings before the ZBA to date.
The first motion on Article 12 came from Mackenzie Lane’s Patrick Bruno, who moved to table the article until after the Planning Board hearing with the provision that the article be resubmitted at the next available Town Meeting.
But Town Counsel Thomas Mullen said that postponing an article to a future Town Meeting was not allowed. An article may only be tabled to later in the same Town Meeting. Carroll ruled that Bruno’s motion could not go forward.
The next motion considered was one by John Kennedy of Harrison Avenue for indefinite postponement of Article 12. Indefinite postponement would have killed the Article 12 for a period of two years.
Robert Mitchell of Spaulding Street opposed indefinite postponement and proposed instead to adjourn last night’s Town Meeting until Dec. 1, after the Planning Board’s scheduled Nov. 25 hearing on the zoning amendment related to building height in the Assisted Living Overlay District.
But Mullen pointed out that there was no guarantee that the Planning Board hearing, which could go on for several meetings, would be concluded by Dec. 1.
Mullen further explained that even if it were possible to approve Article 12’s height limit last night, it likely would not affect Shelter’s Brightview Senior Living project. He said that Shelter has already taken steps to insulate itself from such last minute zoning changes by filing a preliminary subdivision plan with the Planning Board. As long as they follow that up with a definitive subdivision plan, a process which Brightview has already begun, then the existing zoning is grandfathered for eight years, Mullen said.
Mullen suggested that offering input at ZBA hearings was a more effective way to approach concerns about a specific project than initiating a zoning amendment.
In response to a question from Laurie Hunt, Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio said that adjourning Town Meeting into December could affect other financial articles on the warrant and delay the issuance of tax bills.
Matthew Jewett of Byron Street suggested that the fairest thing to do would be to take no action on Article 12, rather than kill it for two years with indefinite postponement.
Brian McGrail of Outlook Road, the attorney representing Shelter Development in its effort to bring a Brightview Senior Living facility to the downtown Assisted Living Overlay District, maintained that the real goal of those backing Article 12 was not to limit the height of a building but to kill the Brightview project outright. He noted that the petition which became Article 12 was filed only after Shelter had filed its plans.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Brian Falvey of Andrews Road moved the question, which would suspend further discussion and bring the article to a vote but that motion failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority.
After more discussion, the final vote was 119-59 in favor of indefinite postponement. Maio observed after the meeting that while a simple majority was all that was needed, two-thirds of the voters in attendance voted for indefinite postponement of Article 12.
Regular Town Meeting concluded its work on the 13 warrant articles in one night. A report on the remaining articles will follow.
Last night’s Town Meeting was historic in that it was the first held in the new Veterans Memorial Auditorium in the new Galvin Middle School.
According to temporary Town Clerk Rosemary Morgan, there were 154 voters in attendance when Town Meeting opened at 7:30, but the number swelled to 240 by 10 p.m.